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

4.0 Eligibility

The Department believes that existing eligibility criteria and definitions for designated public safety spectrum should be used for the band 4940-4990 MHz to ensure support of critical public safety operations for the protection of life and property. The Department also believes that such criteria should be sufficiently flexible to provide access by a variety of entities to the 4940-4990 MHz band, particularly if this will increase the effectiveness of public safety communications, foster interoperability and further security initiatives. These objectives will be best accomplished by establishing a hierarchy for access to the spectrum.

In Spectrum Utilization Policy SP 30-896 MHz , Part 1, Spectrum Allocation and Utilization in Certain Bands in the Range 30.01 - 896 MHz (SP  30-896 MHz) published in May 1990, the Department considers government safety services to be those provided by federal, provincial and municipal governments and their affiliated agents (e.g. private ambulance services) which are exclusively related to the preservation of life and protection of property.

In Standard Radio System Plan 502, Issue 4, Technical Requirements for Land Mobile and Fixed Radio Services Operating in the Bands 806-821 / 851-866 MHz and 821-824 / 866-869 MHz (SRSP -502), the Department further recognizes the following hierarchy of safety service providers:

  1. Category 1 - police, fire and emergency medical services.
  2. Category 2 - forestry, public works, public transit, dangerous chemical clean-up, customs and other agencies contributing to public safety.
  3. Category 3 - Other government agencies and certain non-government agencies.

Category 1 system operators are eligible for trunked or conventional systems.

Category 2 system operators are eligible to share trunked systems with Category  1 users provided the latter remain the major users of the system. Major users are agencies which have priority over other types of users on the system. Category 2 system users would not be eligible to operate their own systems within this band unless the local district director is satisfied that their operation would not preclude the future introduction of a Category 1 system.

Category 3 system operators and selected supervisory personnel of non-government agencies (e.g. hydro and gas utilities) may be permitted access to public safety systems during emergency situations where their access will be controlled by the major users operating those systems.

The Department encourages public safety entities to explore strategic partnerships, but emphasizes that the objective of such arrangements must be to improve public safety communications for the protection of life and property, rather than to accommodate the needs of non-public safety communications for non‑critical activities.

The Department is proposing that access to the band 4940-4990 MHz will be given according to the same criteria as described above. Comments are invited on this proposal.

Moreover, the Department seeks comment on whether flexibility should be considered, in certain areas of the country, where priority needs have been fully met and significant unused frequencies remain.

5.0 Licensing Issues

5.1 Purpose

In this section, the Department seeks comment on the most appropriate licensing and fee regime for broadband public safety services in the band 4940-4990 MHz.

5.2 Canadian Overview: Radio and Spectrum Licences

In Canada, there are two types of radio authorizations that would lend themselves to the licensing of systems in the band 4940-4990 MHz – radio licences and spectrum licences. Both licence types are provided for under the Radiocommunication Act and the Act further stipulates the Minister of Industry may fix their terms and conditions as well as the services which may be provided by the licence holder.

A radio licence is an authorization for the installation and operation of radio apparatus and is most often issued on a site-specific basis, but may be issued to authorize mobile or transportable operations.

The federal budget legislation of 1996 amended the Radiocommunication Act to provide for spectrum licences, a 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 and frequency or frequency block, 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 and other conditions of licence applicable to all licensees, which are outlined in Section 5.8.

5.3 U.S. Approach

In the U.S., the FCC uses a non-exclusive geographic licensing scheme based on a public safety entity's legal jurisdictional area of operation. Jurisdictional areas can be comprised of states, counties, cities, towns, municipalities, etc., and can encompass every geographical area that has an established public safety entity.

Each state and local government is eligible to hold a licence and public safety entities may negotiate sharing agreements with entities not eligible to hold a licence in this band, such as private critical infrastructure industries, provided those entities perform operations in support of public safety. Sharing of systems must be by written agreement and all communications by the non-licensee must be in support of public safety (i.e. the protection of life, health or property).

Licensees in the U.S. are authorized within their legal jurisdictions. Permanent fixed point-to-point operations in the band are permitted on a secondary basis and must mitigate any interference caused to primary operations.

All frequencies are shared among licensees, and adjacent and co-located licensees are required to cooperate and coordinate their use of the spectrum. While not mandatory, the FCC states that public safety entities may use existing regional planning committees to facilitate the shared use of this spectrum with nearby jurisdictions and to govern frequency sharing during situations requiring joint operations.

Licensees of stations suffering or causing harmful interference are expected to cooperate and resolve this problem by mutually satisfactory arrangements.

5.4 Licensing Discussion

When deciding on the most appropriate type of radio authorization for services that support public safety in the band 4940-4990 MHz, the Department seeks to facilitate the deployment of new public safety applications and minimize interference without placing an excessive administrative burden on users.

In formulating this proposal, the Department anticipates that licensees will be deploying a wide variety of systems and will want to deploy and adjust their systems to meet their individual and changing needs. A spectrum licence gives greater autonomy to licensees to deploy and configure their network in the manner most fitting their needs, and requires them to undertake the appropriate studies and coordination measures with other users in their proximity and respecting all other conditions of licence. Similar obligations would be required for radio licences, without the additional flexibility.

Given the envisaged use of the band, potential use of spread spectrum "smart" radio equipment, and the critical role of public safety organizations in protecting Canadians, the Department is of the view that the most appropriate radio authorization in the band 4940-4990 MHz is a non-exclusive spectrum licence to eligible entities. It is proposed that each licensee would be granted a licence for the full 50 MHz covering their area of jurisdiction. Licensees in the same or overlapping geographical areas would be expected to cooperate in the coordination of use of the band.

Individual site licences would not be required. However in order to provide licensees of this band the information for coordination with other users, the Department will require that the technical information be provided by the licensees in the prescribed format and entered into a database. Details will be established through the development of a Client Procedures Circular (CPC) at a later date.

The Department is of the view that the issuance of spectrum licences as described above will best accommodate these uses. Comments are invited on the proposal.

If comments support the accommodation of permanent fixed point‑to‑point operations, please indicate whether there should be a requirement for licensing on a site‑by‑site basis.

The Department invites alternative proposals for licensing of the services.  Provide details as to which specific aspects of the alternative proposal you consider to be favourable.

5.5 Licence Term

The Department proposes a 10-year licence term with annual licence fees payable by March 31st.

The Department invites comment on the licence term.

5.6 Licence Fees

5.6.1 Authority and Requirements

The Department's authority to set spectrum licence fees is pursuant to the powers granted to the Minister of Industry in section 19 of the Department of Industry Act. The Actstates that the Department may establish fees following a public consultation.

On March 31, 2004, the User Fees Act (which can be found on the Department of Justice Web site at came into effect with the aim of strengthening the elements of accountability, oversight, and transparency in the management of user fee activities. This formally outlines requirements for the setting of new and amended fees which are largely in line with the practice already in place in the Spectrum Management Program.

5.6.2 Spectrum Management Principles

The radio frequency spectrum supports a wide range of business, industrial, scientific, medical, research, personal and cultural activities, in both the private and public sectors. Canada depends upon radio frequency spectrum to maintain its sovereignty and security, and to safeguard its citizens. Radio spectrum is a finite public resource, the use of which Industry Canada manages on behalf of Canadians.

In order to facilitate the efficient development of radiocommunications and ensure effective management of the radio frequency spectrum, the Department strives to apply the most appropriate economic and regulatory principles to maximize the benefits to society through the use of this resource. As outlined in A Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC), the Department manages spectrum in a manner that supports fair competition, captures resource rents where they exist and recovers spectrum management costs where such rents do not exist.

In Canada, all public sector licensees are charged fees for their use of the radio frequency spectrum on the same basis as private sector licensees, in order to promote the use of the spectrum resource in an economically efficient manner. This also ensures that the public sector decision makers are aware of the full cost of the inputs consumed versus the benefits gained; it avoids cross subsidization amongst levels of government; and avoids distorting choices in the provision of radiocommunication services (e.g. undermining the provision of services by the private sector).

5.6.3 Discussion and Proposed Fee

In developing the proposed fee, the Department has considered existing fees in both Canada Footnote 2 and other countries (i.e. the U.S., UK and Australia). Only the U.S. has a comparable plan to issue non‑exclusive spectrum licences in this frequency band for a geographic area consistent with the jurisdictional area of eligible entities. At this point, the U.S. is not charging public safety agencies fair economic rent for their use of this spectrum, and hence there is no comparable fee.

The proposed licensing approach in this band envisages non-exclusive access to the full 50 MHz of spectrum for public safety use. Non-exclusive licensing is anticipated to be feasible given the advanced equipment expected to be used in this band. By restricting eligibility, the value of the spectrum for those who are eligible is increased by limiting the likelihood that the spectrum will become overly congested. Licensees are required to share and coordinate with any number of other operators. The Department is proposing a fee which endeavours to ensure that the appropriate rent is collected, and at a level which ensures the spectrum is used efficiently.

The Department expects that in the most populated areas of the country, up to four safety agencies will be licensed based on an agency's area of jurisdiction. Given this assessment, the Department proposes a fee of $0.0042 per 50 MHz per pop (i.e. $0.000084 per MHz per pop) subject to a minimum fee of $250.00.

The following table has some sample licence areas:

Sample licence areas
Licence Area Population Fee (based on $0.0042 per pop)
National 30,007,094 $125,000
Province of Quebec 7,237,479 $ 30,149
Greater Toronto Area 4,682,897 $ 19,507
Montreal 3,426,350 $ 14,273
Vancouver 1,986,965 $ 8,277
Calgary 951,395 $ 3,963
Halifax 359,183 $ 1,496

Please provide your comments on the proposed licence fee associated with a spectrum licence in this band.

5.7 Service Standards

Industry Canada currently has established service standards for certain licensing processes. In general, where service standards exist, analysis and domestic coordination are required by the Department prior to issuing a licence. Where international coordination is required, the service standard is significantly increased. If spectrum licences for broadband public safety services are issued as proposed, the Department proposes using the existing microwave application service standard of four weeks from receipt of a complete application. It is anticipated that an on-line modification to the licensing database to provide for automated applications and approvals for this type of licensing will improve the turnaround time in the future. It should be noted that all emergency services are given priority service when necessary and every effort will continue to be made to accommodate the needs of the public safety agencies.

Please provide comments on whether this service standard is appropriate.

The Department invites comments on any issues related to the fee as proposed and also invites comments on ideas or proposals for ways to improve the service to which the fee relates.

5.8 Conditions of Licence and Ministerial Authority

In addition to the conditions of licence discussed above (eligibility, licence term, etc.), the following conditions will apply to the spectrum licences awarded through this licensing process.

5.8.1 Laws, Regulations and Other Obligations

The licensee is subject to, and must comply with, the Radiocommunication Act, the Radiocommunication Regulations, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Radio Regulations and the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations pertaining to its licensed radio frequency bands. The licence is issued on condition that the certifications made in the application materials are all true and complete in every respect.

The Minister continues to have the power to amend the terms and conditions of spectrum licences (see 5(1)(b) of the Radiocommunication Act). Such powers would be exercised on an exceptional basis and only after full consultation. Section 40 of the Radiocommunication Regulations continues to apply.

5.8.2    International Coordination

Canada currently does not have an agreement with the U.S. government for the sharing of the 4 940-4 990 MHz frequency band along the border regions. However, the Department notes that licensees will be subject to future agreements between Canada and the U.S. for use in the border regions.

5.8.3 Radio Station Installations

It is proposed that site-specific radio licences will not be required for each radio station. However, for each radio station, the licensee must ensure that:

  • radio stations are installed and operated in a manner that complies with Health Canada's limits of exposure to radio frequency fields;
  • where applicable, antenna structures are marked in accordance with the recommendations of Transport Canada; and
  • prior to the installation of significant antenna structures, consultation with the appropriate land-use authorities has taken place.

Installation of any significant antenna structure must be delayed for a period of time sufficient for Departmental review where, after considering reasonable alternatives and consultation options, land-use consultation negotiations remain at an impasse, and radio installations are installed and operated in a manner that complies with technical boundary and out-of-band emission conditions as specified by the Department.

Refer to Client Procedures Circular 2-0-03, Environmental Process, Radiofrequency Fields and Land-Use Consultation (CPC-2-0-03), as amended from time to time.

5.8.4 Provision of Technical Information

When the Department requests technical information on a particular station or on a network, the information must be provided by the licensee according to the definitions and criteria specified by the Department. Details will be outlined in a Client Procedures Circular to be issued in the future.

6.0 Technical Issues

6.1 Interference Issues

6.1.1 Radio Astronomy Operations

The band 4950-4990 MHz is allocated to the radio astronomy service on a primary basis. International footnote 5.149 urges all administrations to take all practicable steps to protect the radio astronomy service from harmful interference.

The Department therefore is requesting comments on what restrictions and technical criteria public safety operations should observe in order to protect the radio astronomy service in the band 4 950-4 990 MHz in Canada. Provide a rationale for the proposal.

6.2 Technical Standards for the Mobile ServiceFootnote 3

The Department notes that interoperable communications among public safety users is often important.Footnote 4 It has been suggested that Industry Canada could encourage the community of public safety users to plan, share and coordinate their common spectrum needs to facilitate interoperable communications. In addition, the Department acknowledges that in order to achieve radiocommunication interoperability, consideration must be given to several aspects such as planning and coordination, standards and technology and spectrum requirements.

To achieve an appropriate level of interoperability within the available spectrum, dedicated spectrum may need to be designated and authorized with specific conditions. Such conditions could include the need to support a multiplicity of radio equipment manufacturers whose equipment would conform to a common standard to ensure interoperability and a successful uptake of any new spectrum.

The Department notes that broadband equipment standards are not being proposed for the band 4 940-4 990 MHz by the FCC . The adoption of any particular standard could preclude new technologies and hence impose restrictions on users, which would impede their ability to benefit from future equipment that enhances public safety operations.

The Department seeks comments on whether there is a requirement for interoperable communications in the band 4940-4990 MHz and if so, whether there is a requirement for a dedicated channel for interoperability purposes.

In addition, the Department seeks comments on whether it should recommend a common/open standard (e.g. the Media Access Control and physical layers) for equipment used by public safety agencies in the band 4940-4990 MHz. If yes, what should it be? Provide technical rationale for the proposed common/open standard.

The Department will address the issue of power and emission limits in conjunction with the Radio Advisory Board of Canada.

Issued under the authority
of the Radiocommunication Act

space to insert signature
Larry Shaw
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch


  1. back to footnote reference 2 Existing annual licence fees for spectrum licences in Canada are:  Multipoint Communications System (MCS) - $0.008 per household per 6 MHz of spectrum; Local Multipoint Communications System (LMCS) - $0.50 per household per 500 MHz ; and PCS/Cellular - $0.03512361 per MHz per pop.
  2. back to footnote reference 3 Under the mobile service, both fixed stations and mobile stations can be authorized. Fixed stations are usually considered to be the base station with which the mobile station communicates. Mobile stations can also include hand-held portables.
  3. back to footnote reference 4 The Department understands interoperability to mean the ability of public safety officials from different organizations (or the same organization) to exchange information by radio according to a planned and set method. The Department also understands that the authority for Canadian public safety services occurs at several levels (municipal/regional, provincial/territorial, and national). As such, the Department recognizes that interoperable communications links are either multi-jurisdictional (involving public safety agencies having different geographical areas of responsibility) or multi-disciplinary (involving two or more different public safety agencies) in nature. An example of multi-jurisdiction communication includes a fire department from one city communicating with a fire department from another city. An example of multi-disciplinary communication includes a fire department communicating with a police department.
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