While Verizon and AT&T work feverishly to deploy C-Band across the US, a similar, but more rapid, process is underway in Canada.
The 3.5GHz 5G service from the three Canadian carriers only just went live in June, but we’ve already received many expansion updates. It is quickly spreading. In most of southern Ontario, including the cities of Guelph, Kitchener, Waterloo, London, Barrie, and Mississauga, Bell said today that it is turning on 3.5GHz.
The new 3.5GHz mid-band 5G represents a significant improvement over the prior 5G experience for Canadians. While the 2020–2021 5G rollouts often added a tiny amount of spectrum so the networks could qualify as 5G, this year’s rollout, with significantly higher speeds and capacity, sometimes doubles the amount of airwaves carriers are using.
For those who are unfamiliar with Canadian geography, southern Ontario is the region with the highest density of people. About 11 million people, or 29% of the nation’s population, reside in the regions Bell is describing, all of which are close to New York, Ohio, or Michigan.
Bell also announced in advance the launch of a Toronto-based standalone (SA) 5G network that is primarily focused on enterprises. Telus, a rival of Bell, has also been discussing the commercial applications of 5G, highlighting “health, agriculture, energy, transportation, and manufacturing” as important industries.
This week, we had the opportunity to tour Toronto and experience some of Bell’s new capabilities. These included engineering-mode demonstrations of the standalone network and Speedtest findings of up to 1.6Gbps. That 1.6Gbps result is quicker than what we’ve observed on US mid-band networks; early this year, our statewide driving testing on T-mid-band Mobile’s network peaked at 1.3Gbps. Through the 4G era, Canadian networks consistently outperformed US networks in terms of performance.
Bell’s network should be accessible to customers with Samsung Galaxy S22 series, Pixel 6 series, or iPhone 12 or 13 generation phones, but there is still no simple way to determine which network is superior (other than by getting faster performance.) Unlike in the US, Bell does not currently have a coverage map that displays 5G+, and there is no distinct “5G+” indicator in the status bars of phones.
Bell claims to be working with phone makers to develop an icon and to release a coverage map soon.
Next week, we’ll have a longer article about our 5G+ experience in Canada. In September, we release our yearly analysis on wireless networks in Canada based on extensive road testing.