Canadians choosing wireless phones over traditional landlines, CRTC says

OTTAWA – More Canadians are moving online to watch TV and listen to radio and choosing wireless over landlines for phone service, says the country’s telecommunications watchdog.

The electronic habits of Canadian information consumers are clearly evolving, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s annual communications monitoring report concludes.

“More Canadians than ever are watching and listening to content on their computers, smartphones and tablets, yet the vast majority of programming is still accessed through traditional television and radio services,” said commission chairman Jean-Pierre Blais.

The report said a third of Canadians watched Internet television, with the typical user watching three hours a week, up from 2.8 hours in 2011.

It said six per cent watched programming on a tablet or smartphone, while four per cent said they only watch TV online.

A fifth of the population said they streamed AM or FM radio over the Internet. The report found 14 per cent of people listened on a smartphone, 13 per cent streamed a personalized Internet music service and eight per cent streamed audio on a tablet.

Canadians have also been abandoning traditional landlines in favour of wireless, the report found; the number of residential phone subscribers decreased by 2.1 per cent to 11.9 million in 2012.

In 2012, the number of Canadian wireless subscribers grew by 1.8 per cent to 27.9 million, with an average of two wireless subscriptions per household.

The report said Canadians have dropped more than a million telephone lines in the last five years, while wireless subscriptions rose by 5.8 million in the same period.

Blais said the report is important because it keeps him and his fellow commissioners abreast of changes in the communications landscape.

“While Canadians generally are well-served by their communication system, the commission must remain vigilant and responsive to emerging trends and issues,” he said.

The report said Canadians spent almost the same amount of time listening to the radio and watching television in 2012 as they did the previous year. They listened to an average of 17.5 hours of radio a week, compared to 17.7 hours in 2011. They watched an average of 28.2 hours of television a week, down slightly from 28.5 hours.

Other findings in the report:

  • More than two out of four people owned a smartphone and more than one out of four owned a tablet.
  • Families spent an average of $185 a month on communications services in 2012, compared to $181 the previous year.
  • By the end of 2012, 79 per cent of the country’s 13.9 million households had an Internet subscription. The percentage of households with download speeds of at least 5 megabits a second rose to 62 per cent last year from 54 per cent in 2011.
  • The number of households that subscribed to basic television service increased by 1 per cent to 12 million last year. Over 68 per cent of TV subscribers used a cable company, 24 per cent used satellite and 8 per cent used companies that deliver television programming over telephone lines, so-called Internet Protocol television services.
  • Overall revenues for the communication sector passed $60 billion for the first time in 2012, growing 2.3 per cent to $60.7 billion. Revenues from broadcasting increased by 1.4 per cent to $16.8 billion and those generated by telecommunications services climbed 2.7 per cent to $43.9 billion.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.