Telecommunications in Canada

Present-day telecommunications in Canada include telephone, radio, television, and internet usage. In the past, telecommunications included telegraphy available through Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.


The history of telegraphy in Canada dates back to the Province of Canada. While the first telegraph company was the Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara Electro-Magnetic Telegraph Company, founded in 1846, it was the Montreal Telegraph Company, controlled by Hugh Allan and founded a year later, that dominated in Canada during the technology's early years.[1]

Following the 1852 Telegraph Act, Canada's first permanent transatlantic telegraph link was a submarine cable built in 1866 between Ireland and Newfoundland.[2] Telegrams were sent through networks built by Canadian Pacific and Canadian National.

In 1868 Montreal Telegraph began facing competition from the newly established Dominion Telegraph Company.[1] 1880 saw the Great North Western Telegraph Company established to connect Ontario and Manitoba but within a year it was taken over by Western Union, leading briefly to that company's control of almost all telegraphy in Canada.[1] In 1882, Canadian Pacific transmitted its first commercial telegram over telegraph lines they had erected alongside its tracks,[3] breaking Western Union's monopoly. Great North Western Telegraph, facing bankruptcy, was taken over in 1915 by Canadian Northern.[1]

By the end of World War II, Canadians communicated by telephone, more than any other country.[4] In 1967 the CP and CN networks were merged to form CNCP Telecommunications.

As of 1951, approximately 7000 messages were sent daily from the United States to Canada.[5] An agreement with Western Union required that U.S. company to route messages in a specified ratio of 3:1, with three telegraphic messages transmitted to Canadian National for every message transmitted to Canadian Pacific.[5] The agreement was complicated by the fact that some Canadian destinations were served by only one of the two networks.[5]

Fixed-line telephony

Telephones - fixed lines: total subscriptions: 14,987,520 (July 2016 est.)

  • Subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 42

Telephones - mobile cellular: 30.45 million (July 2016 est.)

  • Subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 86

Telephone system: (2016)

Call signs

ITU prefixes: Letter combinations available for use in Canada as the first two letters of a television or radio station's call sign are CF, CG, CH, CI, CJ, CK, CY, CZ, VA, VB, VC, VD, VE, VF, VG, VO, VX, VY, XJ, XK, XL, XM, XN and XO. Only CF, CH, CI, CJ and CK are currently in common use, although four radio stations in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador retained call letters beginning with VO when Newfoundland joined Canadian Confederation in 1949. Stations owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation use CB through a special agreement with the government of Chile. Some codes beginning with VE and VF are also in use to identify radio repeater transmitters.


As of 2016, there were over 1,100 radio stations and audio services broadcasting in Canada.[6] Of these, 711 are private commercial radio stations. These commercial stations account for over three quarters of radio stations in Canada. The remainder of the radio stations are a mix of public broadcasters, such as CBC Radio, as well as campus, community, and Aboriginal stations.[6]


As of 2016, 780 TV services were broadcasting in Canada.[7]

Cable and satellite television services are available throughout Canada. The largest cable providers are Rogers Cable, Shaw Cable, Vidéotron, Telus and Cogeco, while the two licensed satellite providers are Bell TV and Shaw Direct.


Bell, Rogers, Telus, and Shaw are among the bigger ISPs in Canada. Depending on your location, Bell and Rogers would be the big internet service providers in Ontario, while Shaw and Telus are the main players competing in western provinces.[8]

  • Internet service providers: there are more than 44 ISPs in Canada, including Beanfield, Bell Canada, Cable Axion, Cablevision (Canada), Chebucto Community Net, Cogeco, Colbanet, Craig Wireless, Dery Telecom, Eastlink (company), Electronic Box, Everus Communications, Guest-tek, Information Gateway Services, Internet Access Solutions, Internex Online, Inukshuk Wireless,, Look Communications, Managed Network Systems, Inc., Mountain Cablevision, National Capital FreeNet, Novus Entertainment, Ontera, Persona Communications, Primus Canada, Project Chapleau, Qiniq, Rogers Hi-Speed Internet, Rose Media, Rush Communications Ltd., SaskTel, Seaside Communications, Source Cable, SSI Micro, TAO (collective), TekSavvy, Telus, Telus Internet, Vidéotron, Vmedia, Web Community Resource Networks, Wireless Nomad, YourLink[9]
  • Internet Exchange Points: There are multiple Internet Exchange Points in Canada, the largest of which are in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary. Most ISP's peer at one or more of these Exchanges, except for Bell Canada. The Toronto Internet Exchange ranks as one of the largest in the world.[10]
  • Country codes: .CA, CDN, 124
  • Internet users: 33 million users [11]
  • Internet hosts: 8.7 million (2012-2017)[12]
  • Percentage of households with Internet access: 87(2016)[13]
  • Total households with high speed connection: 67% (2014)[14]
  • Total users of home online banking: 68% (2016)[15]

Mobile networks

The three major mobile network operators are Rogers Wireless (10.6 million subscribers), Bell Mobility (9.0 million) and Telus Mobility (8.8 million), which have a combined 91% of market share.[16]

Administration and Government

Federally, telecommunications are overseen by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (French: Conseil de la Radiodiffusion et des Télécommunications Canadiennes)CRTC as outlined under the provisions of both the Telecommunications Act and Radiocommunication Acts. CRTC further works with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (formerly Industry Canada) on various technical aspects including: allocating frequencies and call signs, managing the broadcast spectrum, and regulating other technical issues such as interference with electronics equipment. As Canada comprises a part of the North American Numbering Plan for area codes, the Canadian Numbering Administration Consortium within Canada is responsible for allocating and managing area codes in Canada.

See also


Further reading

  • Howell, Robert (2011). Canadian Telecommunications Law. Irwin Law. ISBN 978-1-55221-055-0.
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