Bell is a driving force in Canada’s economytagGRI 203-19
Through industry-leading investments in network infrastructure and services that advance how Canadians connect with each other and the world, Bell remains an innovation driver in Canada.
WHY IT MATTERStagGRI 103
Advanced communications networks have long-term benefits for consumers and businesses, providing access to reliable connections that meet future needs as demand continues to grow. These networks are a key part of Canada’s 21st century infrastructure and fundamental building blocks for the transition from a resource-based economy to a world-leading digital and knowledge economy, in communities both large and small. Canadians’ lives are increasingly dependent on digital technologies and require access to the digital ecosystem to learn, work, socialize and access essential services. Access to high-speed, reliable and affordable Internet has become an essential service and a key driver of improved societal wellbeing as we help bridge the digital divide and provide accessibility for everyone.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
Bell investments are delivering benefits directly to our customers, from providing more consumers with better access to family and friends, remote learning and entertainment to enabling businesses and communities to operate more efficiently and grow in the digital economy. At the same time, as we continue to close the digital divides that separate communities, we are also supporting growth among suppliers and partners as we help build and drive innovation across the Canadian digital ecosystem.
Target: Expand 5G network coverage to 70% of Canada’s population by the end of 2021, and more than 80% by the end of 2022
Target: Maintain network reliability level above 99.99%
A reliable and accessible network
All-fibre networks are not feasible for every community. That is why Bell is delivering high-quality broadband to rural and remote locations with our innovative WHI service. Using 5G-capable technology, WHI is a fixed wireless solution that delivers high-speed Internet services. By the end of 2021, Bell reached its target of deploying the service to 1 million locations throughout Ontario, Québec, Atlantic Canada and Manitoba.
Bell continues to deliver wireless technology that is among the most advanced in the world. Bell’s LTE wireless network is available to over 99% of the national population, with Bell 5G accessible to over 70%1 of Canadians at the end of 2021, with the goal of increasing coverage to more than 80% of the national population by the end of 2022.
Connecting Nothern communities11
Bell continues to invest in Canada’s North, helping address the unique challenges faced by its small communities due to the difficult terrain and their remote locations.
In 2021, our subsidiary Northwestel deployed full fibre Internet service in the Northwest Territories’ (NWT) community of Inuvik and to over 1,000 customer locations in three Yukon communities: Dawson City, Watson Lake and Upper Liard. Residents and businesses in these communities now have access to unlimited data and maximum residential Internet speeds in these communities have increased from 15 Mbps to 250 Mbps (download speed), surpassing the CRTC’s universal service objective of 50 Mbps. Internet prices in these communities also match those available in the North’s major centres. Fully funded by Northwestel, these are the first fibre upgrades implemented as part of Northwestel’s Every Community project, a 3-year plan to bring high-speed unlimited Internet to 10,000 homes in the Yukon and the NWT. The Every Community project is the company’s largest-ever construction initiative, funded by Northwestel’s own significant investments and $62 million in funding from the CRTC Broadband Fund. There are now five northern communities served primarily by fibre, with the NWT communities of Hay River and Inuvik upgraded in 2020 and 2021, respectively.
Northwestel also provided a permanent $240-per-year rate reduction and monthly data increases to its Nunavut home Internet customers, through the company’s own investments and a funding partnership with the Government of Canada. These improvements were made to directly address increased home Internet usage due to the COVID-19 situation in Nunavut.
A preliminary agreement was also reached in 2021 between Northwestel and OneWeb, a low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite communications company, to expand remote mining, enterprise business and government broadband options in northern Canada.
These initiatives follow the 2019 completion of a joint initiative involving Bell, Northwestel, Telesat, the Government of Canada and the Nunavut government that made mobile LTE wireless broadband service available in all 25 communities in Nunavut, Canada’s northernmost territory.
Bell investments power a growing number of local economies
As a result of Bell’s capital expenditure acceleration program, Bell increased its combined Fibre-To-The-Premises (FTTP) all-fibre and rural Wireless Home Internet (WHI) broadband footprint to reach approximately 7.2 million homes and business locations in Atlantic Canada, Québec, Ontario and Manitoba at the end of 2021, including the deployment of pure fibre services in major urban centres and more than 50 additional smaller communities. In every area where Bell makes these investments – major urban centres and rural communities alike – consumers and businesses are better able to access the technology solutions they need to take advantage of new opportunities in areas like education, health care, social services and economic development. This includes support for local industries and manufacturing and accommodating the requirements of remote workers.
Large-scale economic benefits extend throughout Canada’s economytagGRI 203-2
Providing ever-increasing speed and capacity, Bell’s industry-leading investments contribute to Canada’s long-term leadership in broadband communications and to Canada’s economic wellbeing and future prosperity.
A 2021 report by Accenture, prepared for the CWTA, highlights the economic benefits of network investments made by Canadian communications service providers, including Bell.2 In 2020, and despite an overall contraction in economic activity due to COVID-19, Canada’s telecommunications industry contributed $70.7 billion in gross domestic product (GDP) to the Canadian economy. This includes new telecommunications connections that generate contributions of $47.9 billion in GDP from other industries in Canada. The telecommunications industry is also responsible for an estimated 596,000 full-time jobs across the Canadian economy, including 120,000 high-quality jobs supported by communications service providers alone.
In 2021, Bell continued leading the way forward, launching a capital expenditure acceleration program that is injecting an additional $1.7 billion of capital expenditures into Canada’s communications infrastructure in 2021 and 2022 to help drive Canada’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. Enabled by a positive investment climate reflecting government support for infrastructure development, this capital expenditure acceleration is in addition to the approximately $4 billion in capital expenditures that Bell typically spends every year, and will significantly increase the connections in communities across Canada.
Notably, Bell estimates that every $1 billion investment in broadband and 5G networks over one year generates $2 billion in economic activity and supports as many as 7,500 jobs within Bell and among suppliers.
Every year Bell procures equipment and services from Canadian suppliers and partners who themselves employ thousands of Canadians, further contributing to the Canadian economy.
Bell investments also provide an additional boost to Canada’s increasingly important information, communications and technology (ICT) sector. The economic and employment impacts of COVID-19 have been much less severe in ICT than in other sectors of the economy, and ongoing investments in communications infrastructure will support growth in key innovation areas considered essential drivers of Canada’s digital economy, including cleantech, advanced manufacturing, agri-food, interactive digital media, clean resources, and health and biotech.
Improving processes for rural broadband deployments
In 2021, Bell continued making it easier for other Internet service providers working on Québec’s Operation High Speed broadband initiative to access our aerial infrastructure, helping accelerate the deployment of high-speed Internet to consumers and businesses in rural and remote areas of the province while also working to ensure that all health and safety standards are met. Working as part of a Joint Coordination Table with utility provider Hydro Québec, Telus and the provincial government’s Ministry of Economic Development, we simplified processes and developed additional resources so that many rural communities would be able to experience the benefits of broadband as soon as possible.
Creating the jobs of the future
Investments by facilities-based network providers like Bell boost the Canadian economy and create jobs. Delivering advanced networks and services demands 21st-century skills, and Bell’s more than 49,000 team members – including engineers, software developers, artificial intelligence (AI) and network security experts, installers, technicians and customer support representatives – are leading the way.
Overall, Canada’s digital economy employed over 1.7 million ICT workers in 2021, representing an increase of close to 8% year over year, and total jobs in Canada’s digital economy reached approximately 2.2 million3.
Bell’s new fibre deployments, greater broadband availability and continued rollouts of 5G mobile connections and innovative IoT applications are poised to take digital services and jobs in Canada even further in 2022.
Bell R&D helps drive innovation9
Bell’s leadership in the deployment of new and innovative networks and services is a direct result of our investment in research and development (R&D). Our investments in R&D enable us to continue providing our customers with products and services that are among the most advanced in the world, while simultaneously adopting new technologies that better support our own operations, champion customer experience and drive growth with innovative services.
Bell spends approximately $500 million of capital expenditures in R&D each year.4 In 2021, this spending supported innovations on Bell’s fibre and 5G networks, helping us develop and deliver innovative new services for consumers and businesses, including: TSN 5G View/Vision 5G RDS for sports viewers; our collaboration with the Bell Paint Portal collaboration with TikTok; the Bell Integrated Smart City Ecosystem and Smart Supply Chain IoT services; and new self-serve and other tools to further our strategic imperative to champion customer experience at Bell.
Successful R&D through close collaboration with industry partners
In 2021, Bell and Nokia completed the first successful test of 25G PON fibre broadband technology in North America at Bell’s Advanced Technical Lab in Montréal, Québec. This advanced technology delivers significant symmetrical bandwidth capacity that will help Bell fibre connections meet increased capacity demands resulting from greater network use. Bell also launched a new commercial 400G wavelength network service, developed by Ciena, to support large cloud and data centre providers while optimizing network performance and energy efficiency. Bell also began working with Casa Systems on upgrading the Bell Wireless Home Internet network to 5G to further boost speed and capacity for rural customers.
In addition to an ongoing collaboration with the Montréal-based technology consortium SCALE AI on an initiative that uses AI to improve fibre installation times, Bell entered into a new partnership with The PIER (Port Innovation, Engagement and Research), an initiative based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to provide robust 5G connectivity and coverage in support of IoT solutions. The PIER initiative brings together industry leaders in transportation, supply chains and logistics to build and test scalable solutions that address current challenges faced by the Halifax Port Authority, as well as to support the development of new commercial opportunities that will benefit Canadian and global companies.
In 2021, Bell also continued working with researchers, academics and others to accelerate the emergence of a strong Canadian digital ecosystem. This included ongoing work with Western University in London, Ontario, on the development of new 5G standards and applications, as well as working with Université de Sherbrooke on initiatives that include using solar energy to minimize generator use in remote locations. Bell also continues to collaborate with the University of New Brunswick on the new Bell Research Intensive Cyber Knowledge Studies (BRICKS) program to help students develop the knowledge and skills needed to meet the growing worldwide demand for cybersecurity talent. The Bell MTS Innovations in Agriculture program at the University of Manitoba also continues to support the development of new IoT technologies for Canada’s important agri-food sector.
Investing in Canada’s media industry
Bell Media is Canada’s leading content creation company and a driving force behind delivery of the most compelling content to Canadians on integrated conventional and specialty television, digital and streaming platforms. While adjusting to the challenges presented by COVID-19, including production disruptions and delays starting in March 2020, Bell Media continued to adapt and move forward throughout 2021 with projects and initiatives critical to the current and future strength of Canada’s content industry.
Bell Media has strong relationships with major international studios, allowing Canadians to enjoy access to top-rated content from the U.S. and elsewhere, and it continues to ramp up the development and production of original made-in- Canada content with even broader and more inclusive participation by Canadian creatives. Bell Media also continues to develop and produce award-winning programming that is popular with audiences across the country, meaningful to our communities and widely available across our integrated platforms. Homegrown hits such as CTV’s Transplant, CTV Comedy’s Corner Gas Animated, and Crave’s Letterkenny and Canada’s Drag Race are also finding massive audiences internationally, generating even more opportunities for Canada’s content industry. Hit shows like Noovo’s French-language Occupation Double also provide a solid foundation for growth, now and in the future.
During the 2020–2021 broadcast year, Bell Media focused on producing high-quality culturally relevant content that first and foremost resonates with Canadian audiences – including top-rated news, documentaries, scripted and unscripted content and sports. These investments in original English-and French-language Canadian content provide work for Canadian actors, on-air personalities, comedians, artists, writers, showrunners, directors, crew, designers, technicians and many other specialists and suppliers across the industry.
Building on new momentum generated with the acquisition of the Noovo television network in 2020, Bell Media launched its first French-language news service in 2021 (Noovo Info), featuring a team of TV, radio and digital journalists covering news from across Québec. Bell Media’s French-language specialty and pay services – including Canal Vie, Canal D, Z, VRAK, Investigation, Super Écran and the French-language sports leader, RDS – continued to produce top-ranked programs, including three of the Top 5 most-watched French-language shows in 2021. As the only bilingual streaming service available in Canada, Crave also continued to add French-language content and achieved an important first in 2021 with the simultaneous streaming debut in both French and English of the made-in-Québec, six-part original drama, Sortez-moi de moi/Way Over Me.
The expansion of Pinewood Studios Toronto – majority owned by Bell Media and one of North America’s premier production facilities – continued on track throughout 2021, and is set to provide additional soundstages for TV and film productions by Canadian and international content creators by early 2022, providing a further boost to Canada’s production industry.
Our investments in sports broadcasting rights, including the National Hockey League, National Football League, National Basketball Association, Canadian Football League, Major League Soccer, International Ice Hockey Federation and more continue to support sports franchises that are important contributors to our communities, both socially and economically. Bell Media’s TSN, Canada’s sports leader, added linear and live streaming of the National Lacrosse League, W series auto racing and LaLiga soccer to its coverage in 2021. Bell also expanded its interests in sports properties with the 2021 acquisition of the Octane Racing Group, operator of the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montréal, the biggest sports and tourism event in the country.
As one of the largest supporters of Canadian television and film through development and production funding, and as an avenue to showcase homegrown talent, Bell Media supports the delivery of compelling content across integrated platforms in both French and English. With leading television, radio and digital platforms, Bell Media continues to enhance the Canadian industry and provide opportunities for Canadian talent to achieve both artistic and commercial success.
Bell Media continues moving forward with new approaches to developing and producing content that reflects Canada’s diversity in terms of the talent on screen as well as in writing rooms, studios and off-camera roles. New in 2021, Bell Media began working in partnership with the Black Screen Office on the Bell Media Anthology Program, an unprecedented bilingual anthology series incubator and pre-development initiative that addresses the lack of Canadian dramatic content by and about Black Canadians and the absence of Black francophone stories on mainstream television.
See the Supporting diversity, equity and inclusion in our communities section of this report.
For more information on how Bell is contributing to Canada’s media industry, please see the Customers section and Bell’s Media ethics program: approach and management, available on our website.