Annual Survey of Telecommunications (AST)

Detailed information for 2020





Record number:


This survey collects financial and operating data for the statistical measurement and analysis of the telecommunications services sub-sector.

Data release - June 24, 2022


The information collected by the Annual Survey of Telecommunications serves two broad objectives. The first is to measure the financial performance and economic contribution of the telecommunications services sub-sector. To meet this objective the survey collects detailed information on revenues and expenses. The second broad objective is to measure the deployment and use of the telecommunications infrastructure. To meet this objective the survey collects data on the number of fixed and wireless accesses by type and on telecommunications traffic.

The estimates from this survey are used by:

1) Statistics Canada for the production of national and provincial economic accounts.
2) The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) to gauge the state of competition in telecommunication markets, identify trends, support its decisions and establish regulatory policies.
3) Policy and industry analysts to monitor the performance of the industry and competition in its markets, and to assess the impact of policy.
4) Canadian Heritage.
5) International telecommunications organizations such as the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to describe and study this sector.

Statistics Canada has been conducting an annual survey of telecommunications for many years and the survey has been redesigned over time to address new data needs and to reflect the changing industry structure. Its content and collection method were both significantly redesigned in 2007.

The survey is conducted in partnership with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). This approach is used to avoid duplication, minimize response burden on the industry and promote coherence of the Canadian statistical system.

Statistical activity

Science and technology (S&T) and the information society are changing the way we live, learn and work. The concepts are closely intertwined: science generates new understanding of the way the world works, technology applies it to develop innovative products and services, and the information society is one of the results of the innovations.

People are looking to Statistics Canada to measure and explain the social and economic impacts of these changes.

The purpose of this program is to develop useful indicators of S&T activity in Canada and to present them coherently.

Reference period: Calendar year

Collection period: February to June of the year after the reference period.


  • Business, consumer and property services
  • Business performance and ownership
  • Financial statements and performance
  • Information and communications technology
  • Telecommunication industries

Data sources and methodology

Target population

This survey targets telecommunications entities in Canada as defined by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). In terms of industrial classification, this survey's target population is covered by sub-sector 517 (Telecommunications) of the 2017 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). This telecommunications services sub-sector comprises entities primarily engaged in providing telecommunications and/or video entertainment services over their own or leased networks, on a resale basis or over client-supplied high speed Internet connections.

The list of entities (the frame) targeted by the survey is elaborated and maintained by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

The list of entities maintained by the CRTC differs from Statistics Canada's Business Register. This is because the CRTC's criteria for defining a telecommunications services provider are not the same as the NAICS criteria used by Statistics Canada. To ensure more representative coverage of NAICS category 517, Statistics Canada excludes some entities on the CRTC list that do not match the NAICS criteria for the telecommunications subsector (517). Conversely, Statistics Canada includes some cable and satellite television entities not included on the CRTC respondent list. The entities covered in the Annual Survey of Telecommunications of Statistics Canada represent at least 95% of industry operating revenues, according to the Statistics Canada's Business Register.

Instrument design

The survey forms were developed over time with the assistance of data users and suppliers. The first phase of the design was led by the CRTC and focused primarily on the development of data to monitor the status of competition in telecommunication services markets. The survey forms developed by this process were first used to collect data for the 2001 calendar year. They have since evolved to consider the lessons learned through the survey process and to address emerging data requirements.

For the 2007 survey cycle, selected existing modules were modified and new modules added to collect information required to produce national and provincial input-output tables. In particular, a module was introduced to collect more detailed information on the inputs used by the sub-sector and a few modules were added to collect information on the outputs of the telecommunications services sub-sector by province and territory of origin. The module to collect inputs is based on similar modules found in services industries surveys conducted by Statistics Canada. To reduce response burden, small entities do not receive the detailed modules. For these cases, the detailed data are imputed or estimated.


This survey is a census with a cross-sectional design.

This survey is a census of all telecommunications service providers; therefore, no sampling is done.

Data sources

Data collection for this reference period: 2021-02-17 to 2021-06-21

Responding to this survey is mandatory.

Data are collected directly from survey respondents, extracted from administrative files and derived from other Statistics Canada surveys and/or other sources.

The Annual Survey of Telecommunications asks telecommunication services providers to supply detailed information through an online data collection system managed by the CRTC. Smaller providers of the broadcasting distribution sector are not collected with the online data collection system. They are estimated using internal ratios or industry trend ratios, public annual reports, previous returns and administrative files. It should be noted that only financial information is available from administrative files; for example, revenues, expenses, depreciation and salaries, wages and benefits. Detailed characteristics are collected only for surveyed entities.

The survey is launched in February of each year.

The respondent has until June to submit the data through the online collection system. A telephone follow up is made with non-reporting entities to discuss reporting delinquency and possible special arrangements.

Responding to this survey is mandatory under the Telecommunications Act and the Statistics Act. The survey questionnaires are available online in February following the end of the reference year.

View the Questionnaire(s) and reporting guide(s) .

Error detection

To identify, minimize and correct errors, the following quality control measures are applied to the data:

1) A manual audit is performed to ensure that the questionnaire coverage is as anticipated and that a complete response has been provided.
2) During the capture process (by respondents or by CRTC staff), the data are subjected to computerized edits. These edits are designed to ensure the accuracy and coherence of the reported data.
3) Where possible, the reported data are compared to publicly available financial information and major discrepancies are investigated.
4) A year-over-year comparison is made to identify any extreme or unexplained changes in output or input structures.

Unusual occurrences are queried for confirmation and clarified with the respondents concerned.


Various methods are used to impute for missing, invalid or inconsistent response(s):

1) Data or ratios from administrative files are used to impute missing variables.
2) Data submitted by a respondent (with or without adjustments) for a previous period are used to impute data for the current period.
3) Imputation for partial or total non-response by a respondent is made on the basis of a full response by a respondent with similar characteristics.
4) Total industry or sub-industry ratios or averages are used to impute missing variables.


This methodology type does not apply to this statistical program.

Quality evaluation

As the last step of the data quality control process, the analyst responsible for the survey undertakes a critical assessment of the main facts portrayed by the aggregated data. The assessment includes a systematic review of historical trends, a coherence check based on analytical ratios, a comparison with other data sources and a confrontation with independent sector analysis. If this process leads to concerns about the quality of survey results, a series of steps to identify and eliminate potential errors in the micro data are repeated. These steps are described in the section "Data editing".

At this stage in the process, the evaluation of quality depends to a large extent on the expertise of the analyst responsible for the survey. The expertise is developed over time in several ways including networking with other analysts in the public and private sectors, participation in conferences and by reading relevant material.

Disclosure control

Statistics Canada is prohibited by law from releasing any information it collects which could identify any person, business, or organization, unless consent has been given by the respondent or as permitted by the Statistics Act. Various confidentiality rules are applied to all data that are released or published to prevent the publication or disclosure of any information deemed confidential. If necessary, data are suppressed to prevent direct or residual disclosure of identifiable data.

Data for a specific industry or variable may be suppressed (along with that of a second industry or variable) if the number of enterprises in the population is too low.

Revisions and seasonal adjustment

This methodology does not apply to this survey.

Data accuracy

The Annual Survey of Telecommunications is not a sample survey and therefore sampling errors do not occur. Non-sampling errors, however, may occur. There are potentially four sources of non-sampling error that can be identified in any given survey: coverage error, response error, non-response error and processing error.

Coverage error results from inadequate representation of the intended population. This error may occur during selection of the survey population, or during data collection and processing. To avoid such errors, several sources describing the population of the industry are used and compared. However, given the relatively small population and high concentration of the target population and the registration requirements in this sector, the coverage error has no material impact on the results of this survey.

Response error may be due to many factors, including faulty design of the questionnaire, respondents' misinterpretation of questions, or respondents' faulty reporting. Frequent changes in company personnel may also lead to response error. Responses are compared from year to year and any significant deviations are queried by analysts to ensure their accuracy. However, even with these checks, the quality of data depends on the respondent's willingness to consult their records.

Non-response errors occur because not all respondents cooperate fully. This is not a major concern with this survey. All major service providers generally participate fully in the survey. There are circumstances where individual respondents are unable to participate fully. To alleviate the impact on the survey, respondents are usually asked to provide key variables and the others are estimated. Publicly available information is also used when available.

Measurements such as response rate (total number of completed questionnaires as a percentage of the total active, in-scope survey sample) and response fraction (the proportion of the estimate based upon reported data) can be useful as indicators of the possible extent of non-sampling errors.

The response fractions (RF), at the Canada level, for total operating revenue for this survey is over 75%.

Imputations made for total and partial non-response are subject to errors but imputations are generally limited to details for which the respondent supplies a control total. Imputations are more frequent in the case of small service providers, and these imputations account for a larger proportion of values.

Processing errors may also occur during coding, data entry, editing and tabulation of the data. In this survey, procedures for quality control are used during the processing of data to keep such errors to a minimum.


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