Last updated on December 4, 2021
The top phone manufacturers have released 5G phones with mmWave capability. mmWave means faster download and upload speeds.
In this post we discuss what’s different about mmWave 5G, what it means for you if you’re living in Canada and how and when can you expect to see faster speeds promised by this technology.
Without further ado, let’s get into the details.
Table of Contents
5G spectrum Canada
In Canada 5G spectrum falls into three major bands:
- Low band: Frequencies below 1 GHz
- Mid band: Frequencies between 1 GHz and 6 GHz
- High band: Frequencies between 24 GHz and 40 GHz
Who offers 5G in Canada?
Major carriers Bell, Rogers, Telus, Videotron and Sasktel offer 5G services in the low and mid band range of frequencies in Canada. In 2021 all carriers use frequencies that are below 2.7 GHz. In 2022 major carriers will start delivering 5G services at 3.5 GHz. Carriers have invested about $9 Billion to date on acquiring this spectrum. The main benefit of moving to 3.5 GHz is wider bandwidth spectrum availability, This in turn allows for faster speeds.
Why do we need mmWave?
mmWave 5G operates in the high band with frequencies starting at 24 GHz. Higher frequencies can support larger bandwidths and that in turn allows for faster upload and download speeds. A single channel at mmWave can support more than 20x faster speeds than 4G.
The picture below shows the bandwidth of 5G systems relative to other cellular technologies.
Is there mmWave in Canada?
At the present time there are no mmWave 5G services in Canada. It was anticipated that 5G mmWave bands would be released for services by the end of 2021. However that has not happened and there have been no announcements on an updated timeline.
Canada mmWave auction
Recently there have been no announcements on the Canadian mmWave spectrum auction. We anticipate that announcement of a 5G mmWave auction will be made sometime in 2022. We don’t expect that a network will be operational in Canada until 2024.
What are the challenges of mmWave?
mmWave signals don’t travel very far. Trees, buildings, moisture – they all affect mmWave signals. This means that it will take a lot more infrastructure to set up this network relative to a 4G network. It will be more complex and more expensive. Even phones that use this technology will cost more initially.
Major carriers in the USA have already started deploying wideband mmWave networks in cities. These limited installations will enable an understanding of the benefits of mmWave 5G, how to design such networks, user experience, and much more.
Bell, Rogers and Telus mmWave
Bell and Telus 5G networks operate in band n66.
Rogers and Videotron each have the largest numbers of bands in which they provide 5G services. Rogers uses n38, n41, n66 and n71 for 5G. Videotron 5G uses n7, n12, n66 and n71.
Rogers and Videotron are the two Canadian carriers delivering 5G services in the low band. Rogers is using band n71 which is at 600 MHz. Videotron is using band n12 at 700 MHz and n71 at 600 MHz.
None of the Canadian carriers, Bell, Rogers, Telus or Videotron, offer mmWave 5G at the present time.
IPhone 13 mmWave
In the USA, Apple has released the Iphone 13 with support for 5G. This means that you will be able to download data at much higher speeds than is currently possible with 4G networks.
Let’s take a closer look at the specifications of this phone. As you can see in the picture below, the phone supports multiple 5G frequencies. If you refer to our table in the post on 5G bands in the USA you will see that this phone will work on carriers that support bands n258, n260 and n261. All US carriers support either or both band n260 and n261. So the iPhone 13 should work on all US carriers.
iPhone 13 mmwave Canada
By comparison let’s take a look at the version of the iPhone that’s sold in Canada.
As can be seen, there’s no support for mmWave bands in this phone. So if you buy this phone and take it down to the US, you will not be able to connect to the mmWave network which is available in certain parts of the US.
What is the future of mmWave in Canada?
mmWave technologies offer many more benefits over previous cellular technologies. The main differences between mmWave 5G and 4G are:
- Faster upload and download speeds
- Complex technology – it is impacted by the environment
- More expensive – both infrastructure and phones
Canada is the second largest country in the world by area. As mmWave 5G signals don’t travel very far, it is going to be challenging to cover this large area inexpensively. It might be for instance, that 5G networks in major cities are mmWave while those in suburban and rural areas are sub 6 GHz or low and mid-band frequencies.
We don’t anticipate seeing mmWave technologies operational in Canada until at least 2024.
In this post we have summarized the state of mmWave 5G in Canada. We anticipate these networks will be operational some time in 2024. Until then if you buy a phone that supports mmWave bands, the higher 5G speeds can only be achieved in the USA or other countries where such networks are deployed.