The OECD released its latest Internet broadband data yesterday, covering the 34 OECD member states. The update emphasized wireless broadband access, comparing subscription rates across the OECD (many other aspects of the OECD data collection, including pricing and speeds, were not updated). Wireless broadband has emerged in recent years as a critical method of Internet connectivity with consumers and businesses relying on mobile broadband, yet the OECD data has Canada ranking poorly for wireless broadband subscriptions when compared to the rest of the developed economy world (coverage from the Wire Report (sub req)). The OECD release comes one week after a CRTC sponsored report found that Canadian wireless pricing is among the most expensive in the G7 in every tier of usage.
Seven countries, including Finland, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Denmark, Korea, and the U.S., have at least one subscription for every inhabitant. In Canada, the number drops to 53.3 subscriptions for every 100 inhabitants. That places Canada 24th out of 34 OECD countries.
Canada’s major wireless providers insist that speeds and pricing are competitive with the rest of the world, yet the data confirms that there are far fewer mobile broadband subscriptions in Canada when compared to other OECD countries. Policy makers and regulators must be asking why the numbers are much lower in Canada. Canada ranks higher for fixed broadband (ie. cable or DSL) at 11th in the OECD, but virtually all the countries ahead of it also rank ahead on wireless, so it is not simply a case of consumers replacing fixed with wireless services. Further, countries such as Japan and South Korea rank toward the top of the wireless broadband chart, so multiple subscriptions to overcome roaming costs do not explain the differences. Is it a function of pricing? Different access plans or tethering? Different usage of devices? The consistently poor rank – Canada has been in the bottom third of the OECD on wireless broadband subscriptions for years – requires some answers.