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Comparing Canada's Broadband Performance

A country’s performance in delivering broadband internet services to its citizens is widely recognized as way to gauge its economic and social well-being.  There are numerous indicators and sources of broadband performance.  Two that are widely cited are adoption, measured as the percentage of households or population with a connection, and the speed of the connection. 

Adoption rates generally reflect both the availability of a connection, and value of service as perceived by consumers.  Adoption of fixed broadband internet services can be measured as a percentage of households, since typically one household will share the connection.  Adoption of wireless broadband internet services, in contrast, is measured as a percentage of the population since most connections are dedicated to an individual smartphone.

The speed of the broadband connection is an indicator of the quality of the service.  Higher speed connections support more bandwidth-intensive applications, for example, real-time video streaming and video chat services.  The speed experienced by end-users, rather than the advertised speed of the service that they subscribe to, is a reliable basis for comparison.

The following charts compare Canada’s broadband performance with other G7 countries in terms of adoption and speed during the past five years.  These indicators are for fixed broadband connections. 

Adoption of broadband internet is taken from the OECD’s latest series up to the end of 2011.  The OECD measures subscriptions relative to population, rather than households.  As a result, it will somewhat understate household adoption in some countries, including Canada, where household size is higher than in other G7 countries, notably France, Germany and the United Kingdom, according to the OECD.  The OECD defines a broadband connection as one that is at least 256 kbps.



Canada’s adoption rate in terms of population ranks below France, Germany and the United Kingdom.  In the case of the latter two countries, Canada is sufficiently close that if adoption of fixed broadband service was measured in terms of households, it would rank higher, as indicated in Figure 6.1.5 of the CRTC’s latest Communications Monitoring Report.

While Canada is ahead of Japan in terms of fixed broadband connections, it should be noted that Japan has a very high level of mobile broadband connections.  It is possible that some amount of substitution of mobile for fixed connections has occurred, which would boost Japan’s overall broadband penetration.

The speed of internet connection is taken from data reported by Akamai as part of its “State of the Internet” analysis.  In addition to having recently released data for the second quarter of 2012, Akamai also provides a data visualization tool that allows users to review historical data on various indicators beginning with the third quarter of 2007.  Service speeds are based on achieved, rather than advertised, speeds.

In terms of the overall average connection speed, Canada and the United States continue to battle it out for second place among G7 countries at 6.4 to 6.5 Mbps, well behind Japan at 10.5 Mbps, as of the second quarter of 2012.  Germany and the United Kingdom have also achieved speeds similar to each other, at 5.5 to 5.6 Mbps, while France averaged 4.5 Mbps and Italy 3.9 Mbps.

Another indicator of broadband performance is the percentage of connections that exceed a certain minimum speed.  In 2012, Akamai redefined broadband connections as those providing at least 4 Mbps downstream.


Again, Japan leads the G7 with almost 74% of fixed broadband connections above 4 Mbps.  Canada has been catching up, closing in on 69% of connections as of the second quarter of 2012.  The remaining G7 countries are further behind, with the U.S. and the United Kingdom striving to get to 60%, France at less than 50% and Italy less than 30%.

Canada’s proportion of broadband connections above 4 Mbps was ranked sixth highest among all countries tracked by Akamai in the second quarter of 2012, up from an eighth place ranking in the previous quarter. 

Canada does not compare as well in terms of connections above 10 Mbps, with only 11% achieving that level.  In Japan, 37% of connections are faster than 10 Mbps, and 16% in the United States.  The other G7 countries have fewer than 10% of connections surpassing 10 Mbps.  While Canada ranked third among G7 countries, it would rank 15th among all countries tracked by Akamai.  By comparison, Japan ranked second behind South Korea while the United States was seventh.

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