Telecommunications in Canada

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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.


Fixed-line telephony[edit]

The logo of Bell Canada, the nation's largest telephone company.

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)


The All Red Line cable for the British Empire. Canada as an interconnection-point. c.a. 1903

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]

Call signs[edit]

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,[citation needed] 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.


Radio broadcast stations: AM 245, FM 582, shortwave 6 (2004)[needs update]


Television broadcast stations: 1456 (128 originating stations, 1328 re-transmitters) (2003)[needs update]

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.


Mobile networks[edit]

The three major mobile network operators are Rogers Wireless (10.6 million), Bell Mobility (9.0 million) and Telus Mobility (8.8 million), which have a combined 91% of market share.[6]

Administration and Government[edit]

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.


  1. ^ a b c d Babe, Robert E. "Telegraph". Historica Foundation. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  2. ^ "CRTC Origins". Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission. 2008-09-05. Archived from the original on 2012-01-10. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  3. ^ "From Driving the Last Spike to Driving the Digital Highway" (Office Open XML). Media Kit. Canadian Pacific Railway. 2010-11-07. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  4. ^ "Canada Says Hello: The First Century of the Telephone". 2012-03-10. 
  5. ^ a b c Knight, G.G. (October 1951). "Switching to Canada at Gateway Cities". Western Union Technical Review. Western Union. 5 (4): 131–137. Retrieved 2012-01-19. 
  6. ^ Number of mobile phone network subscribers 2017 Q3 - CWTA

Further reading[edit]


See also[edit]

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