RP-023 — Spectrum and Licensing Policy to Permit Ancillary Terrestrial Mobile Services as Part of Mobile-Satellite Service Offerings
This document, announced in the Canada Gazette in Notice No. DGTP–006–04, enunciates the spectrum and licensing policy principles which will oversee the development of ancillary terrestrial components (ATC) to provide terrestrial mobile service as an integral part of the mobile-satellite service (MSS) offerings.
Satellite communications continue to be a core component of the Canadian telecommunications infrastructure and greatly contribute to bringing telecommunications and broadcasting to many dispersed and remote communities. In many situations, satellite communications have ensured that essential telecommunication services at affordable prices are available to Canadians wherever they may live and work.
Mobile satellite networks provide communications to all areas of Canada and have been of particular importance for people in rural and remote areas where terrestrial cellular service is not available. In 1994, Canada was one of the first countries to fully open its domestic market to foreign mobile satellites so as to foster competition and ensure choice of services to Canadians. Although cellular mobile and Personal Communication Services (PCS) reach over 90% of the population, the actual coverage remains a modest portion of the Canadian land mass. As such, mobile satellites provide the only portable communications to several sectors of the economy having important industrial and government activities in sparsely populated regions of Canada.
Although, for several years, a number of mobile satellites have been authorized to serve the Canadian market, the service uptake has been very low compared to cellular mobile and PCS services which have over 13 million subscribers and represent over 16% of the annual Canadian telecommunications service revenues. The satellite industry is now planning and developing new generations of mobile satellites which will address the issues which have impeded the take-up of first generation mobile-satellite services. The next generation of satellites will use a series of multi-beam antennas which will increase the spectrum efficiency by several fold, be capable of communicating with small portable terminals, and support digital services approaching or exceeding the second generation of personal communication services.
Large capital investments are required to implement these new satellite networks. The long lead-time from planning to launch of commercial satellite services makes it imperative that any changes in the policy and regulatory environment, that oversee the marketplace, be established early so as to provide confidence in moving forward.
Also, it is well known that mobile satellite networks need to gain access to large regional markets such as the North American market and beyond, in order to support these large investments. A main objective of the 1997 World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on basic telecommunication services was to open competition worldwide for satellite communications. The Department is committed to continue to foster competition and investment in the mobile-satellite service market so that Canadians in all parts of Canada may benefit from advanced communications services at affordable prices.
In October 2001, the Department received an application from Mobile Satellite Ventures (Canada) Inc. (MSV Canada) for the approval of a second generation mobile satellite system (using a multi-beam design) in the L-band spectrum which is already assigned and licensed to the first generation mobile satellite — the Canadian MSAT. An integral part of the application was the request for approval of an ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) to establish a mobile service in conjunction with the mobile-satellite service offerings.
The deployment of ATC is envisaged in urban areas where the satellite signals are blocked by high-rise buildings as well as potentially extending coverage within buildings. The ATC system would provide terrestrial mobile service coverage as an integral component of the MSS service offerings in certain urban centres to extend the coverage of the mobile-satellite service and fully utilize the assigned MSS spectrum within the licensee's service area.
Based on this request, Industry Canada initiated a public consultation process on the ATC proposal by MSV Canada to establish whether approving a terrestrial ATC would serve the public interest and what policies, regulatory, technical and operational considerations would need to be addressed. From the outset, it was anticipated that similar interest to establish ATC by other mobile satellite operators would be raised. Hence, the Department invited comments on the MSV Canada request (to operate terrestrial ATC mobile service as an integral part of the MSS service offerings) and other similar interest.
At the same time, mobile satellite and ATC applications were filed with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to operate with new mobile satellites contemplated in the L-bands (1525–1559/1626.5–1660 MHz) and the 2 GHz bands (1990–2025/2165–2200 MHz). Mobile satellite operators in the low Earth orbit (LEO) bands (1610–1626.5/2483.5–2500 MHz) expressed similar interest. These US filings resulted in an extensive public consultation process by the FCC to address the regulatory regime and technical and operational concerns.
In February 2003, the FCC announced its rule making and decision1 that would permit flexibility for mobile-satellite service providers to submit applications to operate an integrated ATC service as part of the mobile-satellite service offerings in the three bands mentioned above. Also, the FCC reallocated part of the 2 GHz MSS spectrum (15+15 MHz) to terrestrial fixed and mobile services and retained the bands 2000–2020 MHz and 2180–2200 MHz for mobile-satellite services.
Industry Canada's public consultation process sought comments on the public interest, policy, licensing, regulatory and technical/operational issues surrounding the MSV Canada request to operate an integrated ATC mobile service within the assigned mobile satellite spectrum. Although the consultation was focussed on a particular request by MSV Canada, the Department recognized that the scope of the request would have to be extended to consider similar interest by other mobile satellite operators. Any decision to provide flexibility for ATC implementation would require the establishment of general policy and regulatory principles to oversee potential interest by operators of other mobile satellite networks.
The comments can be summarized under three lines of discussion and argument. Firstly, the respondents in favour of increased flexibility argued the need for the terrestrial component to expand the MSS service coverage in city cores and in buildings; the increased spectrum efficiency in using already assigned spectrum for MSS also for ATC; and the importance of ATC for the future commercial viability of MSS services. Due to the subordinate assignment of MSS spectrum for ATC and the required technical constraints imposed on the terrestrial operations to protect the primary services, it would be impractical to establish a stand-alone terrestrial ATC operation that was not closely integrated with the MSS network operation. Also, a MSS network operator licensed in the 2 GHz MSS bands petitioned for similar flexibility to operate an ATC mobile service in those bands in conjunction with MSS service offerings, for similar reasons.
Secondly, three of the four PCS carrier respondents were of the view that ATC mobile service could be accomplished from resale arrangements with existing PCS providers and that other parties should have access to the MSS spectrum to develop an ATC mobile service. These respondents indicated, however, that if an ATC operation was to be permitted with the MSS service offerings, the authorization should be under similar policy and regulatory requirements as for the PCS cellular services (i.e. spectrum fees and mobile spectrum cap).
Thirdly, other respondents representing a global mobile satellite operator and a priority MSS service user, were concerned with the potential interference environment of ATC systems in the L-bands. The potential interference could affect MSS satellites serving other regions of the world; mobile satellite terminals operating in adjacent MSS spectrum and in the same serving areas; and, the integrity of aeronautical GPS (Global Positioning Systems) landing systems near airports and priority access to spectrum for the aeronautical mobile satellite (route) service (AMS(R)S) and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS).
The Department studied these comments and similar comments made in the FCC proceedings. Also, technical studies were carried out regarding the potential impact of ATC operations to other services in the L-bands. The Department had extensive discussions with several of the stakeholders to better understand the potential environment.
The availability of advanced digital mobile satellite networks with increased data capability is an important element of the Canadian telecommunications system so as to foster advanced and affordable communications services to all regions of Canada. Although the terrestrial PCS networks are serving the majority of the population in cities, southern communities and main highways, an important segment of the Canadian population living and working in sparsely populated regions would greatly benefit from the service offerings of future advanced mobile satellite networks. The Department is of the view that, if the mobile satellite industry is to succeed in delivering advanced satellite services at affordable prices, the industry needs some flexibility to innovate and improve its service delivery and coverage. This would enable the industry to compete in a harmonized North American marketplace and to have the policy and regulatory certainty to plan major satellite investments for new satellite infrastructures.
The Department has concluded from this proceeding that the offering of mobile-satellite service with an integrated ancillary terrestrial component of mobile service will serve the public interest, in particular:
- it will increase the efficient use of already assigned MSS spectrum, on a beam-by-beam basis;
- it has the prospect of improving the economics of new satellite infrastructure capable of providing a range of digital services to Canadians, especially those not served by terrestrial PCS services;
- it recognizes the multi-national nature of the mobile-satellite service and the need to have common marketplace rules;
- it will foster competition, choice of services and more affordable prices, and
- it can be achieved through a reasonable, flexible policy and licensing regime that neither distorts the market forces of competition, nor confers unreasonable advantages to certain wireless carriers.
As such, the Department believes that providing the flexibility to develop a terrestrial mobile service as an integrated ancillary component to the mobile-satellite service offerings, with reasonable regulatory and operational oversight, will serve the Canadian public interest and foster Canada's telecommunications policy objectives. In particular, these new mobile satellite networks could provide advanced communication services at affordable prices to rural and remote areas. The development of ATC installations will require no additional spectrum and with proper technical and operational measures, will operate in a reasonable interference-free environment and co-exist with other MSS networks and other primary services operating in adjacent bands.
1 See proceeding FCC 03–15.
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