Frequently Asked Questions For the Multipoint Communication System (MCS) at 2500 MHz Licensing Process

1. What is MCS?

Multipoint Communications Systems (MCS) is a general term used to describe radio systems where one main radio station is able to communicate with many locations within a given area. MCS enables interested parties to offer a wide variety of two-way services, including voice, data, multimedia, and broadcasting applications directly to residential and business subscribers.

2. Why did the Department initiate a comparative licensing process for MCS at 2500 MHz?

Industry Canada received a large number of radio applications for the development of MCS over a short period of time. In several large urban centres, these requests far exceeded the spectrum available in the band. Radio frequency spectrum is normally assigned on a first-come, first-served basis except when the expressed demand for spectrum exceeds the amount of spectrum available. In accordance with stated policy, the Department decided to use a comparative licensing process to select among competing licensees.

3. What type of services are MCS licensees allowed to provide?

Industry Canada has no intention of restricting services offered in this band. In general, the applicants have indicated their intention to provide high-speed Internet access to homes, small businesses, schools and libraries. However, the licensees will be subject to certain technical limitations but only to ensure interference free operation and enable licensees to react to market conditions and technical advances as they occur. It is important to note that the Department will require all licensees to demonstrate support for lifelong learning whatever their commercial services.

4. Why was Inukshuk licensed almost everywhere?

Inukshuk with its local partners was judged to have submitted the best application in each service area except Saskatchewan, offering a high potential to realize the key MCS policy objectives of competitive high-speed access and support for lifelong learning.

5. Why was SaskTel licensed in Saskatchewan?

SaskTel had a very strong application and will bring high-speed Internet to rural and remote areas of Saskatchewan, with a commitment to reach 95 % of the population and service over 500 schools and libraries throughout the province. Additionally, Saskatchewan's Learning Authority felt that SaskTel best answered the local community's learning needs.

6. When will the services be deployed?

Inukshuk will have established service in all licensed service areas by the end of their third year of deployment, and SaskTel also plans to cover virtually the entire province under a three-year deployment plan.

7. Why is there a "Learning" focus to MCS?

When the Department launched the public consultation process in December 1997 to solicit input, many respondents made convincing arguments that MCS systems could be used efficiently to contribute to the advancement of learning for all Canadians, an important element of the Government's Connectedness agenda. As a result, the promotion of learning by licensees was an integral component in the comparative licensing process used for MCS at 2500 MHz.

8. What was the role of Learning Authorities?

Learning Authorities are educational organizations identified by Industry Canada to coordinate the learning needs and interests of their communities in dealing with potential MCS licensees. Learning Authorities liaised with the learning community and the applicants in their province or territory to ensure that the needs of the community were best served through the MCS proposals. Learning Authorities also worked closely with the applicants in the preparation of their Learning Plan.

9. What is a Learning Plan?

A Learning Plan is a detailed description of services, content and/or infrastructure that the applicants plan to offer within their commercial services. Applicants had to demonstrate that their proposals would foster or improve the acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding. It is aimed toward schools, colleges, universities, public libraries or other institutions that are non-profit and government accredited or that provide a government-approved curriculum/program.

10. How was the comparative process conducted?

The main steps of this licensing process are:

Expression of Interest

This was a voluntary phase where potential applicants could signal their interest to others for the purpose of forming alliances. A list of all those who expressed interest, and the service areas for which they indicated interest was made available on our Web site. In total, 19 parties expressed interest.

Detailed Submissions

In this mandatory phase, applicants filed detailed submissions, including their Learning Plans, for Industry Canada evaluation. The evaluation of these submissions forms the basis of the recommendations to the Minister of Industry to select licensees.

Public Input

The Department also posted the Learning Plans and non-confidential detailed submissions on its Internet site at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/spectrum in order to obtain comments from all interested parties on the merits of the Learning Plans. In particular, input was sought on the extent to which the content and carriage aspects of these plans effectively meet the learning needs of the communities they wish to serve. These comments were considered by the Department in the evaluation of the learning component, as part of the comparative analysis of all applications.

Licensing

After the Minister will have selected the licensees, the successful applicants will be authorized to deploy their systems upon payment of their licence fees. Since the Department will issue spectrum (block-area) licences, site-specific radio licences will not be required for each radio installation.

11. What evaluation criteria were used during the selection process?

Recommendations to the Minister were based on a departmental evaluation of the following three criteria:

Demonstrated Competencies

Institutional, financial, economic and technical capabilities that support the establishment and operation of the proposed MCS facilities.

Business Plan

The extent to which the business plans demonstrated a thorough consideration of market opportunities and implementation strategies.

Learning Plan

The extent to which the applicants provided a detailed description of services, content and/or infrastructure that they plan to offer within their commercial services in order to foster or improve the acquisition of skills, knowledge and understanding. Public input on the Learning Plans was also considered.

12. Why was the available spectrum being licensed as one large block?

The majority of respondents in the public consultation favoured a larger block structure to minimize interference considerations, realize spectrum efficiencies and simplify co-existence arrangements in border areas.

13. Will two-way applications be allowed?

Two-way applications will be allowed within the main band (2500–2596 MHz) and new spectrum will be available in the bands 2150–2156 MHz and 2686–2688 MHz for a return path.

14. How was the spectrum divided geographically?

Industry Canada defined one service area per province and territory with the exception of Eastern Ontario and Outaouais, which is a standalone area for economic, technical and interference reasons, resulting in 14 service areas. Noting that some parties might wish to offer services in more than one service area, the Department did not set geographic aggregation limits on licensees. Interested parties and their affiliates were eligible to apply for several service areas, each on a standalone basis.

15. What will happen to incumbent licensees?

Incumbent licensees who already operate radio systems in these bands, and whose presence may preclude access by new MCS licensees had the option of continuing operation, provided they incorporate learning needs to their commercial system, or be subject to the standard two-year notification period to vacate the band. This did not apply to Manitoba where incumbent licensees are already operating in accordance with the learning policy objectives and hence, may continue to do so. In addition, stations in the band 2686–2690 MHz are provided a two-year notice to vacate the band. Incumbent systems in Toronto and Ottawa were required to provide such a Learning Plan no later than October 11, 1999, as the Department expected that these systems would have an immediate impact on the plan of new MCS licensees. As Bell Canada and Carleton University did not provide us with Learning Plans, they will be required to vacate the band in two years. Powertel did provide a Learning Plan, but this Plan was not deemed acceptable by the Department. Therefore, Powertel will also be required to vacate the band in two years.

16. Why was Manitoba treated differently?

Based on the responses to a public consultation held in Manitoba in 1995, the Department released a licensing guideline1 Licensing Guideline, 2500–2596 MHz Band, Manitoba Only. which permitted extensive use of the 2500–2596 MHz frequency band for province-wide interactive ITV systems in rural Manitoba. As Manitoba has numerous educational bodies licensed to provide service to schools in conformity with the learning objectives of this policy, this province was excluded from the current process.

17. Will licences be transferable?

Yes. The Department intends to permit licence transfers in whole and in part, subject to ministerial approval and continued compliance with licence conditions including support for learning.

18. Once an applicant is granted a licence, what else is there to do?

Successful applicants must obtain all appropriate approvals associated with sites including: international and domestic frequency coordination, antenna structure clearance, radio frequency field levels and, environmental and land-use consultation. As well, licensees must comply with the terms and conditions stipulated in their licence, and report on their progress in meeting their commitments.

19. What will the licence fees be?

Industry Canada has set an annual authorization fee of $1.30 per 1000 households per 1 MHz of spectrum in each service area. For the first year, these licence fees are prorated for the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31) based on the proportion of the fiscal year which remains at the time of licence issuance. Fees will be recalibrated, based on new census data as it becomes available.

20. What are the conditions of licence?

The conditions of licence will be finalized at the awarding of licences. Holders of MCS authorizations may have conditions pertaining to:

  • adherence to system roll-out plans, Learning Plans and commitments;
  • filing of annual and semi-annual progress reports;
  • compliance with eligibility criteria;
  • notification of changes in ownership or control;
  • compliance with Health Canada's limits of human exposure to radiofrequency electromagnetic fields;
  • compliance with recommendations of Transport Canada for antenna structures;
  • consultation with land-use authority for the installation of antenna structures;
  • compliance with technical sharing and international coordination standards and agreements;
  • availability of technical details of hub stations;
  • maintenance of information;
  • ministerial approval for licence transfer;
  • payments of annual licence fees; and
  • others as deemed necessary by the Minister.
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