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Canadians typically enjoy faster mobile data speeds than their U.S. counterparts, but are paying more for incumbent carriers Rogers Wireless, Telus Mobility, and Bell Mobility to deliver that service, according to a nationwide speed test conducted by PCMag.com.

While advertisements from the competing telecommunications firms are nothing new to Canadians, claiming to have the best, fastest, or biggest network across the country, those advertising messages are always taken with a grain of salt. For the first time, an objective organization has taken the time to conduct speed tests from coast-to-coast, covering 13 major Canadian cities. PCMag used separate phones locked to each of the Rogers, Bell, and Telus networks and takes into account that Bell and Telus share cell towers in many locations. It also compared against new entratns with Wind, Videotron, and MTS phones. A team driving a car loaded with power adapters used Sensorly’s software to conduct tests every 90 seconds on the networks.

Overall, PCMag found the incumbents delivered consistently good broadband speeds. The tests declare Rogers the fastest nation-wide network, with speeds higher than 8 Mbps at least 90 per cent of the time (except in Toronto where it was 86 per cent of the time). PCMag credits Rogers 2600 Mhz service for winning in the speed department. Meanwhile Bell had the best LTE coverage across Canada.

Wind is the best of the new entrants, PCMag notes, but is challenged in becoming a fourth national carrier because of its narrow spectrum allocation.

The exhaustive data collection is a worthwhile read to learn about the best carrier in your city along, but also to gain insight into why the upcoming spectrum auction is so important for the new entrants.

Results in Toronto

  • Rogers LTE network just edges out Bell’s LTE network for best rated Toronto network. It saw a much higher average download speed (28 Mbps vs. 19.93 Mbps). Although Bell proved best for network availability (72 per cent versus 62.3 per cent for Rogers and 51.2 per cent for Telus.) Bell also saw better scores for time to first byte and average Web download speeds.
  • In the HSPA+ networks category, new entrant Wind paled in comparison to the incumbent carriers networks. Its download speed average of 3.1 Mbps was much lower than Telus (10.6 Mpbs), Bell (9.24 Mbps), or Rogers (7 Mbps). It also had by far the worst “average time to first bye” at 947.66 milliseconds, more than three times that of best performer Rogers at 249.2 milliseconds.

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