CPC-2-1-23 — Licensing Procedure for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services
The radio frequency spectrum is a natural resource managed for the benefit of all Canadians. Industry Canada endeavours to provide access to this resource with minimal administrative burden to clients while ensuring the efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum.
Under section 5(1)(a)(i.1) of the Radiocommunication Act, the Minister may issue spectrum licences in respect of the utilization of specified radio frequencies within a defined geographic area. The Minister may fix the terms and conditions of any such licence including terms and conditions as to the services that may be provided by the holder thereof. In accordance with section 19 of the Department of Industry Act, the Minister may fix spectrum licence fees in respect of the rights and privileges provided.
The federal budget legislation of 1996 amended the Radiocommunication Act to provide for spectrum licences, a new class of radio authorization, incorporating the concept of area licensing. Spectrum licensing benefits both the Government and its clients by reducing the administrative burden associated with licensing individual radio apparatus. Common to all spectrum licences is authorization by geographical area(s) and frequencies or frequency block(s), rather than authority for the installation and operation of an individual radio apparatus. Spectrum licensees are responsible for ensuring that their radiocommunication networks are properly planned and coordinated prior to operation including approval of antennas and their supporting structures.
The Department issues spectrum licences to authorize the use of specific frequency, frequencies or a frequency block(s) within a defined geographical area(s) under certain minimal constraints. Once authorized, licensees would be permitted to establish and modify their radiocommunication networks within the constraints of their spectrum licence.
Licensing policies are constantly adapting to changes in radiocommunication in order to respond effectively to the evolving competitive environment and user needs. A number of licensing mechanisms are available to the Department to assign frequencies, i.e. the "first-come, first-served" (FCFS) approach and the competitive licensing process.Footnote 1
Spectrum licences may be issued to persons or entities eligible to be issued radio licences as radiocommunication carriers, radiocommunication users or radiocommunication service providers as defined in the Radiocommunication Regulations. It should be noted that persons or entities which own or operate wireless transmission facilities and provide telecommunications to the public for compensation or broadcasting services are also subject to regulation by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) under the Telecommunications Act and the Broadcasting Act.top of page
Over the past several years, the Department has developed a four tier service area structure. Tier 1 is a single national service area. Tier 2 consists of 8 provincial and 6 large regional service areas in Ontario and Quebec. Tier 3 contains 59 smaller regional service areas. Tier 4 comprises 172 localized service areas. All tiers are based on spectrum grid cells. Details are available in the Department's publication entitled Service Areas for Competitive Licensing available at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/h_sf01627.html.
While the Tier system provides a ready and standardized scheme for describing geographic licence areas, the Department recognizes that there may be occasions when service areas are more appropriately defined in consultation with the applicant. This is more likely to occur in the radio frequency bands that are licensed on a first-come, first-served (FCFS) basis with no predefined geographical service areas. The Department will identify these unique service areas on its Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/home. The spectrum grid cell concept has also been used with FCFS. Applicants determine their service area, which is mapped as closely as possible to the spectrum grid cells. The Department then licenses these applicants for the areas covered by the matching spectrum grid cells.
An alternative method to defining service areas in spectrum grid cells has recently been introduced. This method relates the applicant's intended coverage relative to Census Dissemination Areas (CDA). CDA maps are provided by Statistics CanadaFootnote 2, and contain the latest information gathered during the last national census.Footnote 3 By using CDA, it is possible to more closely match intended service areas with licensed areas. In order to calculate the population of a proposed service area, the service area map is overlayed on the Census Dissemination Area (CDA) map provided by Statistics Canada. A proportion calculation is done for every CDA that is totally or partially covered by the service area. If the area covers a CDA completely, then the full population is counted. On the other hand, if it is partially covering a CDA, then the percentage of the coverage is calculated. The resulting percentage is applied to the CDA's population to get a proportional value that is then added to the service area's total.
The Minister of Industry, pursuant to section 19 of the Department of Industry Act, fixes fees for spectrum licences issued pursuant to paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Radiocommunication Act. Prior to fixing a fee, the Department normally holds a public consultation with all interested parties and the general public to enable a review and discussion of the proposed fee. With respect to spectrum licences issued through a spectrum auction, the applicable fees are established as a result of auction rules made pursuant to subsections 5(1.1), (1.2), (1.3) and (1.4) of the Radiocommunication Act.
Licence fees are based on spectrum management costs where resource rents do not exist. When resource rents do exist, fees will ensure a fair economic return to the public in addition to recovering spectrum management costs.
At the end of the licence termFootnote 4, licensees will normally have their licences renewed at the end of the term unless a breach of a licence condition has occurred, a fundamental reallocation of spectrum to a new service is required, or an overriding policy need arises. Section 40 of the Radiocommunication RegulationsFootnote 5 regarding the assignment of frequencies continues to apply. It is important to note that the Minister, pursuant to this regulation, would reallocate spectrum only under certain circumstances, taking into consideration that licensees have complied with the conditions of licence, made large investments in infrastructure, and are serving an established client base. If a reallocation were contemplated, it would take place only after a public consultation.
It should be noted that the spectrum licence is subject to relevant provisions in the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations. For example, the Minister continues to have the power to amend the terms and conditions of spectrum licences (paragraph 5(1)(b) of the Radiocommunication Act). Such powers would be exercised on an exceptional basis and only after consultation.
Industry Canada recognizes the importance of considering the potential impact of antennas and their supporting structures on their surroundings and as such has instituted procedures outlined in Client Procedures Circular 2-0-03, Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Antenna Systems (CPC-2-0-03), as amended from time to time. Spectrum licensees must ensure that they meet all these requirements.
Spectrum licensees must ensure that antenna structures are marked in accordance with the recommendations of Transport Canada. To obtain aeronautical clearance from Transport Canada, form 26-0427, entitled Standards Obstruction Markings-Aeronautical Obstruction Clearance Form, is used. Further information concerning the requirements for aeronautical obstruction clearance and air navigation obstruction marking can be obtained by contacting Transport Canada, Regional Superintendent, Aerodrome Safety or by consulting the Transport Canada website at: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/menu.htmtop of page
Spectrum licences are a subset of radio authorizations which may be issued at the discretion of the Minister of Industry through various licensing processes. To meet the policy goals of the Department, the spectrum licences assigned under the different licensing processes may not have the same privileges. One such privilege is that of enhanced transferability and divisibility rights accorded to spectrum licences assigned through an auction. These spectrum licences may be transferred in whole or in part (either in geographic area or in bandwidth) to a third party subject to the conditions stated on the licence and other applicable regulatory requirements.
Spectrum licences issued under a comparative review or 'first-come, first-served' process typically do not have the enhanced transferability and divisibility rights. However, as one of the Department's objectives is to have the spectrum fully utilized in the market place and providing services to users in Canada, an application may be made to the Minister to transfer these spectrum licences to a third party as part of a going concern. While the licensee (or trustee) cannot sell the licences outright, consideration will be given to a request for transfer of the licence where the licence accompanies other business assets and is being used as part of a going concern.
The transfer of a spectrum licence will in general be subject to the following conditions and guidelines:
- All eligibility criteria and other conditions that apply to a
licence (including those related to interference management) will
continue, as applicable, when the licence is transferred.
- The party to whom the licence will be transferred (the transferee)
must meet the applicable eligibility criteria outlined in the Radiocommunication Regulations.
- The transferee will only receive a licence term equal to that
remaining on the original licence but will be eligible for the same
licence renewal provisions granted to the original licensee.
- All proposed licence transfers must comply with existing
- Licences will be divisible in the geographic dimension; however,
the minimum geographic size of the new divisions may be one
spectrum grid cell or a portion of a census dissemination
- The Department will under certain circumstances allow for the disaggregation and divisibility of spectrum licences. Where disaggregation of a spectrum licence is being considered, a portion of the specified radio frequency block may only be transferred/returned and disaggregated when the discrete spectrum portions may be divided, such that the resulting portions remain as assignable blocks of spectrum. Disaggregation must be concluded in a manner which allows for the portion(s) of spectrum transferred/returned and remaining to respect the spectrum assignment plan as defined in the applicable policy or Standard Radio System Plan (SRSP).
Written notification to the Department is required for all proposed licence transfers, including a declaration from all interested parties that the points above (i.e. compliance with the eligibility criteria and other conditions of licence) have been satisfactorily addressed. A sample notification of a spectrum licence transfer is provided in Appendix A. Once a licence transfer is approved by the Department, the original licence(s) will be revoked and a new licence(s) will be issued in its place. The Department will also maintain a publicly accessible database listing all spectrum licences and respective licensees, and will update the database upon each completed licence transfer.
This section applies only to those licences that have conditions allowing for enhanced transferability and divisibility privileges. A subordinate licence allows for more efficient use of spectrum by permitting licensees to enter into arrangements which allow another party to operate within a portion of their frequency or geographic area without having to completely transfer their spectrum licence(s).
A subordinate licence is defined as a licence issued by the Minister under paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Radiocommunication Act that is related to a primary licence, and is conditional on the primary licence meeting all regulatory requirements including the terms and conditions of the licence. A primary licence is a licence issued by the Minister under paragraph 5(1)(a) of the Radiocommunication Act that is not a subordinate licence and therefore is not conditional on another licence.
Primary licensees may apply to the Department jointly with a third party, requesting a subordinate licence. The request would be reviewed, and subject to being satisfied with the application, the Department may approve the request and issue the third party a subordinate licence. The subordinate licence would include a subset of the primary licence conditions as well as additional terms and conditions which may vary from those on the primary licence. The primary and subordinate licence would be concurrent licences (i.e. they would both exist at the same time).
The Department will continue to maintain a publicly accessible database listing all licences including subordinate licensees.
The issuance of a subordinate licence will in general be subject to, but not limited to, the following conditions and guidelines:
- The subordinate licence cannot exceed the authorization granted to
the primary licence in any respect (e.g. licence term, service area
and/or frequencies) and does not constitute a transfer of the
- The party to whom a subordinate licence will be issued (the
subordinate licensee) must meet the applicable eligibility criteria
outlined in the Radiocommunication Regulations.
- The subordinate licence term can be for a term less than or equal
to the duration of the primary licence. The term for which a
subordinate licence is being sought must be clearly specified in
the application. The subordinate licence will expire on the earlier
- the expiration or revocation (by the Department) of the subordinate licence;
- the expiration or revocation of the primary licence; or,
- upon consent of the primary and subordinate licensee who
jointly notify the Minister, as per section 5(2) of the Radiocommunication Act, that they wish the licence
to be revoked.
- Subordinate licence conditions may vary depending on applicable
policies and technical requirements. However, they will in general
be subject to, but not limited to, the following conditions and
- aggregation limits;
- international and domestic coordination agreements;
- compliance with Health Canada's limits with respect to radio installations and operation (Safety Code 6);
- lawful interception requirements;
- applicable spectrum utilization policies and technical standards; and
- the provision of technical information.
- Subordinate licences are not divisible or transferable.
- The subordinate licence is conditional on the primary licence
meeting all regulatory requirements including the terms and
conditions of the licence. If the Department is considering
suspension, or revocation of the primary licence, the subordinate
licensee will also be served notice and provided an opportunity to
reply prior to a suspension, non-renewal or revocation of both
licences under Section 5(2) of the Radiocommunication
- The primary licensee will retain the responsibility for
international or domestic coordination requirements, including
operator-to-operator agreements on spectrum sharing. The primary
licensee should involve the subordinate licensee in any
coordination agreements impacting areas for which the subordinate
licensee holds a licence. The subordinate licensee will be required
to abide by the terms and technical requirements and parameters set
out in such agreements, as part of the terms and conditions of the
subordinate authorization. In the event that there are changes to
coordination agreements, the primary licensee must notify the
subordinate licensee(s) who would then have to abide by any new or
amended terms and conditions.
- Where implementation of spectrum usage requirements exist, the
responsibility of being in compliance rests with the primary
licensee. Implementation by the subordinate licensee will count
towards meeting the primary licensee's responsibilities.
- Where research and development (R&D) requirements exist, the
responsibility of being in compliance rests with the primary
licensee. The adjusted gross revenue resulting from operations of
the primary and subordinate licensee's spectrum will be used in
calculating the R&D investment requirement of the primary
licensee. R&D investment made by the subordinate licensee can
be counted towards the primary licensee's R&D requirement.
- Where a displacement and transition policy exists, either the
operator of the primary licence or the subordinate licensee may
invoke the transition policy provisions; however a subordinate
licensee must notify the primary licensee if it submits a
- Departmental approval is required for all proposed subordinate
licences. The Department may also request attestations or other
documentation to ensure that the above requirements (e.g.
compliance with the eligibility criteria and other conditions of
licence) have been satisfactorily addressed. A sample request for a
subordinate licence is provided in Annex D which indicates the
information that will be required by the Department.
The Minister has the authority to grant primary and subordinate licences and fix or amend their terms and conditions. In doing so, he may take into consideration not only the joint application but also all other relevant matters.
- The Department will contact the primary licensee directly for
non-compliance issues of the primary licence conditions and the
subordinate licensee directly for non-compliance issues of the
subordinate licence conditions. The Department also has the
authority to contact either the primary or the subordinate licensee
regarding compliance issues and, if necessary, revoke or suspend
the primary and/or subordinate licence(s), in accordance with the Radiocommunication Act.
- When a primary licence is being considered for renewal, a joint
application may be submitted to the Department requesting the
renewal of the subordinate licence at the same time. The Minister
has the authority to consider the joint application as well as all
other relevant matters, and can grant the subordinate licence as
requested, fix additional terms and conditions, or not grant the
- The Department will not take a role in negotiating, reviewing or enforcing any agreement opted into between the subordinate and primary licensees.
When a licensee returns a spectrum licence to the Department, the Department will make the associated spectrum available to the public in a timely manner so that it can be used and produce benefits for all Canadians. The spectrum will not be withheld, except when specific policy issues advocate it.
The Department will first announce publicly the availability of the spectrum; this may include posting a notice on Industry Canada's Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website. The notice will call for expressions of interest so that the demand for the spectrum can be determined. Based on the demand, the appropriate subsequent licensing mechanism will be determined. If there is sufficient spectrum to meet the demand, the Department will use its first-come, first-served process. If the demand is greater than the spectrum available, or, where there is a need to pursue certain telecommunications policy objectives, a competitive licensing process will be used.
The Department normally consults to establish the policy framework and design of a competitive licensing process. The two types of competitive licensing are the use of auctions and the use of a comparative review. More information on the competitive licensing process can be found in the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC) document available on Industry Canada's Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf08776.html.
In order to remain current on spectrum availability, interested parties are encouraged to consult our website on a regular basis. The spectrum licence information will list the spectrum blocks available, the geographical areas in which this spectrum can be used and the applicable licence conditions.
All spectrum licence holders are responsible for ensuring that installation(s) or modification(s) of their radio system(s) do not cause harmful interference. To protect existing licensed radio stations from interference, spectrum licensees are required to coordinate with co-channel, interstitial and adjacent channel operators authorized within the same or adjacent geographical areas in Canada before operating a new or modified system which has the potential to cause interference. Spectrum licence holders are also subject to applicable international coordination agreements and arrangements between Canada, the United States and other foreign administrations.
For each radio frequency band or service where spectrum licensees have a responsibility for carrying out domestic and/or international coordination, the Department will outline, as appropriate, guidelines or procedures. This may include the submission of information so that a public database containing site-specific information on radio installations can be maintained.
Licensees are encouraged to enter into mutually beneficial coexistence agreements with neighbouring radio system operators in order to foster efficient spectrum use near common geographical service boundaries and at their channel band edge frequencies. It is intended that such agreements will result in the shared use by spectrum licensees of zones along the perimeters of the authorized geographical area(s) and the frequency block(s) edges on an equal basis without prejudice to future operators.
The Department plans to determine boundary conditions for various radiocommunication services in order to assist applicants in defining their geographical area(s) requirement(s) and to provide licensees with a starting point to coordinate and negotiate mutually beneficial coexistence agreements. It also plans to consult with industry representatives to establish typical minimum operating levels required for various services.
The boundary conditions will be consistent with applicable Radio Standards Specifications (RSSs) and Standard Radio System Plans (SRSPs) which also address spurious emissions and frequency tolerances. Applicable SRSPs may also provide for band edge protection, field strength limits at the edge of licensed geographical areas, and frequency coordination and re-use limitations. Other conditions may be also considered, such as prescribing what acceptable types of radio antennas may be used.
In cases where applicants are unsuccessful in concluding coexistence agreements with other co-channel licensees, the boundary condition will be used as the basis for dispute resolution. The Department's involvement in such situations will be restricted to dispute arbitration and, under such circumstances, will require additional technical information from spectrum licence holders.top of page
Spectrum licences are issued for a specific geographic area and as such, associated technical information for each radiocommunication installation is not required for the issuance of a spectrum licence. However, technical information associated with radiocommunication installations covered by the spectrum licence is required by the Department to carry out certain spectrum management responsibilities. To provide this capability, the Department requires information to maintain an up-to-date technical database of radiocommunication installations.
A list of minimal radiocommunication installation data elements required for the Department's technical database is provided in Appendix B. The Department recognizes that each radiocommunication system is unique and for that reason, the particulars concerning the provision of updated technical information will be specified upon issuance of a spectrum licence. Typically, licensees will be required to submit this data to the Department on a monthly basis or as otherwise required, and for each new radiocommunication installation prior to its operation. When an existing radiocommunication installation is modified such that the associated data elements are amended, the licensee must also provide the Department with updated technical information.
The submission of technical data must be made in either Extensible Markup Language (XML) or ASCII-delimited files; these platform and software-independent formats may be readily generated from any spreadsheet or database program. Specific instructions for creating, validating and uploading data are available on Industry Canada's Spectrum Direct website: http://sd.ic.gc.ca.
Where appropriate, the Department will support participation in our XML Data Exchange Program. For more information on the XML Data Exchange Program, please contact the Spectrum Direct administration via email at: email@example.com.
For additional support on how to provide technical information to the Department, you may wish to contact your local district office. A list of Industry Canada's regional and district offices is available in Radiocommunication Information Circular 66 (RIC-66) on the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website.
Filing requirements for spectrum licence applicants participating in a competitive licensing process will be described during that process. Applicants for a spectrum licence participating in a first-come, first-served licensing process may submit their applications to any departmental district office. Information required includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- a narrative explaining the proposed radiocommunication system and service;
- if this is a commercial service, the company's ownership and control structure;
- the name and address of the applicant;
- a list of frequencies or frequency block(s) being applied for; and
- a map(s) clearly showing the proposed geographic or service area.
Applicants must certify that they have read, understand and comply with the requirements of holding a spectrum licence, including all conditions of licence applicable to the radio service, including and not limited to:
- eligibility requirements of the Radiocommunication Regulations;
- the marking of antenna structures as required, in accordance with the recommendations of Transport Canada;
- compliance with authorization procedures for antenna supporting structures as outlined in CPC-2-0-03;
- compliance with the terms and conditions of international coordination agreements; and
- compliance with the requirements of applicable spectrum policies, Radio Standards Specifications and Standard Radio System Plans.
A sample spectrum licence application form is provided in Appendix C of this document.
Licence conditions for a spectrum licence may vary depending on applicable policies and technical requirements. However, licence conditions will generally address the following:
- Eligibility requirements as set out in the Radiocommunication
Regulations, and the requirement to notify the Minister prior
to any change that would have a material effect on the ownership
and control of a spectrum licence;
- Assurances that radiocommunication installations are installed and
operate in a manner that complies with Health Canada's limits
of human exposure to radio frequency fields for the general
- Antenna structures are marked in accordance with Transport Canada
- All requirements prescribed in CPC-2-0-03, as well as for existing
- Radiocommunication installations are installed and operate in a
manner that complies with technical boundary and out-of-band
emission conditions as specified by the Department;
- Compliance with international coordination requirements and
- Assistance in the resolution of radio interference problems that
may arise due to station operation, including the provision of
technical information, making arrangements to conduct tests and
using techniques to isolate interfering signals;
- Submission of technical information on a monthly basis or as
otherwise required by the Department;
- Compliance with appropriate terms and conditions for the radio
frequency band or applicable radio service;
- Compliance with applicable Spectrum Utilization Policies, Standard
Radio System Plans and Radio Standards Specifications;
- Notification of any proposed transfer, in whole or in part, of a
spectrum licence; and
- Roll-out requirements.
Questions concerning this client procedures document should be directed to:
Manager, Wireless Networks
Radiocommunications and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch
300 Slater Street
- Footnote 1
The two types of competitive licensing are the use of auctions and the use of a comparative review.
- Footnote 2
A dissemination area (DA) is a small, relatively stable geographic unit composed of one or more blocks. DAs cover all the territory of Canada and replace the enumeration areas (which are still used for census collection) as the smallest standard geographic areas for which census characteristic data are disseminated (Source: 2001 Census Dictionary, Catalogue No. 92-378-XIE published by Statistics Canada).
- Footnote 3
Currently, the Department is using 2001 census data. This is subject to change as new data is made available.
- Footnote 4
The licence term may be determined on a case-by-case basis.
- Footnote 5
Section 40 of the Radiocommunication Regulations reads: "The assignment of a frequency or frequencies to a holder of a radio authorization does not confer a monopoly on the use of the frequency or frequencies, nor shall a radio authorization be construed as conferring any right of continuing tenure in respect of the frequency or frequencies."
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