New 5G services uplift carrier speeds, but haven’t yet cut costs

Canada’s 5G network speeds are up, thanks to new 5G services, but the technology hasn’t impacted prices just yet, says PCMag.

In its Fastest Mobile Networks Canada 2022 report, PCMag pegged Bell as the overall carrier network winner, attributing its lead to its extensive network development efforts in southern Ontario and its new 5G services using the 3,500MHz mid-band radio waves.

Bell is the overall winner in PCMag’s 2022 carrier network report. Source: PCMag

According to the report, Bell beat the other two major Canadian carriers, Rogers and Telus, in 22 of the 31 areas tested. And with a maximum measured download speed of 1,373.7Mbps and an average download speed of 300.4Mbps, it leads Rogers, the runner up, by a wide margin.

Rogers has also been deploying standalone 5G services on the new band, which it calls 5G, 3,500MHz to differentiate it from the older generation 5G services that relied on a 4G network backhaul. Like Bell, its speeds were boosted by its speedier 5G network. In PCMag’s testing, Rogers scored an admirable 944Mbps peak and 244.1Mbps average.

Rogers’ network speeds increased significantly due to its new 5G buildout. Source: PCMag

Telus, on the other hand, still needs to work out some issues. The company has its new 5G network ready, but doesn’t yet have the enabling firmware updates for customers’ Android devices that will allow them to connect to the service. Additionally, PCMag pointed out that it’s the only major carrier to introduce a speed cap, set at 1Gbps for its premium plans.

Related: Rogers launches its standalone 5G network, but it needs certified phones to work

Currently, the major carriers are sidestepping one another in their deployment progress. Rogers is currently focused on Montreal and British Columbia, while Bell went straight for the most populated parts of Southern Ontario, including Toronto. Both carriers have promised to expand their 5G services across Canada.

And it isn’t just urban provinces that are seeing the fastest speeds. Less populated provinces like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have also posted big speed jumps. Still, some rural areas may have to wait for a little while longer to see these improvements as the spectrum licenses are released in phases, with urban centres having priority.

5G widens the speed gap between 4G-only carriers. Source: PCMag

Lastly, despite the benefits that 5G brings, carriers haven’t lowered prices yet. Despite the capacity increases, the new 5G service is currently limited to high-end plans, often at a premium over the 4G plans. It’s also barred from the carriers’ flanker brands like Fido, Virgin, and Koodo, which primarily provide services in 4G.

But 4G services in Canada still provide excellent experiences. Although 5G service deployments are now in full swing in Canada, consumer use cases haven’t yet caught up. Higher speeds and lower latency allow for smoother streaming and gaming experiences, but the promised future, filled with remote surgeries, drones, and remote education, has yet to be realized.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Tom Li
Tom Li
Telecommunication and consumer hardware are Tom's main beats at IT World Canada. He loves to talk about Canada's network infrastructure, semiconductor products, and of course, anything hot and new in the consumer technology space. You'll also occasionally see his name appended to articles on cloud, security, and SaaS-related news. If you're ever up for a lengthy discussion about the nuances of each of the above sectors or have an upcoming product that people will love, feel free to drop him a line at tli@itwc.ca.

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