04/04/2012 01:57 EDT | Updated 06/04/2012 05:12 EDT

Canada Cellphone Use Sees Less Talking Time, More Surfing And Texting


MONTREAL - Cellphone users are doing less talking and more texting, emailing and Internet surfing on their devices, habits that are being driven by the increased use of smartphones, says a report.

Canada's big three wireless providers — Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Bell (TSX:BCE) and Telus (TSX:T) — saw a 34 per cent increase in data revenue growth in 2011, according to the Convergence Consulting Group.

"Over the last couple of years, cellphone users are using their voices less for talking than they did in the past," said cofounder Brahm Eiley.

"At the same time, we've seen a very radical rise in smartphone penetration," he said.

About 45 per cent of Canada's wireless subscribers use smartphones, up from about 20 per cent in 2009, Eiley said. That's expected to go up to 56 per cent by the end of this year, he said.

At the end of June 2011, Canadian cellphone subscribers numbered 25.1 million.

On the voice side, Rogers, Bell and Telus have seen roughly a 10 per cent decline in what's called "voice minutes," or talking, since 2009, Eiley said.

The report also found new wireless companies like Wind Mobile, Mobilicity and Public Mobile are benefiting as a group from more smartphone use, as their customers are also using data and were getting pricing that widely undercut the big three wireless carriers.

"It shouldn't surprise anybody that this is the way a lot of people are communicating," Eiley said in an interview from Toronto. "Data is the world we live in."

The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association said Canadians send 224 million text messages per day.

Smartphone users have readily taken up the use of software applications on their devices, everything from playing games and getting weather reports to receiving financial information and helping them check in at airports.

But a mobile phone, after all, is still a phone.

The Convergence Consulting Group said even with increased smartphone use, people are still going to make calls, despite all of data use on the devices.

"We're still going to talk to each other at the end of the day. Counting that out is too extreme, but it's very representative of what has happened over the last 10 to 15 years," Eiley said.

The report also tracked how people watched television and said that 83,000, or 0.7 per cent, of Canadian TV subscribers cut the cord in 2011 to rely only on online and services such as Netflix.

"In Canada especially, the players like Netflix do not offer enough content to make people really move away. Their offering is around 7,000 titles," Eiley said.

"In the States, they offer 40,000 titles plus DVDs and, hence, that's why we've seen inroads in the States and we're not seeing much inroads here."

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