Archived — Proposed Spectrum Utilization Policy, Technical and Licensing Requirements for Broadband Public Safety in the Band 4940-4990 MHz

1.0 Introduction

The purpose of this paper, announced in Gazette Notice DGTP-005-05 is to initiate a public consultation and invite comments on proposals to introduce public safety services in the band 4940-4990 MHz. The proposals outlined in this spectrum policy paper seek to address the eligibility, licensing, technical and service issues to accommodate the fixed and mobile service use in support of public safety.

Industry Canada invites interested parties to provide their views and comments on the issues raised in this paper, in accordance with the instruction provided in the accompanying Notice, DGTP-005-05. Submissions must be received no later than October 7, 2005 to ensure consideration.

2.0 Background

The provision of public safety and national security services, with attention to sovereignty protection, relies heavily on advanced communications including a wide range of radiocommunication service applications. In recent years, the need for new wireless technologies and radio applications has put significant pressure on the Department to find priority spectrum for these requirements.

Since 9/11, a tremendous amount of effort has been dedicated by various administrations to ensure the safety and security of their citizens and people around the world. The efforts of the Canadian Government to improve public safety have remained unabated over the past four years through the joint collaborative efforts of the Department as well as safety and security agencies. As a result, well formulated strategies which advance the objectives of the Government have been established.

With the modernization of telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructures, new spectrum has become available to meet critical public safety and security needs. One example is the digitization of the Canadian broadcasting system and in particular, the transition of over-the-air TV broadcasting which has created an opportunity of late, to open exclusive priority spectrum in the range 746-806 MHz for public safety. Another example is the band 4400-4940 MHz, which is no longer required for long-haul microwave facilities as it has been superseded by the builds of many fibre optic transmission systems in the 1990's for intercity networking. Consequently, the spectrum policy (i.e. Spectrum Utilization Policy 3-30 GHz in part) designated the band 4400-4940 MHz for Government of Canada use, which includes the many military radiocommunication applications of National Defence. At the same time, the band 4940-4990 MHz was designated for broadband public safety communications.

In Canada, our public safety agencies have indicated to the Department how critical the band 4940-4990 MHz is to support advanced broadband technologies enabling high-speed wireless transfers of large files, images and video, as well as intranet access, at specified locations. These agencies have also indicated that they require dedicated spectrum for critical broadband applications the same way they depend on narrowband voice systems today.

The Department and the Canadian industry have participated heavily in the international forum with the development of ITU-R Report M.2033 "Radiocommunication objectives and requirements for public protection and disaster relief" and with Resolution 646 (WRC-03) "Public protection and disaster relief" (PPDR). These provide guidance for future advanced solutions to satisfy the operational needs of PPDR organizations. Resolution 646 identifies the band 4940-4990 MHz as a band for consideration as a regionally harmonized band for ITU Regions 2 and 3 which include the Americas and Asia-Pacific.

In the U.S., the band 4940-4990 MHz was transferred from Federal Government to non-Government use in 1999. Subsequently, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proposed to allocate this band to non-Government fixed and mobile services, excluding the aeronautical mobile service, on a co-primary basis and concluded that the public interest would be best served by designating the band for use in support of public safety. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has since adopted the licensing and service rules including eligibility, channelling plans and how to use the band to minimize the impact on radio astronomy operations.

The Department believes that the requirement for spectrum harmonization in the band 4940-4990 MHz for public safety and other commercial mobile services with the U.S. is critical whenever possible. A compelling reason for Canada to seek common spectrum with the U.S. for public safety use is to ensure that Canadian public safety agencies develop compatible networks and effective services with U.S. public safety agencies for interoperability, mutual aid and border security. Moreover, common public safety spectrum in Canada means compatible equipment with U.S. agencies, and greater availability of products at lower cost due to vendor economies of scale.

As indicated earlier, SP 3-30 GHz , added a primary mobile allocation in the band 4940-4990 MHz and designated its use for fixed and mobile systems in support of public safety. SP 3-30 GHz also limited the Government of Canada's (GoC) exclusive use of fixed and mobile services, on a primary basis, to 4400-4940 MHz through Canadian footnote C25 (see Section 3.1). In so doing, a moratorium was placed on the licensing of new non-Government of Canada fixed systems in the band 4400-4940 MHz. Existing fixed systems in the band 4400-4940 MHz have been grandfathered and GoC systems are to co-ordinate their use with those systems. SP 3-30 GHz also indicated that new GoC operators are encouraged to take all practicable steps to use the band 4400-4940 in light of the new public safety designation.

The Department has worked with the public safety community to assist in improving the critical communication and infrastructure of public safety agencies over the past years to address service inter-operability, open equipment standards, and to improve access to spectrum resources in existing and new bands. This consultation initiative, to open broadband spectrum for public safety services, represents an example of the commitment and the importance the Government attaches to preserving the highest level of safety and security for its citizens and to working with the public safety community to increase the effectiveness of their critical communications, including wireless infrastructures. As such, the Department is now prepared to propose and establish the eligibility, licensing, technical and service rules for the implementation of public safety services in the band 4940-4990 MHz.

3.0 Spectrum Utilization

3.1 Fixed and Mobile Use

The Department has designated the band 4940-4990 MHz for both fixed and mobile application use in support of public safety. It is anticipated that this band will be able to support a variety of public safety applications if sufficient flexibility is offered such that users can customize operations of the band to suit their individual needs. For example, in rural areas, there may be a greater need for public safety operations covering larger distances. On the other hand, public safety officials in larger cities may have a greater need for mobile and point-of-presence uses. Allowing users to customize operations of the band to suit their individual needs yields optimal user flexibility as well as spectrum efficiency.

Examples of potential applications might include:

  • point-of-presence operations such as automatic high-speed file transfers (e.g. transfer of maps, building layouts, emergency medical service files, missing person images etc.) from emergency sites to mobile units;
  • operation of Vehicular Area Networks (VANs) which connect applications within the vehicle and the surrounding area of operation;
  • operation of temporary fixed links; and,
  • traditional, fixed point-to-point and point-to-multipoint microwave operations, ancillary to public safety mobile operations to support backhaul or backbone communication links for public safety services.

In the band 4950-4990 MHz, communications between aircraft and land stations is not permitted (see international footnote 5.442 which excludes the aeronautical mobile service (AMS) in this band). However, the Department may consider authorizing temporary sites for aeronautical communications within the band 4940-4950 MHz.

The Department seeks comments on the following questions: 

What types of public safety applications are foreseen to be deployed in Canada in the near future?

Are there requirements for aeronautical mobile use in the band 4940-4950 MHz in Canada? If yes, for what purpose?

3.2 System Applications

Generally, there are four potential modes of operation for system applications:

  • Point-to-point
    • Directional antennas are used to connect fixed locations;
  • Point-to-multipoint
    • Connections are from one fixed location to several other fixed locations;
  • Transportable
    • Temporary operation from an established point within an area in fixed, multipoint or mobile mode; and
  • Mobile
    • From a fixed location to a platform in motion, or between mobile platforms.

For these applications, it is anticipated that multiple users will require access to the spectrum within the same area, using one or more of the above modes of operation, at the same time.

It is also expected that existing commercial off-the-shelf technologies used in adjacent bands, such as the 5 GHz licence-exempt LAN band, will be leveraged. Due to the frequency hopping/spread spectrum nature of this equipment, these technologies are considered to be robust. They also incorporate "smart" features such as "listen-before-talking" which enables the equipment to select a clear channel for operation from all the channels available in the band. When such features are incorporated in equipment, interference is usually experienced as a delay in data throughput rather than a denial of service. The level of effort required to coordinate amongst users to ensure maximum use and availability of spectrum in a given area is therefore also reduced.  In any event, and as with all licensed services, it should be noted that the level of protection which can be afforded to a particular installation is a "best effort" level. Moreover, the technologies being developed for use in the 4940-4990 MHz band may be ad hoc in nature.

While the Department prefers and encourages the use of "smart" technologies in this band, comment is sought as to whether there is a requirement to accommodate equipment which is only capable of operating on specific channels.

3.3 Channelling Plan

The Department believes in adopting a spectrum utilization plan that will be beneficial from an operational perspective, and should not unduly restrict the flexibility of 4 940-4 990 MHz band licensees and users.

A radio frequency (RF) channelling plan is proposed for this band which consists of ten, 1 MHz channels and eight, 5 MHz channels which may be combined to create channel sizes of 5, 10, 15 or 20 MHz (see Figure 1). Footnote 1 It is expected that this will provide users with maximum flexibility to employ existing technologies, to facilitate economies of scale, and allow for the implementation of future broadband technologies. The 1 MHz channels may be useful for narrow bandwidth operations such as slow scan short-term video surveillance where high-quality data is unnecessary. For example, channels could be combined to meet the requirements for Wireless Local Area Networks (WLANs) where a higher bandwidth is required.

The Department believes that the combination of adopting smaller channels and permitting aggregation will result in a plan that best addresses public safety requirements for present and future applications.

Figure 1

Figure 1

The Department seeks comment on the proposal to adopt this RF channelling plan. Is there a requirement for separate channels for fixed and mobile applications, etc? Provide rationale if an alternative plan is preferred.

3.4 Incumbents

Since the release of SP 3-30 GHz in October 2004, all incumbents in the band 4940-4990 MHz, with the exception of radio astronomers, have retuned, clearing the way for the new public safety designation. SP 3-30 GHz limited Government of Canada's (GoC) exclusive use of fixed and mobile service, on a primary basis, to 4400-4940 MHz through Canadian footnote C25. In so doing, a moratorium was placed on the licensing of new non-Government of Canada fixed systems in the band 4400-4940 MHz.

In SP 3-30 GHz , the Department indicated that any compatibility issues and necessary transition arrangements between existing GoC systems operating in the band and the newly designated applications would be subject for future consideration.

Consequently, the Department sees no need for any transition measures and immediately places a moratorium on the licensing and use of GoC fixed systems in the band 4940-4990 MHz.

All radio astronomy operators, in the band 4950-4990 MHz, where their allocation is primary, are to be afforded protection as per international footnote 5.149.


  1. back to footnote reference 1 For ease of discussion, the channels have been labelled.
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