SP-746 — Mobile Service Allocation Decision and Designation of Spectrum for Public Safety in the Frequency Band 746-806 MHz

4. Designation of Spectrum for Public Safety

The June 2001 consultation paper proposed that a modest amount of spectrum in the frequency band 746-806 MHz should be identified for public safety and possibly commercial mobile service taking into account the DTV transition. Since the issuance of the consultation paper in June 2001, much has happened to heighten the needs of all nations to protect the safety and security of their citizens at home and abroad. There has been a significant increase in the urgency and critical need for common spectrum for public safety and national security for many applications and across several frequency bands. Hence, there is a pressing need for the Department to designate some spectrum for public safety use.2

In March 2002, the Department convened a two-day conference under the auspices of the Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC). The purpose of this conference was to discuss ways to improve Canada's public safety radiocommunication systems. Among the issues debated were the required spectrum, technical standards and operational practices to facilitate the interoperability of public safety systems at domestic and international levels.

On June 12, 2002 the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) released a licensing policy framework to oversee the transition from analog to digital over-the-air television broadcasting in Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002-31. The Commission issued a regulatory framework for the implementation of high-definition television in Canada with the anticipation that digital television would be a full replacement for analogue television.3 The implementation and the speed of transition to DTV will be influenced very much by the market place.

Since the issuance of gazette notice DGTP-004-01, the Department carried out a study of the DTV Transition Allotment Plan and in particular in the frequency sub-bands 764-770 MHz, 770-776 MHz, 794-800 MHz and 800-806 MHz 4 to identify spectrum that could be re-arranged for public safety operations. Negotiations were also carried out with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States to assess possible changes to the allotments listed in the Canada/US Letter of Understanding on DTV and to the DTV Transition Allotment Plan. These discussions were necessary to release spectrum for public safety and the future coordination and sharing of mobile service spectrum along the border area.

In the longer term, as the transition of digital television progresses, the Department will consult on opening up more mobile spectrum for public safety and commercial mobile applications in the band 746-806 MHz.5 In specific regard to public safety applications, this consultation would be concerned with the sub-bands 770-776 MHz and 800-806 MHz (TV channels 64 and 69).

4.1 DTV Transition Allotment Plan Study for Potential Public Safety Spectrum

On July 10, 2002, the Department sent a letter to the CRTC to indicate that the Department needed additional time to carry out studies of the DTV Transition Allotment Plan for TV channel pairs 63/68 and 64/69 in order to find potential spectrum for public safety.6 A temporary moratorium on issuing broadcasting certificates was imposed for these studies.

Industry Canada addressed the viability of designating television channel pairs 63/68 and 64/69 for public safety in the near term as the transition was beginning to digital television. As a result, it was determined that designating spectrum from one pair of TV channels would meet the pressing need of public safety and at the same time would not restrict the DTV transition. The Department concluded that the potential for meeting the these pressing needs could be better realized in TV channel pair 63/68. The allotments of TV channel pair 63/68 could be re-assigned to release spectrum for public safety. TV channel pair 64/69, however, was too heavily assigned with analogue/DTV allotments to be practically re-assigned.

The Department concluded that enabling the designation of television channels 63/68 for public safety would require some adjustments to existing allotments in the allotment plan. The allotment plan would need to provide new channel allotments for one NTSC7 station operating in channel 68 and for 14 planned DTV assignments allotted in television channels 63 and 68. The Department proceeded to accommodate these allotment adjustments to the DTV Transition Allotment Plan in consultation with the FCC. Annex 1 provides the list of allotment adjustments within the Canada/US coordination zone that were affected and consequently provided a replacement channel allotment.

Based on the conclusion that a re-arrangement of the DTV Transition Allotment Plan is feasible, the Department informed the CRTC and the broadcasting industry of its decision on March 10, 2003 to designate spectrum sub bands 764-770 MHz and 794-800 MHz for public safety (television channels 63 and 68 respectively).8 The Department imposed a permanent moratorium on the certification of broadcasting facilities in these two channels. In addition, the Department indicated that the implementation of the public safety use in this spectrum would be based on suitable service coordination with broadcasting facilities operating in adjacent TV channels.

The Department has discussed these changes to the DTV Transition Allotment Plan with affected broadcasters. The Department also contracted technical inter-service studies.9 These contracted studies will assist in the establishment of technical criteria so that broadcasters and public safety users can co-existence in adjacent spectrum.

Notification Process

Based on emerging public safety applications and commitments to implement services and prior to the Department undertaking a formal process to authorize the use of spectrum in channels 63 and 68 for public safety applications, the Department will provide a notification period of two years for the re-arrangement of one NTSC station in operation.

It is noted that broadcasting undertakings and corresponding channel allotments affected by the future use of spectrum in channels 63 and 68 for public safety applications, have been re-allotted replacement channels in accordance with Annex 1, for both NTSC and DTV channels.

In summary, the Department has designated the sub-bands 764-770 MHz and 794-800 MHz i.e. television channels 63 and 68, for public safety operations. Although the DTV Transition Allotment Plan has been re-arranged in cooperation with the U.S. to accommodate existing NTSC stations and DTV allotments in other channels, the list in Annex 1 is yet to be officially ratified by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. Technical requirements will be developed to permit co-existence of broadcasting and public safety uses in adjacent spectrum.

4.2 Interference Mitigation Between Public Safety and the Broadcasting Service

The Department contracted two engineering studies to assess the potential for interference between the broadcasting and mobile services for applications such as those for public safety. The results of these studies may assist the Department in the development of suitable interference protection criteria and technical standards.

4.2.1 Protection of NTSC and DTV Broadcasting Operations from Public Safety Operations in TV Channels 63 and 68

The Communications Research Centre (CRC) study10 assessed the impact of public safety communications on broadcasting stations. To assist the Department in developing suitable interference protection criteria (wide band and narrow band mobile channels), this study had to evaluate interference from mobile base stations and mobile terminals of public safety services to analogue and digital broadcasting stations.

The objective of the contract was to help establish and propose interference protection criteria that would accommodate NTSC and DTV broadcasting facilities and permit the operation of public safety services on the designated frequency bands. In addition, a proposal on how to reuse the spectrum (co-channel and adjacent channels, wide band and narrow band) was required.

4.2.2 Protection of Public Safety Operations in Televisions Channels 63 and 68 from NTSC and DTV Broadcasting Operations in Adjacent Channels

The Lapp-Hancock and Associates study 11 assessed the impact of broadcasting stations on public safety communications. To assist the Department in developing suitable interference protection criteria (wide band and narrow band mobile channels), this study had to evaluate interference from analogue and digital broadcasting to land mobile base stations and mobile terminals used to provide public safety services.

The objective of the contract was to help establish and propose interference protection criteria that would permit public safety operations on the designated frequency bands. Also, this could identify the amount of spectrum that could be used in paired television channels 63 and 68 for public safety purposes. In addition, the established criteria would consider any guard band spectrum that may be needed to allow such use.

The Department will permit the use of spectrum in channels 63 and 68 for public safety operations under suitable technical and operational parameters including interference mitigation criteria.

4.3 A Case for Interoperability — Fostering Equipment Standards For a Multiplicity of Equipment Manufacturers

On March 27 and 28, 2002, a National Public Safety Radiocommunications Conference brought together public safety users of spectrum, service providers and manufacturers and government policy makers to discuss how to improve the ability of the public safety community to communicate more effectively and efficiently. Among the benefits that this dialogue stimulated over the two days was the summary report commissioned by the Department and prepared by Pricewaterhousecoopers (PWC). Of the key issues raised by all participants, the PWC summary pointed out that functionality in public safety radiocommunication systems was a major issue. In addition, PWC suggested that Industry Canada could encourage the community of public safety users to plan, share and coordinate their common spectrum needs. This could require the sharing of common blocks of spectrum based on co-ordination criteria among user groups. These approaches would lead to the effective implementation of the spectrum and contribute to its efficient use.

The Department understands interoperability to mean the ability of public safety officials from different organizations 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. In addition, the Department acknowledges that interoperable communications are required for day-to-day operations, large emergencies/events and in times of crises.

To achieve an appropriate level of interoperability and to meet the spectrum requirements, any new spectrum will need to be designated and authorized with specific conditions. Such conditions will include the need to support a multiplicity of radio equipment manufacturers and following a common standard to ensure interoperability and a successful uptake of any new spectrum. Consequently a number of technical and licensing conditions will need to be explored. The Department will need to explore the development of technical and licensing criteria that meet the needs of public safety users and encourage the adoption of a common equipment standard for public safety use. This approach will make interoperable public safety system communications more feasible in a harmonized North American equipment market.

4.4 The U.S. Band Plan

The U.S. band plan for public safety is based on 24 MHz of spectrum at the 764-776 MHz and 794-806 MHz bands. Within each of the four 6 MHz blocks of spectrum (formerly TV channels), the spectrum is separated into narrow band (6.25 kHz channels) and wide band (50 kHz channels) segments. Furthermore, the U.S. designated the public safety spectrum for use as follows: 12.5 MHz for General Use, 2.6 MHz for Interoperability, 2.4 MHz for State Licences, 0.3 MHz for Low Power, 0.2 MHz for secondary trunking and 6.0 MHz for Reserve.12 All transmitters in this band must use digital modulation.


2 Spectrum Utilization Policy 30-896 MHz, Part 1 (May 1990) defines safety services. Standard Radio System Policy 502, Issue 4 further defines a hierarchy of safety service users such as:

  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; and
  3. Category 3 - Other government agencies and certain non-government agencies.

3 "...the Commission's preliminary view expressed in Public Notice 2001-62 was that DTV should be introduced in Canada as a replacement technology, rather than as a new technology that would simply take its place alongside the existing analog system. Although there was some discussion about the particulars, there was overall support for this approach. Accordingly, it is the Commission's determination that: Digital technology will be treated as a replacement for analog technology." (Section 7 of Broadcasting Public Notice CRTC 2002-31).

4 TV channel pairs 63/68 and 64/69 respectively.

5 TV channels 60-69.

6 See the following Web address for a related letter to the CRTC regarding Implementing Digital Television Broadcasting (DTV) within the DTV Transition Allotment Plan.

7 NTSC stands for National Television System Committee, which developed the NTSC television broadcast system standard in 1953.

8 See the following Web address for a related letter to the CRTC regarding an update of the studies to identify spectrum for public safety in television channels 60-69.

9 See the following Web address for the contracted studies regarding broadcasting and public safety spectrum.

10 A summary of the Communications Research Centre (CRC) study, The Effects of Narrow band and Wide band Public Safety Mobile Systems Operation (in television channels 63/68) on DTV and NTSC Broadcasting in TV Channels 60-69 (746 MHz - 806 MHz) may be viewed may be viewed at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf09068.html.

11 A summary of the Lapp-Hancock and Associates study, Interference Assessment and Development of Interference Protection Criteria to Protect Public Safety Operations and Enable Spectrum Sharing with NTSC and DTV Broadcasting in TV Channels 60-69 (746-806 MHz) may be viewed at: http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf07035.html.

12 See the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Title 47-Telecommunication, Part 90-Private Land Mobile Radio Services, Paragraph 90.531 (Band Plan).

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