Archived — SPFC — A Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (Archived Version 2002 Edition)

4. Core Objectives of the Spectrum Policy Framework

As the radio frequency spectrum is recognized as a strategic national public resource, under the legislative responsibility of the Minister, the Department confirmed a set of core objectives in the 1992 Framework.  These objectives, which relate to "allocation, planning, utilization and management of the spectrum", were intended to "provide a foundation for approaches that will ensure the judicious planning and management of the radio spectrum resource".

Modified Core Objectives

  • To promote and support the orderly development and efficient operation of radiocommunication systems and services to provide economic, social and cultural benefits for Canadians while meeting Canada's sovereignty and security needs. In carrying out this function, the Department will respect the government's Regulatory Policy ensuring that federal government intervention is justified in those instances where regulation is seen as the best alternative and that adverse impacts on the economy are minimized.
  • To plan and manage the utilization of the spectrum resource in accordance with legislative and public policy objectives and international agreements by the powers conferred by the Radiocommunication Act and, with due regard to the objectives of the Telecommunications and Broadcasting Acts, through continuing review and improvement of the spectrum management process.
  • To further improve efficient and optimum use of the spectrum resource through adoption of advanced spectrum allocation, management techniques and licensing processes based on operational requirements and technical and economic viability.
  • To ensure flexibility and adaptability and ease of access to the spectrum resource in response to technological advances, and economic, social and market factors.
  • To ensure Canadian interests are protected when harmonizing and coordinating Canada's spectrum policies and utilization with other countries, regional and international organizations and with treaty obligations, including those of the ITU.
  • To support and promote innovation, research and development in new radiocommunication techniques and spectrum-based services and applications.
  • To coordinate and establish well balanced national spectrum and radiocommunication policies and plans by widely consulting with all interested parties and the general public.

5. Policy Guidelines for a Spectrum Policy Framework

The 1992 Framework adopted a set of Policy Guidelines following two stages of public consultation. These 1992 Guidelines are modified to update them with current policy and practice.

In the present review, it was felt that the set of Spectrum Resource Principles of Policy Guideline 3 of the 1992 Framework served as a basis for several other Guidelines.  These Principles form a new Guideline 1 found in Subsection 5.1.

5.1 Spectrum Resource Principles

The 1992 Framework included a set of spectrum resource principles intended to meet public needs, to encourage orderly and efficient development and use of radiocommunications and to ensure effective planning and management of the radio frequency spectrum.

These modified principles should continue to ensure that spectrum policies and management foster the orderly and efficient development of radiocommunication while maximizing economic and social benefits of the use of the spectrum.

Allocation of Bands to Radio Services — Bands of spectrum are allocated in Canada to particular radio services to accommodate radiocommunication systems with compatible coexistence characteristics, serving the largest number of users possible. These domestic allocations are normally a subset of the International Frequency Allocations. The Department will employ flexibility in their application as appropriate.

Designation to Usage — To promote efficient and optimal utilization by grouping together systems of similar characteristics, spectrum is designated on the basis of use, rather than type of user. The Department will provide licensees the flexibility to adapt their service offerings to meet demand within the practical limits of the allocation and designation.

Interference Mitigation and Frequency Coordination — The effects of interference are minimized or managed to acceptable limits. Coordination is normally required for licensees such as to permit service availability to users in adjacent service areas.  The Department encourages the holders of area licences to coordinate amongst themselves.

Conformance to Standards and Frequency Plans — Conformance to common standards and frequency plans are normally required to ensure orderly development, to avoid harmful interference and to facilitate operational compatibility of radio systems, both in Canada and in the global market.  Coexistence of multiple standards in certain frequency bands may be permitted.

Appropriate Use of Spectrum — The need and the appropriateness of use of the spectrum must generally be evident to ensure maximum utilization of resources.

Timely Release of Spectrum — The Department's intent is to release spectrum for licensing in a timely manner so that it can be used and produce benefits for all Canadians. The Department will continue to forecast when, and in what situations, additional spectrum and satellite orbital positions will be released.  Spectrum will not be withheld, except when specific policy issues advocate it.

Orderly Growth of Radiocommunications — The proposed usage of the spectrum must be in harmony with the overall core objectives of spectrum usage in Canada.

Fostering of New Technologies and Innovation — The use of emerging technologies and innovation in service offerings which enhances the use of the spectrum resource is encouraged.

Application of Economic Principles — Since the publication of the Framework in 1992, the Department has increasingly incorporated economic principles and a reliance on market forces in the management of spectrum. Spectrum managers will strive to apply the most appropriate economic principles, as well as, policy, regulatory, technical and operational principles, to maximize the benefits to society through the use of the spectrum resource.  They will manage the spectrum in a manner that supports fair competition, using market forces to capture resource rents where they exist and recovering spectrum management costs where such rents do not exist.

Policy Guideline 1 — Spectrum Resource Principles

The Department will apply these basic spectrum resource principles as an overall guidance for good planning and management of the radio spectrum.

These principles will be adapted as necessary to meet evolving requirements.

Allocation and Priorities of the Spectrum Resource

5.2 Allocation of Spectrum

Radiocommunication is an integral part of the delivery systems of a wide variety of telecommunication services to the general public, private organizations and individuals. Spectrum allocation policies are important to support the objectives of legislation as well as the advancement of economic and social goals.

Specific spectrum policies are developed to achieve optimum allocation and efficient utilization of the radio frequency spectrum to meet the immediate and long-term needs of all radio spectrum users. The use of the spectrum resource is contingent on an efficient and effective body of policies, rules, procedures and practices designed to accommodate as many users and service applications as possible and to promote equitable sharing among the services and users in an environment free from harmful interference.

In reallocating spectrum resources from one service to another, the Department must maintain a balance among the requirements of the users. The comments in the consultation of the 1992 Framework agreed that "public interest" should remain a fundamental aspect.  They called for the Department to provide flexibility and adaptability in the spectrum allocation process.

Policy Guideline 2 — Spectrum Resource Allocation

The radio frequency spectrum, as a national public resource, will be allocated and planned to advance public policy objectives, while ensuring a balance between public and private radiocommunication use to benefit Canadians. The reallocation of, and access to, the spectrum resource will be adapted to meet changing user requirements, to provide spectrum that best meets the needs of the user and to facilitate the deployment of new and innovative services.

5.3 Priorities for Access to Spectrum

Access to spectrum for services involving the security and sovereignty of the country and the safety of life and property, such as those provided by National Defence, police, fire and ambulance, assume primary importance, compared to other services.

The Department also recognizes that these organizations are increasingly utilizing private sector service providers to meet their communication requirements. As such arrangements are often cost effective, efficient and appropriate, the Department will endeavour to ensure that commercial service provision opportunities are not compromised in its allocation, allotment and licensing practices.

Policy Guideline 3 — Priority Support Areas

Radiocommunication systems vital to sovereignty and national security, National Defence, law enforcement, public safety and emergency will be granted high priority and support in the access and use of the radio spectrum.

5.4 Socio-economic Factors

In exercising legislative powers, the Minister may have regard to the objectives of the Canadian telecommunications policy of the Telecommunications Act as well as other legislation. In this regard socio-economic factors have been a key determinant of the public interest and benefits in the spectrum allocation and utilization process.  In order to adequately assess various spectrum allocations or utilization options, socio-economic factors as well as the overall public interest need to be taken into account. As well the Department has employed socio-economic factors in the assessment of applications on occasion for radiocommunication systems in areas of limited spectrum availability.

Policy Guideline 4 — Socio-economic Factors

Socio-economic factors will be an important component in all aspects of spectrum policy and management, particularly within the scope of the Radiocommunication Act, where the Minister may give regard to the policy objectives of the Telecommunications Act.

5.5 Non-Spectrum Alternative

In the past, applicants for radio systems have been encouraged by the Department in certain circumstances to seek a non-radio alternative, especially in areas where spectrum is heavily utilized or where a non-radio alternative can be reasonably deployed.  This policy was predicated on the basis that the use of the non-radio alternative leaves spectrum for radio applications that have no other options.

However, with the current government policy of encouraging the competitive delivery of services, there are instances where radiocommunication systems are competing directly in the delivery of services provided by wireline facilities. Given this situation, the Department is of the view that Policy Guideline 5 of the 1992 Framework is no longer required.

5.6 Spectrum Efficiency

The Department is fostering an increased reliance on market forces while ensuring that regulation and policy formulation are efficient and effective. In this regard, efficient spectrum utilization continues to be an important consideration in allocation and utilization policy decisions. 

At the time of the issuance of the 1992 Framework, the Department followed certain measures to conserve spectrum for periods of time to enable the future expansion of a licensee's spectrum. The Department now relies to a greater degree on the use of economic means for licensing mutually exclusive spectrum used for commercial services. Nevertheless, there may still be important public interest considerations for delaying the opening of certain frequency bands, or portions thereof, to new services, to benefit existing services. However, measures to conserve spectrum must consider all spectrum user needs in a manner that is complementary to legislative objectives and good spectrum management principles, while seeking to avoid creating an artificial shortage of spectrum for any class of radiocommunication.

Policy Guideline 5 — Spectrum Efficiency

Due regard will be given to efficient spectrum use in spectrum policy formulation and spectrum management practices, particularly when market forces do not align with certain important public interests. 

5.7 Spectrum Sharing

Spectrum sharing is employed among services in particular allocations and geographical areas to increase the usage of the spectrum. Sharing can take the form of use of the spectrum by two or more, often dissimilar services, that can coexist in the spectrum space in a manner that they derive virtually unencumbered use providing that certain technical sharing parameters are applied, such as power limitations, antenna pointing ranges.  An example of this is the fixed-satellite service sharing with the (terrestrial radio relay) fixed service. A feature of both services is that they use directional ground-based antenna.

A second type of spectrum sharing involves the time sharing of the spectrum resource. A traditional technique has been a number of lower usage mobile radio users sharing the same frequency channel. More efficient techniques take advantage of the efficiencies of traffic engineering by grouping large number of users together on multi-channel systems. The deployment of new technologies such as spread spectrum also introduces other sharing scenarios.

There has been a general increase in the number of sharing scenarios at the allocation level since the publication of the 1992 Framework. This is a result of the international process of finding suitable frequency allocations for emerging service applications. The solution is often to introduce new services by having them share with other existing users in established allocations, subject to certain sharing parameters which permit the operation of both services with minimal constraints. Licensees are encouraged to participate with the Department in the development of these sharing parameters.

Policy Guideline 6 — Spectrum Sharing

Spectrum sharing among various services and users based on appropriately defined criteria and conditions is required in order to satisfy the growing needs for radio spectrum resources.  The Department will continue to promote spectrum sharing while considering the impact on spectrum efficiency and operational requirements of the services.

5.8 Displacement of Services

Spectrum users need to take into account in future planning that the Government will continue to possess all governing rights necessary to implement a required reallocation of spectrum at any time. Such a reallocation may necessitate the displacement of incumbents from a particular frequency band.

The following Excerpt from the Radio Regulations applies:

"Assignment of Frequencies

40. The assignment of a frequency or frequencies to a holder of a radio authorization does not confer a monopoly on the use of the frequency or frequencies, nor shall a radio authorization be construed as conferring any right of continuing tenure in respect of the frequency or frequencies."

However, it is important to note that the Department would reallocate assigned spectrum only if there was a compelling requirement to do so, and only after public consultation on the implementation of the new service. If such a reallocation were to take place, provisions would be taken to grant a reasonable period of time for the incumbents to relocate at their own cost.

Since the publication of the 1992 Framework, there have been several policies issued requiring the gradual displacement of fixed services to enable the introduction of other new service offerings.  It is the view of the Department that these displacement policies have been applied fairly and that they provide an appropriate mechanism for making spectrum available for new services.

Policy Guideline 7 — Systems or Services Displacement

The Department will reallocate spectrum only when there is a compelling requirement to do so and will continue to provide reasonable notice to inform users of any conditions or circumstances which could result in displacement of services or systems.

There is no liability or responsibility or intent by the Department to financially compensate spectrum users being displaced.

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