Immigration impact on telecom

How does immigration impact the telecommunications sector?

As I noted in January, more than one million immigrants entered Canada in 2022. This has led to a number of political and economic discussions in the country, such as how immigration has contributed to the cost of housing and rental prices. A year and a half ago, I first looked at the impact of immigration on Canada’s mobile markets.

Adding to the discussion, Morningstar DBRS recently released a report, “Canada’s Immigration Influx Spurring Telecom Subscriber Growth”. The report identifies these key highlights:

  • Canada’s immigration influx has fueled Telecom subscriber growth.
  • Reduced immigration inflow or maturing wireless market could significantly increase market competition.
  • Over the near-to-medium term, Telecom players have a number of levers to mitigate such headwinds; however, continued investments are required to boost network and technological advancements.

The report says that Canada’s population growth continued to lead its G7 partners in 2023 and likely among the 20 fast growing countries in the world last year. “Canada’s population growth of 3.3% during the first nine months of 2023 had already exceeded the total growth for any other full-year period since Confederation in 1867 following a record growth of 2.74% in 2022. Ninety-six percent of this population growth came from international migration.”

While much of the discussion of high population increases has focused on pressures on accomodations, healthcare, and infrastructure capacities, Morningstar DBRS has joined other financial analysis in identifying the implications of high immigration for Canada’s telecom sector. Further, Morningstar DBRS says plans to admit 500,000 immigrants annually will continue to provide future growth.

Of course, the flip side is the potential for a shift in the flow of people. Will political pressures lead to lower rates of immigration? Will high costs of living contribute to people leaving Canada?

Overall, mobile prices continue to decline. Rates of mobile adoption are approaching 100%, creating a more mature market. Morningstar DBRS also notes changing policy and regulation as factors that can impact the industry. How will the market react?

Some wireless carriers are expanding into adjacent markets, such as residential broadband, by offering fixed wireless access to reach homes outside their wireline service areas.

The Morningstar DBRS report complements the agency’s “Global Telecommunications Outlook: Highlighting the Critical Nature of Connectivity” issued 2 months earlier. That report identified challenges facing telecom worldwide, while recognizing overall resiliency of the sector. “We anticipate a more conservative approach to capital allocation going forward.” We have seen that in Canada.

When I started in the telecom industry, there used to be a department in the phone company that would produce a “General Planning Forecast” to help guide our analysis of traffic and equipment utilization, and to support capital spending requirements. It is important to understand these kinds of economic trends, anticipating such factors as the immigration impact on investment and markets.

Do regulators and policy makers appreciate these issues?

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