Consultation on Whether to Permit Licence-Exempt Family Radio Devices in the Land Mobile Frequency Sub-Bands 462/467 MHz

March 1999

1.0 Introduction

The purpose of this consultation paper is to initiate public discussion on whether spectrum policy provisions should be established to permit the operation of licence-exempt radio devices in the land mobile frequency sub-bands 462.5625-462.7125 MHz and 467.5625-467.7125 MHz.

2.0 Background

In May 1996, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States established a new licence-exempt radio service which they called Family Radio Service (FRS). FRS is a short-range, two-way radio service which uses portable, hand-held radios providing simplex operation on 14 radio channels and incorporating tone encoded squelch. These radios are designed to fill a niche market in private personal communications by providing an inexpensive, short range means of communications for private users and small groups. In the United States, FRS radios operate on a no protection, no interference basis, require certification and are limited to an output power of 0.5 watt ERP.

FRS devices operate on 14 simplex frequencies. These frequencies are interstitial to the duplex frequency pairs of the U.S. General Mobile Radio Service (General Mobile Radio Service). The frequencies and corresponding FRS channel numbers are as follows:

Table 1 – FRS Frequencies Designated in the U.S.
FREQUENCY (MHz) AND FRS CHANNEL No.
462.5625 (1) 467.5625 (8)
462.5875 (2) 467.5875 (9)
462.6125 (3) 467.6125 (10)
462.6375 (4) 467.6375 (11)
462.6625 (5) 467.6625 (12)
462.6875 (6) 467.6875 (13)
462.7125 (7) 467.7125 (14)

Manufacturers and distributors of family radio devices perceive a strong consumer demand for this radio equipment and have expressed interest in introducing these devices in Canada. Industry Canada has yet to determine whether a similar type of service is in the public interest.

3.0 Canadian Spectrum Environment

The frequencies set out in Table 1 for family radio devices in the U.S. are allocated in Canada to the land mobile service on a primary basis as outlined in Spectrum Utilization Policy SP 30-896 MHz (SP 30-896 MHz), Spectrum Utilization Policy for the Mobile, Broadcasting and Amateur Services in the Frequency Range 30-896 MHz (Part II). These frequencies are assigned according to Standard Radio System Plan 501 (SRSP-501) entitled Technical Requirements for Land Mobile and Fixed Radio Services Operating in the Bands 406.1-430 MHz and 450-470 MHzFootnote 1.

These frequencies currently accommodate a large number of land mobile radio service users in Canada which have been licensed on a coordinated and protected basis. Our records indicate that currently there are approximately 238 licensees across Canada operating 200 base stations and 5295 mobile terminals on the 14 FRS candidate frequenciesFootnote 2. Also, these frequencies represent approximately 350 kHz of spectrum within the 450-470 MHz land mobile band.

In urban areas, these mobile frequencies could be heavily used. Industry Canada has announced a plan to redeploy the mobile service frequency bands below 500 MHz to more spectrum efficient narrow band technologies to meet growing mobile spectrum needs. In heavily congested urban areas including Montreal and Toronto, it may be difficult to relocate some of the existing licensees within the 450-470 MHz land mobile band. (Refer to Annex 1 for the existing use of spectrum.)

3.1 Technical Analysis of the Impact of the Utilization of Family Radio Devices on Existing Land Mobile Operations

Generally, family radio devices will operate on a co-channel basis with the land mobile systems operating in the band 450-470 MHzFootnote 3. However, there are two cases of potential interference:

  • interference from FRS terminals into a land mobile handset; and
  • interference from FRS terminals into a land mobile base station.

With regard to potential interference to a land mobile handset, the probability of such interference is considered to be low since both the FRS device and the mobile unit would have to be close to each other, to operate on the same channel and, to respectively transmit and receive at the same time. Furthermore, the mobility of both the land mobile handset and the FRS terminals is also a factor that would facilitate the mitigation of interference. The potential of interference from FRS terminals to land mobile base stations may be more problematic. Base station receivers are typically located in high vantage points, such as building tops, to provide reliable coverage throughout the service area. However, this characteristic would also subject land mobile base station receivers to interference signals from all FRS units also operating in the land mobile base station service area. In addition, the statistical probability of interference would increase with the proliferation of the FRS devices within this service area.

3.2 Further Consideration

The department recognizes that if it were to permit the use of family radio devices in the sub-bands 462/467 MHz, some land mobile users would want to move to different frequency bands. In addition, users could incur additional costs to replace existing radio station equipment. In this regard, the department has met with representatives of manufacturers/distributors of family radio devices, to determine whether they would be prepared to assist only the most affected land mobile operators to move to other frequency bands. The representatives are studying this proposal seriously and the department encourages them to propose practical steps to facilitate the move to other frequency bands of only the most affected land mobile users, should FRS devices be permitted for use in the sub-bands 462/467 MHz following this consultation. For example, the department would encourage manufacturers to offer discounts on new radio equipment to speed this transition.

4.0 Comments Invited on Whether Family Radio Devices Should Be Accommodated

In view of the previously-described spectrum environment and in order to determine the public interest for family radio devices in Canada and the means to minimize the impact on existing land mobile users, Industry Canada seeks comments on the potential designation of the frequencies described in Table 1 in part or in whole. Comments are sought on the following questions:

  1. What are the consumer benefits and level of public interest in permitting FRS devices to operate in Canada?
  2. Could the manufacturers and distributors facilitate the move of the most seriously affected base stations of land mobile users to other frequency bands to permit the introduction of family radio devices?
  3. Do the land mobile users believe that the burden of moving to other frequency bands is outweighed by the effects of the potential for some interference to their overall operations?
  4. What measures, if any, could be introduced to enable existing land mobile users of these frequencies to share the spectrum with family radio users either in the short or long term?
  5. What would the impact be on existing land mobile users if family radio devices were permitted without limitation?
  6. Can manufacturers and distributors modify the operational design of family radio devices to prevent or limit harmful interference to existing land mobile licensees from family radio users? For example, could family radio devices be modified to operate on seven channels as opposed to the current fourteen channels?
  7. If the decision were to open these frequencies to family radio, what steps should Industry Canada take, and in what time frame, to ensure a smooth transition? How should the existing land mobile users be accommodated?
  8. Are there any other issues that need to be considered?

Interested parties are encouraged to comment on any aspect of these issues.

5.0 Conclusion

Based on the results of the public consultation initiated in this document and further internal evaluation, Industry Canada will decide if it is in the public interest to make appropriate provisions for family radio devices.

ANNEX 1- Summary of Frequency Usage by Industry Canada Region

Summary of Frequency Usage by Industry Canada Region
Regional Total
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

6
1856
30

88
4737
95

144
1919
79

38
909
52

10
52
15
National Total Licensees
286
Mobiles
9473
Base Stations
271
Frequency (FRS Ch #) Industry Canada RegionFootnote 4
Pacific Prairies/NWT Ontario Quebec Atlantic
462.5625 (Ch. 1)          
Licensees 0 3 102 5 1
Mobiles 0 13 109 162 0
Base Stations 0 3 26 5 1
467.5625 (Ch. 8)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

4
13
4

18
443
17

0

1
0
2
462.5875 (Ch. 2)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

4
21
4

4
64
7

0

2
12
2
467.5875 (Ch. 9)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

7
1051
16

3
64
7

10
381
23

2
12
2
462.6125 (Ch.3)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

4
55
4

3
59
4

0

1
0
2
467.6125 (Ch.10)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

17
113
6
(1-RSP)Footnote 5
4
62
4

0

1
0
2
462.6375 (Ch.4)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

5
228
5

0

5
46
1

0
467.6375 (Ch.11)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

3
219
3

0

9
291
14

0
462.6625 (Ch. 5)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

1
2
1

1
31
1

0

0
467.6625 (Ch. 12)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

0

2
1026
10
(1-RSP)Footnote 6
2
31
2

7
27
7

0
462.6875 (Ch. 6)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations
(RSP)Footnote 6
1
0
1

5
45
5

1
4
1

0

1
14
2
467.6875 (Ch. 13)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations
(RSP)Footnote 6
1
0
1

21
196
20

2
57
4

0

1
14
2
462.7125 (Ch. 7)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

2
928
14

5
877
6
(1-RSP)Footnote 6
2
2
3

0

0
467.7125 (Ch. 14)
Licensees
Mobiles
Base Stations

2
928
14

7
878
8
(1-RSP)Footnote 6
2
9
3
(1-RSP)Footnote 6
2
2
2

0

Footnotes

Footnote 1

Channel assignments are done based on a separation of 25 kHz starting at the center frequency 450.0125 kHz in the 450-470 MHz band.

Return to footnote 1 referrer

Footnote 2

These figures represent the total number of licensees and stations operating on FRS candidate frequencies across Canada. Annex 1 provides a breakdown of these licensees and their licences by frequency and Industry Canada region.

Return to footnote 2 referrer

Footnote 3

According to SRSP-501, FRS channels 1 to 7 are within the base receiver portion of the duplex band 460.0375-464.0125 MHz of the 450-470 MHz band. FRS channels 8 to 14 are within the mobile receiver portion of the duplex band 465.0375-469.0125 MHz of the 450-470 MHz band.

Return to footnote 3 referrer

Footnote 4

These figures indicate the number of existing licensees and licences for each FRS frequency within each Industry Canada region. These figures will differ from the totals provided in Section 3.0 as a licensee may operate in more than one region and/or on more than one FRS frequency (i.e. duplex assignments).

Return to footnote 4 referrer

Footnote 5

Does not include licence-exempt radiocommunication service provider (RSP) subscriber stations.

Return to footnote 5 referrer

Footnote 6

Does not include licence-exempt radiocommunication service provider (RSP) subscriber stations.

Return to footnote 6 referrer

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