Opinion » Cybernaut


Slow to go wireless



Canada is huge and relatively unpopulated; we’re simultaneously socialist, conservative, and liberal with confusing results; and while our cities are big and generally quite liveable, we’ve still kept a rural mindset.

Those aren’t necessarily bad things – personally I think we should have tried to cap our population at 30 million, something we would have achieved naturally if the federal government didn’t look at immigration as a cash cow. And I wouldn’t trade our political sensitivity and social priorities for anything.

But while there are a lot of positives to being the Canada we are, it does mean we’re generally slow to innovate and to adopt new technologies – if it ain’t broke we don’t fix it, and it takes us a long time to admit that something is broken.

Compare our situation to the U.S., which is well-populated, capitalist, neo-conservative, and extremely urbanized. As a result Americans are comparatively quick when it comes to adopting new technologies, and like to be on the cutting edge. For example:

According to a new Statistics Canada report, there are currently 47 wireless subscribers for every 100 Canadians, which is up 10.9 per cent from the previous year. The term "wireless" refers to cell phones, BlackBerrys and other telecommunications tools.

While that may seem like a respectable growth rate, keep in mind that the U.S. passed that same mark in 2002, three years ago, and currently has 61.7 wireless subscribers for every 100 people.

And the U.S. is far from leading the world when it comes to wireless adoption – South Korea, Japan, Israel, and some European nations are even quicker to adopt new technologies. Some countries, like the U.K. and Italy, actually have over 100 per cent wireless saturation, or 100-plus users for every 100 people because so many people are subscribing to more than one service.

Overall Canada ranks 27 th for wireless penetration out of the 30 nations in the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development. And while things are moving forward it’s happening so slowly that the gap between Canada and other countries is growing.

One possible reason for the slow rate of adoption is cost – Canadians pay about 60 per cent more for wireless service than do Americans, and almost 20 per cent more than Europeans.

Part of the reason for higher costs has to do with the level of competition – Canada has Bell, Telus and Rogers, while the U.S. has almost three times as many major carriers in direct competition with each other.

Because the U.S. is so urbanized, there is also more competition within major markets, while most Canadians are often limited to just one or two services.

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