What is Canada’s average internet speed?

We are not about to stop doing speed tests, but we do need to realize that taking too simple a view, just the average, may be masking a serious problem.
– Robin Winsor, President and CEO of Cybera

What is Canada’s average internet speed? This is a question that has been asked around our office for the past few months.

According to Ookla, a global broadband testing firm, as of today, Canada’s average household download speed is about 30 Mbps, with an upload speed of about 8 Mbps.

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Ookla’s speed test displaying the “average” broadband speed.

The website ranks Canada as 33rd in the world index of internet speeds. Ookla is essentially a broadband research company that “crowdsources” download and upload speeds through its website SpeedTest.net. People visit this site to test the speed of their internet connection. Therefore, the 30 Mbps is an average of the speeds Canadians reported through this website.

When Cybera ran the speedtest, we added more data points to Ookla. Let’s use our download speed as an example. We had a download speed of about 927 Mbps at the time of the test. If another ‘average’ Canadian ran the test on a pokey 1.5 Mbps connection, the average would be around 464 Mbps. If two bad connections plus Cybera were calculated on the site, we would then have an average of:

2 X 1.5=3
+ 927=930
divided by the number of samples 930/3 = 310 Mbps

I think you can see where this is going. By doing a single speed test on Cybera’s ultra high speed connection, we have masked the pain of ordinary users experiencing really slow network services. Over the last few months, we have run several tests on Ookla to see how the numbers varied. With each click, we unfortunately skew the statistics, driving the average up.

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Cybera’s test on Ookla — blazingly fast compared to most Canadian consumers.

We are not about to stop doing speed tests, but we do need to realize that taking too simple a view, just the average, may be masking a serious problem.

Network performance actually follows a bimodal distribution. This is something Cybera spends a lot of time and effort pointing out to bodies like the CRTC, so they won’t be fooled into accepting “average” speeds. The real measures we should be looking at are the median speed and the distribution. Basically, there are two humps in the bimodal graph: one huge lump of low speed connections — in which the median lies — and one much smaller little bump of high speed users.

The vast majority of people would love to have 30 Mbps, though very few do. To people who have limited knowledge of internet speeds, the numbers shown on “average” internet speed sites seem to be the average speed achieved by everyone.

To set the record straight: the speed achieved by the majority of Canadians is much closer to 1.5 Mbps than the reported average of 30 Mbps.

Right now, the CRTC is looking for volunteers to participate in a project to measure the performance of home broadband internet services offered by 10 internet service providers. The results should inform Canadians of their real connection speeds and whether the services being delivering are accurately advertised.

The CRTC is also seeking Canadians’ input on the future of broadband. This review will examine the services, and service levels, required by Canadians to meaningfully participate in the digital economy. It will also determine the Commission’s role in mandating the availability of affordable, basic telecommunications services to all Canadians (e.g. broadband at speeds much higher than 1.5 Mbps). If you would like to submit a response, or share your ideas with Cybera, please visit our CRTC discussion page. The data could help the CRTC improve its broadband policy-making.

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