Archived — Comments from Microcell on DGTP-017-98

November 30, 1998

By e-mail and regular mail

Mr. Michael Helm
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch
300 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0C8

Re: DGTP-017-98: Application by Clearnet Communications Inc. for Temporary Relief from Spectrum Cap

Dear Mr. Helm,

In response to Canada Gazette Notice No. DGTP-017-98 ("Notice 017"), Microcell Telecommunications Inc. ("Microcell") has the following comments concerning an application, dated October 22, 1998 from Clearnet Communications Inc. ("Clearnet") for temporary relief from the spectrum cap policy for the Toronto/Golden Horseshoe area.


Microcell cannot endorse the Clearnet application. Insufficient evidence has been filed by the company to understand why continuation of the Spectrum Cap rules would create any problem.

Indeed, from other available information, Microcell believes the application may be premature. It certainly contains no demonstration of Clearnet's need for the additional spectrum sought. Moreover, granting the application at this time could prejudge the outcome of Industry Canada's ongoing review of the existing spectrum cap regime applicable to Personal Communications Service ("PCS") licensees.

Basis for the Application

In Notice No. DGTP-015-98, Review of the PCS Spectrum Cap ("Notice 015"), Industry Canada called for comments on the 1995 spectrum cap rules. Notice 015 raises, for example, the issue of "next generation" PCS technology, and suggests that these may present unique technical and economic challenges for the current 2 GHz licensees, such as to require a variation of the cap.

Public input to Notice 015 is due in January of 1999, and a decision is expected later next year. Notice 015 also provides that if the schedule for decision making is problematic for any entity, requests for temporary relief of the cap may be made. It is on such a basis that Clearnet has made its temporary relief application.

Unfortunately, there is nothing placed on the record by Clearnet nor in Notice 017 indicating why Industry Canada's proposed schedule is problematic.

Clearnet's Application Demonstrates No Need for Additional Spectrum

The evidence provided by Clearnet in support of its application to remove the spectrum cap consists merely of a statement that "... the expected timeframe of early spring 1999 for a decision will be problematic with respect to a cost-optimized ESMR deployment".

Clearnet does not explain at what stage its deployment of ESMR in the Toronto/Golden Horseshoe area is now, nor why access to additional spectrum in this region will permit deployment in a cost-optimized fashion. In fact, Clearnet does not explain what "cost-optimized deployment" means at all in this context.

Microcell's understanding of the iDEN technology used by Clearnet to provide its ESMR service is that it promises a three-fold capacity increase over analogue service. This should make the 10 MHz of spectrum already used by Clearnet for ESMR approximately equivalent to 25 MHz of analogue cellular spectrum. If this is true, then it is unlikely that Clearnet is experiencing capacity problems sufficient to justify lifting the spectrum cap before the policy review has been completed.

Given this, Clearnet's application could also contradict the Minister's objective for the management of radio spectrum in Canada, which is to ensure the orderly development and efficient operation of radiocommunications in Canada.

Clearnet's Application Prejudges the Department's Policy Review

Although Clearnet's application refers to "temporary relief", in fact it assumes that the result of Industry Canada's review of its spectrum cap policy will be to rescind or otherwise modify the cap so that Clearnet, in particular, can benefit.

If the Department accedes to Clearnet's request at this time, Microcell believes that the effect will be to tie Industry Canada's hands so that the only possible result of its review will be rescission or liberalization of the spectrum cap, without any explanation or consideration of some key issues, such as spectrum the Department believes will be required for "third generation" services. The public consultation process initiated by Canada Gazette Notice No. DGTP-015-98 could, therefore, be rendered moot.

Rather than providing an explanation of how access to additional spectrum for ESMR will alleviate the difficulties Clearnet says it is experiencing in deploying these services, Clearnet simply suggests that a change in policy permitting it such access will be too late. But by permitting Clearnet premature access to this spectrum, without having determined whether the cap should be lifted or on what conditions, Industry Canada would be signalling that the existing restrictions will be lifted, at least for Clearnet. This is unfair to the industry and to the public, whose comments will be of little value to the Department if it has already determined in advance what its policy will be.

If there is to be any validity to the policy development process concerning spectrum caps, the Department should either deny Clearnet's application or require Clearnet to demonstrate three matters:

  • first, why access to additional spectrum is necessary at this time;
  • second, that it has made the most efficient use possible of all the spectrum available to it in this region before seeking access beyond the spectrum cap; and
  • third, that its use of this additional spectrum is, indeed, temporary, and, in the event that the result of the process initiated by Notice DGTP-015-98 is not to remove the spectrum cap, that Clearnet is able and willing to reconfigure its SMR and ESMR usage so as to conform with the cap.

Microcell appreciates the opportunity to participate in this process, and will be providing further comments on the policy issues raised in Notice DGTP-015-98.

Yours truly,

Microcell Telecommunications Inc.

Dean M. Proctor
Vice-President, Regulatory Affairs


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