Canada to Surpass 100% Wireless Penetration Rate in Three Years (That Sucks, By the Way)

The wireless penetration rate in Canada is poised to reach 100% within three years, according to new data touted by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association. More than three-quarters of Canadians currently own at least one wireless device.

“Today, more than 26 million Canadians have a mobile phone or wireless device, a number that continues to experience significant growth every year,” Bernard Lord, chief executive officer of the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, told the 2012 Canadian Telecom Summit in Toronto yesterday. “And we expect to see over 100% wireless penetration in just the next few years.”

This number may sound good, but it’s actually not so great. 100% or more is already the norm in many developed European and Asian countries. And our closest neighbour, the US, achieved a 100% penetration rate at the end of 2010—five years ahead of when Canada is expected to reach the milestone. 

Further, in a late 2011 ranking of smartphone penetration rates, Canada was lost in the middle. In Singapore, the rate of smartphone ownership per capita is 90%. In Hong Kong, it’s 61%. In Sweden, it’s 52%. In Canada—which tied for a dismal 26th place out of 42 countries—the rate was an anemic 30%.

Some blame Canada’s monopolistic wireless industry for our mediocre penetration rates. If there was real competition—and thus, shorter contracts and less exorbitant fees for data plans—more Canadians would buy smartphones, critics argue. However, this remains a pipe dream.