RP Gen — General Spectrum Policy Principles and Other Information Related to Spectrum Utilization and Radio Systems Policies

Issue 1
September 1987

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Spectrum and Radio Systems Policy Mandate of the Department
  3. General Spectrum Policy Principles
  4. Summary

1. Introduction

The purpose of this document is to incorporate in one paper general principles and other information which are common to this series of documents and form the basis for the specific policies on spectrum utilization, orbit protection and radio systems matters for various bands and for all radio services, broadcasting and non-broadcasting included.

From time to time, through a public consultation process, specific policies have been established relating to the particular use to be made of a given frequency band (spectrum utilization policies) or what generic types and developments of radio equipment (radio systems policies) will be furthered in Canada. While the SP series as a whole will form the permanent record of these specific policies in a convenient fashion, this document contains the general or overall guiding principles which the Department considers form the basis for policy, and where applicable, associated regulatory and operational initiatives. As these policies are updated and new policies created, users are encouraged to ensure they are using the latest version of these documents. The consistent application of these spectrum policy principles in the policy development process may be considered as departmental spectrum-related policy decisions, but also an indication of future thrusts and directions in the spectrum policy field.

These principles may be adopted to meet specific requirements in various locations across Canada and are intended as guidelines for spectrum management practices.

2. Spectrum and Radio Systems Policy - Mandate of the Department

The Department of Communications seeks to fulfill its mandate to foster the orderly development and operation of communications for Canada in the domestic and international spheres, in part through the management of the radio frequency spectrum. Through its Telecommunications Policy Branch, it develops policies for achieving optimum utilization of the radio frequency spectrum and the orbit resource to meet the varying and conflicting needs of users.

These policies are intended to reflect, in part, the following major responsibilities of the Minister of Communications:

  1. To optimize the utilization of the radio frequency spectrum, and the geostationary satellite orbit;
  2. To provide for the planning of the efficient and orderly growth of the Canadian radio telecommunications network as an entire system;
  3. To ensure that the public interest is served through the consideration of all relevant factors in the granting of licences for new radio transmission facilities;
  4. To anticipate, analyze and resolve interference problems in the early stages of system development;
  5. To consider future system expansion plans and provide for these to the extent possible; and
  6. To ensure that Canadian radiocommunication systems conform to the extent practicable to the International Radio Regulations established by the International Telecommunications Union.

3. General Spectrum Policy Principles

This section describes the following general spectrum policy principles, application of the principles and information on public consultation:

  1. Spectrum Conservation
    • 1.1 Maximization of Public Good
    • 1.2 Spectrum Allocation
    • 1.3 Designation of Spectrum by Type of Use
    • 1.4 Frequent Priority
    • 1.5 Encouragement of Non-Radio Alternatives
    • 1.6 Maintenance of a Single National Standard
    • 1.7 Encouragement of New Technologies
  2. Application of Spectrum Policy Principles
    • 2.1 Non-Reservation of Spectrum
    • 2.2 Use of Station Parameters which Promote Spectrum Conservation
    • 2.3 Non-Standard Systems
    • 2.4 Right of Refusal
    • 2.5 First Come, First Served Radio Licensing
    • 2.6 Radio Station Licences
    • 2.7 Interference Protection
    • 2.8 Geo-Stationary Orbit Protection
    • 2.9 "Last In" Protects Existing Users
    • 2.10 Principle of Channel Sharing
    • 2.11 Phased Implementation
  3. Public Consultation
    • 3.1 Use of the Canada Gazette in Public Consultation
    • 3.2 Call for Applications and its Selective Use in Radio Licensing and General Spectrum Management Activities
    • 3.3 Public Disclosure

It should be noted that their order of appearance does not indicate any relative weighting or priority among them as to their importance. In addition, the Minister may, by virtue of the statutory powers described in the Radiocommunication Act and the Department of Communications Act, which allow broad latitude in decision-making power, prescribe conditions of licence which supersede any of the principles specified. Moreover, the list of principles described in this document is not exhaustive and refers to matters of a spectrum/orbit-related nature only.

3.1 Spectrum Conservation

The radio frequency spectrum is a natural resource which is not contained by regional or national boundaries and whose exploitation is therefore contingent on an efficient and effective body of policies, rules, procedures and practices designed to accommodate as many users as possible, and to facilitate equitable sharing among the users in an environment from harmful interference. Key elements related to spectrum conservation are:

3.1.1 Maximization of Public Good

Since the radio frequency spectrum in general and each spectrum allocation in particular are limited national resources whose use must be managed in the public interest and for the public good, generally those operations which provide and extend similar services to the greatest number of users or subscribers, or which use greater technical sophistication to increase the efficiency of spectrum use and hence the number of subscribers which can be served, are to be given preference particularly in the areas of moderate or intensive spectrum use.

In rendering a decision, an assessment of the public interest to be met by the application is of great importance, particularly in areas where there is intensive spectrum usage and/or two or more applicants are competing for the same spectrum. For example, radio systems recognized as providing a "safety service" (e.g. police, ambulance, fire) assume primary importance in comparison to other uses of radio in competitive situations.

3.1.2 Spectrum Allocation

Spectrum should be allocated to services whose specific needs are best tailored to the use of that spectrum. Generally, the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations specifies the full range of specific radio services. While its primary purpose is to accommodate domestic needs, it is consistent, with very few exceptions, to the International Table of the International Telecommunications Union.

Each frequency range possesses propagation and other characteristics peculiar to it which more or less determine its optimal usage. Sub-allocations of spectrum to support a particular service operation are made by factoring into the process such considerations. Thus, when choosing a band allocation in which to authorize a system, the Department gives preference in its licensing process to local mobile radio over fixed point-to-point operations in the VHF and UHF bands, and preference to fixed operations in higher UHF and SHF bands. Similarly operations requiring longer range communications, (i.e., international broadcasting, mobile and fixed services) are satisfied preferentially in the HF bands.

As another example, at higher microwave frequencies, radio path links tend to decrease in distance because of attenuation by rainfall and absorption in the atmosphere. As the lower portions of the SHF microwave frequency range are more attractive for multi-hop or long-haul systems, application of this principle could also lead to a requirement for each applicant to demonstrate that use of a higher available frequency band is not technically or economically feasible.

3.1.3 Designation of Spectrum by Type of Use

The Department designates spectrum by type of use rather than type of user; a principle which has proved to be effective in satisfying the varying public demand for radio services in various areas of Canada. Under this arrangement, spectrum which is not required by one type of user at any location is available for others, who have a use for it. In addition, radio systems designed for a common type of use are more easily co-ordinated with the operation of other similar systems, permitting a greater number to be licensed in a given area. Therefore, the principle of designating spectrum by type of use will be continued, and spectrum will usually not be designated exclusively for any one group of users.

3.1.4 Frequency Priority

The Department recognizes a priority in the use of frequencies for various radio services. Services involving safety of life and property - "safety services", take precedence over others to be established for industrial or business communications purposes - "preferred services". Included in the "preferred service" category are federal and provincial civil defense systems, provincial and municipal hydro electric power, highways and transportation systems, systems essential to the distribution and maintenance of electrical, oil and gas services and so on. Generally, non-shared, exclusive use assignments are made to operations in the "safety service" category. Those applicants, for land mobile service as an example, whose systems are not encompassed by the safety channels are available for assignment in the area involved and that assigned frequencies are time-shared as necessary with other like systems in the same local area.

3.1.5 Encouragement of Non-Radio Alternatives

As a principle, the Department will encourage applicants for radio systems to pursue, to the extent possible, the use of non-radio alternatives where these could be more economical and could realistically be employed from a technological point of view. Consequently, applicants may expect the Department to encourage the use of non-radio alternatives such as fibre optics and cable, especially in areas where spectrum is congested, where system paths are relatively short and where these alternatives can reasonably be employed.

3.1.6 Maintenance of a Single National Standard

As a general rule, any application must conform to the most recent issue of departmental standards (for example, Radio Standards Procedures, Standard Radio System Plans, and Broadcast Procedures) including those for the extension or replacement of existing systems. It has been argued, however, that strict adherence to standards for systems operating in remote areas is unnecessary since any additional spectrum required is usually freely available and economic and operating advantages could result for the user. On the question of spectrum availability, it may be noted that while the remote areas of Canada are extensive, installations in those areas are often confined to the few routes accessible by road or water, and these routes tend of have intense frequency usage because of the existence of multiple systems. Even sites serviced by air, principally located in mountainous terrain, are often found on established routes which are subject to intense usage. In this situation it is difficult to predict spectrum availability with confidence, making a blanket exception to national radio system standards in remote areas unwise. The Department remains committed, therefore, to the principle of establishing a single set of national standards for radio systems applicable to all areas of Canada.

3.1.7 Encouragement of New Technologies

With the necessity to achieve more sharing coupled with the demand for access to the same spectrum by an increasing number of users, new and more efficient means will be required to achieve the increased band occupancy. One of the means at the Department's disposal to achieve spectrum efficiency is to encourage the use of newly available technologies which would result in increased traffic-carrying capabilities without requiring increased spectrum.

Consequently, the Department will measure systems proposals in terms of optimum and economically feasible usage of innovative and state-of-the-art practices.

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