5G In Canada: A Promising Work In Progress

I’ve had my iPhone 12 Pro for a couple of weeks now. And I’m really liking the phone. But the real headline is 5G support. This is next generation of wireless technology that promises faster speeds and better coverage. To quote someone I know, it’s “the new hotness.” And based on my experience there’s some truth to that. Though we are in the early days of 5G.

Now, there are two types of 5G out there:

  • Sub-6 5G: Sub-6 makes the 5G signal durable and far-reaching. If you have a 4G LTE signal, you should be able to get a 5G signal when it arrives in your area. And you may be able to get better signal quality in areas where a 4G LTE is marginal at best. It also penetrates buildings really well. Speeds at worst should be what you see with 4G LTE. But you should expect to see marginally faster speeds with 5G.
  • mmWave 5G: This is the super fast version of 5G. It doesn’t penetrate buildings really well, if at all. And it doesn’t go that far as it only has a practical range of maybe hundreds of feet and it requires a clear sight line to the antenna of the cell phone with absolutely no obstructions. But it is super fast capable of delivering gigabit or faster speeds.

Now only the US has mmWave 5G. And besides being the only place on the planet that a has mmWave 5G, they have it in very limited locations at present. The rest of the planet who is deploying 5G in the Sub-6 variety. That’s what Canada is doing and it makes sense. By deploying Sub-6, people who never had fast wireless data, or wireless data at all will be able to get it. Canada will likely get mmWave in the next 3 to 5 years, but its use case will likely be limited to high density areas like stadiums and shopping malls. Sub-6 is far more practical for Canada given the topography of Canada.

Now that I have the background out of the way, what can you actually expect to see when it comes to 5G in Canada? I’m on the TELUS network and that network promises speeds of up to 1.7 Gbps under the following conditions:

Network speeds vary with location, signal and customer device. Compatible device required. Manufacturer’s rated peak download speeds: 5G, up to 1700 Mbps, LTE Advanced, up to 1500 Mbps; LTE, up to 150 Mbps; HSPA+, up to 42 Mbps. Average expected speeds: LTE Advanced, 12-300 Mbps; LTE, 12-45 Mbps; HSPA+, 4-14 Mbps. 5G speed available in select areas including Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver. LTE Advanced speed available in select areas across Canada.

In short, assuming that you have a 5G capable device, you will likely get speeds of UP TO 1.7 Gbps. But chances are that it will be slower. Assuming that you are in a 5G area. I suspect that is due to the fact that TELUS is still building out their 5G network. And my testing seems to make that theory plausible. For example, I live in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke in a location that sits between a 4G and 5G zone according to the TELUS coverage map. If I walk five minutes to the east of my condo building, I will get 4G. If I walk five minutes to the west of my condo building, I will get 5G. But when I get 5G, these are the speeds that I see. This is what I get in central Etobicoke:

To give you some perspective, this is what I got on the TELUS 4G LTE network:

In short, you will get faster speeds with 5G, but you shouldn’t expect a night and day difference. At least not yet.

The 5G speeds seem rather consistent regardless of where I did my testing. This is what I got in Downtown Toronto:

This is what I got at Sherway Gardens which is in the west end of Etobicoke:

In pretty much any location that I tested in that had 5G service, I saw speeds from the mid 300 Mbps to the mid 400 Mbps. That suggests to me that right now, 5G is a work in progress as these speeds and the consistency of these speeds seem to be what you see when you cap speeds for stability purposes as the network is being built out. That’s not unusual as I saw something similar when LTE was being deployed in Canada. That means that the TELUS 5G network will only get faster as their network expands. Which is a good thing for those on the TELUS network. I also expect other carriers such as Bell and Rogers to be the same.

There’s one other thing that I should point out, 5G on the TELUS network is only available in the following cities as I type this:

  • Vancouver
  • Calgary
  • Edmonton
  • Toronto
  • Mississauga
  • Oakville
  • Brampton
  • Markham
  • Windsor
  • Montreal
  • Saint Georges
  • Rimouski
  • Gaspe
  • Baie-Comeau
  • Sept-Iles

That list will grow over time. And more Canadians will benefit from having 5G. And I am not including 5G on Rogers or Bell which likely has additional cities that support 5G.

The bottom line is this. 5G is the future. But depending on where you live, the future isn’t here quite yet. I would say that people need to be patient as 5G develops in Canada. It may take a bit of time, but it will be game changing when the future arrives.

One Response to “5G In Canada: A Promising Work In Progress”

  1. […] doesn’t at all surprise because when I did my testing of the TELUS 5G Network after getting my iPhone 12 Pro, I found it to be very fast. So fast that it blows the minds of my […]

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