Investing in telecom

In 2022, Canadian carriers were investing in telecom infrastructure at an accelerated pace.

That is one of the findings of a new report prepared by PwC. “Connecting Canadians through resilient networks: The impact of the telecom sector in 2022 and beyond” [pdf, 4.5MB] found that Canada’s six largest telecom companies invested $13.3 billion in capital expenditures in 2022. Over the past five years, the Canadian telecom sector has invested an annual average of $12.1 billion in capital on network infrastructure, expanding, enhancing, and strengthening Canada’s wireless and broadband networks. This represents approximately 18.6% of average revenues, which is 30% higher than the 14.2% average across peer telecom carriers in the US, Japan, Australia, and Europe. Canada’s elevated capital intensity is similar to what was found in another recent study.

As I have reported in my monthly analysis of Statistics Canada data, PwC confirmed that for the year ending September 2023, cellular and internet access service prices declined by 17.2% and 7.8%, respectively, while the Consumer Price Index for All-Items increased by 3.8% over the same period.

PwC says the telecom sector contributed nearly $77B to Canada’s GDP, and supported nearly three quarters of a million Canadian jobs in 2022. It estimates that by 2035, the telecom sector’s delivery of enhanced connectivity, including 5G, has the potential to contribute an additional $112B to Canada’s GDP.

Key findings:

  • Direct GDP contribution and jobs supported by the telecommunications sector in 2022 is estimated to be $76.7 billion and 724,000 jobs (versus $74.9 billion (+2.4%) and 650,000 jobs in 2021 (+11.3%)*);
  • Enhanced connectivity, including 5G, has the potential to contribute an additional $112 billion to Canada’s GDP by 2035
  • Telecom’s direct GDP contribution includes $24.7 billion from the sector’s value chain and up to $52 billion in direct impact from increased sales and other outputs from other Canadian industries through the incremental addition of additional wireless and broadband connections;
  • The six largest Canadian telecommunications operators invested $13.3 billion in capital expenditures in 2022 to continue expanding and enhancing their wireless and broadband internet networks;
  • Over the past five years, Canada’s telecom sector has invested an average of $12.1 billion annually on network expansion and enhancements. This represents a capital intensity that is approximately 18.6% of average revenues. That is higher than the 14.2% average across peer telecom operators in the US, Japan, Australia and Europe;
  • Continued investments in Canada’s telecom sector connect more Canadians to advanced wireless and broadband internet networks, supporting increased data consumption, powering the digital economy, and providing a range of other social and environmental benefits:
    • 99.7% of Canadians had access to mobile network coverage where they lived or conducted business in 2021, including 87.8% who had access to 5G connectivity;
    • 93.5% of households had access to high-speed internet with speeds meeting the CRTC’s 50/10 Mbps targets in 2022. The CRTC estimates that services providers are on track to meet its broadband targets for 98% of households to have access to 50/10 Mbps unlimited services in 2026, and 100% by 2030;
  • The price of telecommunications in Canada has fallen over the past year, with cellular service prices down 17.2% and internet access service prices down 7.8% between September 2022 and September 2023, while the all-items Consumer Price Index increased by 3.8%;
  • The telecommunications sector has already suffered millions of dollars in damages to Canadian network infrastructure as a result of severe weather events and other natural disasters. Canadian service providers are investing in building resilient networks to manage future risks.

The bottom line? Maintaining incentives for investing in telecom infrastructure is key to Canadian economic growth.

Scroll to Top