Canada Outlines 5G Adoption Timeline and Introduces Low-Income Internet Plans

It looks like Canada will take begin to take the necessary steps to keep up with global technology advancements.

The federal government has announced it will host three public auctions for spectrum by 2021, which is the airwaves required to build wireless networks. One auction had already been announced to be held next year, while the other two are brand new announcements made today.

Spectrum, in this case, can be defined as the lifeblood of the telecom industry. It is air radio frequency that helps send wireless communications signals, and as 5G technology becomes more widespread over the next few years, carriers will need new spectrum to carry more data and make sure this new tech is seamlessly supported.

In March 2019, the government will host an auction for airwaves in the low band 600-megahertz frequency range. This is a valuable spectrum as it can travel long distances and penetrate the thick walls of many buildings. The government also announced it will keep certain portions of the bidding for regional telecom companies such as Freedom mobile.

This is an important distinction, as it will result in lower license prices for smaller players, meaning they can offer competitive local prices and create more competition for the three major players in Canada: Rogers, TELUS and Bell.

“We remain focused on the three elements of telecom service that matter most to Canadians: quality, coverage and price,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. “We are also dedicated to ensuring that underrepresented groups can access the new skills, jobs and opportunities that are available online. We’re building on the progress we’ve made to promote telecom competition and help prepare Canada for emerging new technologies such as smart homes and connected cars.”

As 5G technology is researched by both the government and private companies more, another auction will take place in 2020 for 3,500 megahertz spectrum. These airwaves are key to the successful launch and integration of 5G.

The timing of that auction should line up nicely with progress being made into 5G tech. It was announced earlier this year the government has invested $200 million, along with $200 million from private companies, to create the ENCQOR project, a 5G corridor between Ontario and Quebec. Other companies like Cisco are working with the likes of the University of Waterloo on their own 5G research as well.

Finally, the government announced the third and final auction for 2021. It will offer millimetre-wave spectrum, which is known for carrying huge amounts of data, though not very far.

Internet for Everyone

The new spectrum announcements were not all that the federal government unveiled today. A new program called “Connecting Families” promises to bring high-speed internet to low-income families for steep discounts.

Canada is partnering with Rogers, Telus, Bell, Shaw, Videotron and SaskTel to offer $10 per month internet packages. Only families who receive the maximum Child Care Benefit will be eligible. Programs like this had been offered to certain Canadians by TELUS and Rogers before, but now the program is being rolled out nationwide.

“Nearly half of Canadian families living in poverty do not have access to the Internet–a vital service that is often taken for granted as accessible for all,” said Darren Entwistle, CEO of TELUS. “As part of our long-standing commitment to putting our customers and communities first, the TELUS team is leveraging our technology in combination with our culture of giving, to bridge social, economic and geographic digital divides.”

The government will invest $13 million to create an online portal to determine the eligibility of families looking to sign up for the discounted internet plans. It is meant to be used by homes with children and will be capped at 220,000 households.