Archived — Gazette Notice No. DGTP-004-03 - Changes to the Treatment of Public High-mobility Radiotelephony Services Under the Spectrum Cap Policy

Department of Industry

Radiocommunication Act

Intent

The intent of this Gazette Notice is to announce changes to the treatment of spectrum used for public high-mobility radiotelephony services under the spectrum cap policy. The changes take into account the submissions received in the public consultation process initiated in Notice DGTP-003-021 and the policy objectives of the mobile spectrum cap2.

Background

The mobile spectrum cap policy was established in June 1995 with the release of a policy framework to license spectrum for personal communications services (PCS) at 2 GHz. The policy established a limit on the maximum amount of spectrum, which could be held by any PCS carrier so as to provide reasonable commercial opportunities to all carriers. The main objective of the spectrum cap is to foster greater competition and choice of services in the provisioning of cellular and PCS services. The spectrum captured under the policy includes the frequency blocks used by cellular and PCS services and the aggregation of individual frequency assignments used by similar public high-mobility radiotelephony services3 in the trunk mobile bands. Systems providing public high-mobility radiotelephony services similar to PCS and cellular services include a system commonly known as Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio (ESMR).

In November 2001, TELUS Mobility made a submission to the Department requesting a review of the treatment of ESMR spectrum under the mobile cap policy, as TELUS was approaching the 55 MHz spectrum cap in certain cities. A main justification put forth to consider a limited review regarding ESMR spectrum was the differences in licensing process and coordination requirements for individual ESMR frequencies, as compared to cellular and PCS spectrum blocks. The Department initiated a public consultation specifically to address ESMR spectrum.

In its submissions, TELUS Mobility claimed that the use of individual narrow-band frequencies for the ESMR system, as opposed to contiguous blocks of spectrum for cellular and PCS, entails extensive complexity in planning and coordinating the use of the spectrum. TELUS' ESMR system operates in encumbered trunk mobile bands where licences are granted on an individual frequency-by-frequency basis for each radio station. The planning and implementation of ESMR services, with renewable one-year licences and extensive frequency co-ordination, are more complex than for contiguous blocks of spectrum used by PCS and cellular services with 5-10 year terms. Licence conditions and spectrum rights are also quite different. TELUS Mobility outlined that despite substantial investments in cell splitting to achieve spectrum efficiency, there was some urgency for immediate spectrum relief to accommodate growth. Some respondents to the consultation outlined the similarities between ESMR and PCS service offerings and argued that the existing rules should continue to apply. Other respondents opined that changes to the treatment of ESMR under the existing policy should be part of the overall review of the spectrum cap policy. One respondent was of the view that the Department should provide spectrum relief for ESMR in a few large cities where TELUS Mobility is approaching the 55 MHz limit. In addition to TELUS' request, there were a few mobile operators supporting a change in the treatment of ESMR spectrum.

Discussion

The Department is of the view that a full review of the issues surrounding the spectrum cap policy can best be carried out at the time when additional spectrum for cellular services is being allocated and when a timeline for future spectrum licensing is being determined. For this reason, this consultation process was limited to the treatment of spectrum for public high-mobility radiotelephony services or ESMR. In this consultation, the Department sought comments as to whether making certain changes to the treatment of ESMR spectrum under the spectrum cap would be in the public interest.

It is recognized that the licensing process and co-ordination of individual frequency assignments for public high-mobility radiotelephony services, such as TELUS' ESMR, are substantially different than for large blocks of contiguous spectrum for cellular and PCS services. This results in more complex planning and co-ordination of the frequencies to be used by ESMR system.

The public submissions were along two lines of arguments; some respondents were of the view that any change to the treatment of ESMR spectrum would provide unfair advantage and should be part of a general review; other respondents favored a change due to the different nature of the spectrum and need to accommodate ESMR service. The public submissions have not shown that making a modest change to the treatment of ESMR spectrum would adversely impact the objective of the spectrum cap – that is to foster competition and choice of services to consumers. A change in the treatment of ESMR spectrum would have no impact on the PCS industry structure and number of carriers. The Department's findings are that the public interest is served in allowing the ESMR system reasonable access to spectrum in order to continue providing high quality services and accommodate demand.

Decision

The Department has concluded that, the treatment of ESMR spectrum or similar public high-mobility radiotelephony spectrum, acquired by the aggregation of individual frequencies, needs to be adjusted so as to take into account the extensive ongoing licensing process and coordination activities. A modified treatment of ESMR spectrum will create a fair environment for the provision of all public mobile services.

Effective immediately, the Department establishes a 10 MHz limit for the calculation of spectrum (aggregated frequencies) used by an entity providing public high-mobility radiotelephony services, such as ESMR, for the purpose of determining compliance with the mobile spectrum cap policy. Moreover, any such spectrum in excess of this 10 MHz limit will not be counted under the spectrum cap. This 10 MHz limit is restricted to spectrum where licenses are granted for individual frequencies, for each base-station site. The 10 MHz limit does not apply to individual frequencies taken from spectrum licensed as contiguous blocks, such as the PCS and cellular spectrum.

This adjustment to the policy continues to support the objectives of the spectrum cap policy.

Issued under the authorization of the Radiocommunication Act.

March 28, 2003

Larry Shaw
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch


Footnotes

1 - Consultation on a Request to Modify the Treatment of Enhanced Specialized Mobile Radio Systems under the Mobile Spectrum Cap Policy (DGTP-003-02), published May  11, 2002

2 - Revision to the PCS Spectrum Cap and Timing for Licensing Additional PCS Spectrum, (Radio Systems Policy 021), published in November 1999

3 - The Department further clarifies "similar public high-mobility radiotelephony services" in, Amendments and Supplements and Clarification Questions to the Policy and Licensing Procedures for the Auction of Additional Spectrum in the 2 GHz Frequency Range (see question 9), published October 17, 2000

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