Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook
4. Additional Spectrum to Support Commercial Mobile Services
Despite expected improvements in spectrum use efficiency resulting from new technologies and network investments, the growing demand for commercial mobile services and the explosive growth in mobile data traffic will necessitate the reallocation of additional spectrum resources to commercial mobile services. As well, the spectrum requirements for backhaul services and licence-exempt equipment will have to be carefully monitored.
Part 4 of the Outlook provides Industry Canada’s current assessment of candidate bands that could be reallocated to meet future requirements in these areas. This assessment is based on a combination of the following three considerations: (1) the current use of the band in Canada; (2) projected technological developments and the expected availability of equipment that is able to use the reallocated band (creating a "technology ecosystem"); and (3) international trends and whether the new use of the band is compatible with Canada’s international obligations.
It is important to note that the observations and conclusions expressed are based on the current situation in Canada and abroad, and are therefore subject to change. Any specific decisions with respect to the reallocation of spectrum would be subject to full public consultations.
4.1 Existing Spectrum for Commercial Mobile Services
Industry Canada’s 2010 Radio Spectrum InventoryFootnote 36 identified 460 MHz of spectrum that was available for commercial mobile services as of June 2010. This total will increase to 528 MHz after the upcoming auctions of spectrum in the 700 MHz and 2500 MHz bands.
Licences for the first 50 MHz of spectrum for commercial mobile services were awarded between 1983 and 1989 to provide analog cellular services. In 1995, a further 80 MHz was licensed for Personal Communication Services (PCS), which enabled the start of a transition to digital cellular technology. In January 2001, Industry Canada held an auction for another 40 MHz of PCS spectrum that was not licensed during the 1995 licensing decision. Finally, in 2008, Industry Canada auctioned 90 MHz of Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum and the remaining 10 MHz of PCS spectrum.
In 2006, Industry Canada designated the 2500 MHz band (Broadband Radio Service, BRS) for mobile, fixed or broadcasting services deployment.Footnote 37 This band was previously allocated to the fixed and/or broadcasting services, and was licensed to Multipoint Communication Systems (MCS) and to Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) operators. Most of the legacy MCS and MDS licences have already been transitioned to the BRS licences, and the remaining 60 to 120 MHz of spectrum (amount varying by area of the country) will be auctioned in 2014. Once this auction is complete, all 190 MHz of BRS spectrum will be available for mobile broadband use.
The 700 MHz band (Mobile Broadband Services, MBS) became available due to the efficiencies gained when television transitioned from analog into digital. A total of 68 MHz of this spectrum, commonly referred to as the "digital dividend," will be auctioned in 2013.
The status of the remaining 40 MHz of spectrum in the 698-806 MHz band is as follows:
- 26 MHz has been designated for public safety use (broadband and narrowband applications);
- 2 MHz in guard bands;
- 2 MHz in reserve; and
- 10 MHz (D Block) is currently subject to consultation.Footnote 38
|Band||Amount in MHz||Considerations|
|700 MHz (MBS)||68 MHz||
2500 MHz (BRS)
Mobile wireless communications require the radio waves to penetrate, reflect and diffract (or simply said, go through and around obstacles), since the transmitter and the receiver are usually not in direct view of each other. At lower frequencies, the radio waves penetrate obstacles (such as building walls) and propagate further distances. From this point of view, lower frequency bands are generally preferable for mobile communications. However, consumer terminal devices for mobile commercial services have small-form factors that create challenges to fit in the larger antennas found in the lower frequency bands. Moreover, while lower frequencies are very good at providing long-range coverage and deep-building penetration, spectrum is relatively more abundant in the higher frequency bands, enabling the provision of higher capacity systems. Based on these and other considerations, it is generally accepted that the frequency range practical for mobile broadband communications is approximately between 400 MHz and 6 GHz.
Considerable time is needed to bring a given spectrum band in service for mobile commercial operations. First, the international regulatory provisions — such as spectrum allocations to the mobile service and identification of bands for International Mobile Telecommunications (IMT) systems — must follow the World Radio Conference (WRC) regulatory cycle, with new provisions available at intervals of every three to five years. Secondly, policy and technical rules must be set domestically.
In parallel, once the regulatory certainty exists, equipment starts to become available — typically developed for first-tier operators, who can provide large orders that take advantage of economies of scale through mass-manufacturing. After a stable equipment ecosystem emerges for a given frequency band, deployments can start. For a smaller market such as Canada, there is a trade-off between the economic and social benefits of "early adoption" versus the possible risks posed by premature deployment of a band into a configuration which later may not be widely adopted by other countries, leading to a "fringe" equipment ecosystem.
Global (or at least regional) harmonization and interoperability are essential in order to ensure equipment availability at a low cost, to enable roaming and to avoid cross-border interference. Consequently, the timing of when additional spectrum is made available for mobile commercial services in Canada cannot be independent of international developments.
2305-2320 MHz and 2345-2360 MHz
Current Use in Canada
These bands were auctioned in Canada for commercial broadband services in 2004 and 2005. WCS spectrum was auctioned as a single paired 15+15 MHz block. At the time, the band was used for legacy point-to-point microwave systems. Keeping in line with the WCS spectrum policy, these systems would have to clear the band if they were found to be incompatible with new WCS systems. As the deployment of WCS systems remains very limited, some of these legacy point-to-point systems continue to operate in the band.
WCS spectrum is adjacent to spectrum that has been licensed for Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service (SDARS; 2320-2345 MHz). There is a significant potential for mutual interference between the WCS and SDARS systems under certain scenarios. Up until now, restrictive technical rules have been in place in the United States and in Canada to avoid mutual interference. As a result, a viable equipment ecosystem has yet to emerge for mobile systems, and there has been no significant deployment of commercial mobile services in the WCS bands.
In June 2012, AT&T and Sirius XM submitted to the FCC a joint proposal that reflects a compromise between WCS and SDARS interests in the United States. The proposal is meant to enable the deployment of LTE systems in the WCS bands while protecting the SDARS operations. In October 2012, the FCC accepted the proposal, which will allow 20 MHz to be used for mobile broadband services and two 5 MHz blocks (adjacent to the SDARS band) to be used for Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) applications.
The entire 2300-2400 band has been identified for mobile broadband services in the ITU Radio Regulations.Footnote 39 In the Asia-Pacific countries, where the allocation is mostly contiguous and of wider bandwidth compared to the North American plan, a significant ecosystem for mobile broadband is expected to emerge over the entire 2300-2400 MHz range. This ecosystem is unlikely to influence the North American equipment availability due to differences with the WCS band plan and technical rules.
A viable equipment ecosystem has yet to emerge in the WCS band, which has thus far prevented licence holders in Canada from using the spectrum for commercial mobile services. However, given the recent decision in the United States to resolve potential interference issues between WCS and SDARS applications, it is expected that equipment will become available in this band over the next two to three years in order to support commercial mobile services.
In a letter sent to WCS licensees (published in March 2012Footnote 40), the Department extended deployment deadlines to the end of each licence’s 10-year term (2014), given the lack of available equipment. In October 2012, Industry Canada published a consultation considering the renewal of licences in this band.Footnote 41
Given the decision in the United States, Industry Canada plans to revise the technical standards in consultation with the Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) in 2013, so as to allow for the deployment of new mobile broadband equipment in this band.
1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHzFootnote 42
In the United States, originally it was only the band 2155-2175 MHz which was referred to as AWS‑3. Subsequently, as part of the tendency to aggregate frequencies in larger blocks of spectrum, the 2175-2180 MHz block (previously part of the AWS-2) was also added to this band. The wireless industry in both Canada and the United States has made proposals — supported by Industry Canada — to pair the 2155-2180 MHz and 1755-1780 MHz frequency bands. These bands are referred to in this document as AWS-3.
The advantage of pairing these two frequency bands is that they could form part of the AWS ecosystem, as an extension to the original AWS band (AWS-1).
Current Use in Canada
In 2007, Industry Canada indicated that the designation of the band 1755-1780 MHz for AWS (Advanced Wireless Services) may be the subject of a future public consultation. At that time, the Department indicated that it was not ready to designate or license the bands 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz until potential service applications, band pairing and technology clearly emerged. Currently, the bands 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz are being used for low-capacity fixed point-to-point microwave links, which are mostly legacy systems. These bands have seen little demand for new fixed systems due to the expectation that these frequencies will be repurposed for mobile services.
The wireless industry in North America has repeatedly requested that this band be identified for mobile broadband commercial systems since it is an extension to the original AWS bands. Implementing this band in commercial equipment would require minimal changes from the existing hardware configuration and would contribute to a more harmonized global wireless ecosystem.
The bands 1710-2025 MHz/2110-2200 MHz (encompassing PCS, AWS-1, AWS-2, AWS-3 and MSS/AWS-4 bands) are identified for IMT systems by the ITU. However, two main band plan arrangements (leading to separate equipment ecosystems) are in use for PCS and AWS — one is used in North America, and the other is used in Europe, Japan and other countries.
The band 1755-1780 MHz is currently held by the United States Government and is used for a variety of applications. In March 2012, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) released a study that indicated the majority of their users from the 1755-1780 MHz band could be relocated in five years, but some systems would need to remain in the band for at least another five years. Recent proposals in the United States suggest that a regulatory framework, where mobile commercial systems would share the band with existing government users, is being considered. Pilot projects to evaluate the feasibility of sharing solutions have been initiated. One aspect that may slow down progress on repurposing this band in the United States is that the NTIA is considering the entire 1755-1850 MHz range (rather than just the 1780-1850 MHz range) in their assessment of future mobile broadband requirements.
In February 2012, the United States Congress passed Bill H.R. 3630, which stipulated that the FCC will auction the band 2155‑2180 MHz by 2015, but remained silent on the possibility of pairing with the band 1755‑1780 MHz.
The wireless industry in both Canada and the United States has indicated that a paired identification of the two bands 1755‑1780 MHz and 2155‑2180 MHz would be very valuable in the delivery of mobile broadband services to consumers. Given that these bands are part of the North American wireless ecosystem, a prudent approach is to wait for the usage of this spectrum to be clarified in the United States. At this point, these two frequency bands have not yet been linked into a paired structure due to the United States Government’s use of the 1755‑1780 MHz range.
A solution based on a sharing framework between the government and the commercial industry in the United States would lead to equipment availability in this band, which would be beneficial for Canada. The amount of spectrum made available by the repurposing of the AWS‑3 bands would then be 50 MHz.
It is anticipated that the AWS-3 bands will be available for licensing as early as 2015. In 2013, Industry Canada plans to start a dialogue about the band plan with the wireless industry and with other countries that are planning to implement mobile services in the AWS band. As mentioned earlier, Industry Canada has contacted the United States Government (both the FCC and the NTIA) to indicate a strong preference for the band pair 1755-1780 MHz and 2155-2180 MHz.
1695-1710 MHz, 1915-1920 MHz /1995-2000 MHz and 2020-2025 MHz (see Figure 8)
Originally the AWS-2 designation in the United States referred to the bands 1915-1920 MHz/1995-2000 MHz and 2020-2025 MHz/2175-2180 MHz. As discussed in Section 4.2.2, the 2175-2180 MHz block was subsequently appended to the AWS-3 band.
Current Use in Canada
The band 1695-1710 MHz is allocated to meteorological aids and meteorological-satellite (space-to-earth) services. Radiocommunication systems, such as meteorological earth stations and weather balloons, are deployed in this band. As well, the band 1700-1710 MHz is used for low-capacity point-to-point microwave systems, such as one-way audio Studio Transmitter Links (STL) systems.
In 2007, the 1915-1920 MHz and 1995-2000 MHz bands were designated for licensed PCS and are being held in reserve until technical issues, related to possible interference with existing PCS use (resulting from the narrow duplex separation) and to the mobile-satellite service above 2000 MHz, are investigated and addressed.
Similarly, Industry Canada is not ready to designate or license the band 2020-2025 MHz for AWS until potential service applications, band pairing and technology are clearly defined.
Currently, there are few point-to-point microwave systems operating in the 1915-1920, 1995-2000 MHz and 2020-2025 MHz bands.
When the 1915-1920/1995-2000 MHz bands (also referred to as PCS Block H) were first considered for auction, the following technical concerns were raised by the wireless industry, both in Canada and in the United States:
- If Block H is appended to the PCS band (currently 1850-1915/1930-1995 MHz), the remaining duplex gap will be reduced to only 10 MHz (1920-1930 MHz). Some viewed this spacing as insufficient for ensuring proper duplex filter operations, introducing a risk of self-interference (due to intermodulation products) to the PCS terminal devices. Although new state-of-the-art filter technology may be capable of properly operating within the confines of the 10 MHz spacing today, existing already-deployed PCS terminals could still be exposed to interference.
- Another concern was the potential interference to the uplink of MSS satellite service operating in the adjacent band above 2 GHz. A recent decision by the FCC on the use of the MSS band above 2 GHz (AWS-4) requires that existing MSS licensees accept interference to their terrestrial operations from future licensees in the H block.Footnote 43
The 2020-2025 MHz band (also referred to as Block J) was initially intended to be paired with 2175-2180 MHz (now part of AWS-3). Currently, a band to pair with Block J has not been clearly identified.
In February 2012, the United States passed the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act of 2012Footnote 44 (commonly known as the "Jobs Act of 2012"), which requires the FCC to auction the bands 1915-1920 MHz, 1995-2000 MHz and 2020-2025 MHz by 2015, along with 15 MHz from the 1675-1710 MHz band.
The NTIA has indicated that the 1695-1710 MHz (15 MHz) portion of the meteorological band could be reallocated to mobile services, with exclusion zones of 72-121 km around meteorological-satellite receiving stations.
Since the AWS-2 bands are very small, they are best used as extensions of other, larger bands where possible. As a result, the band most likely to be effectively deployed is the 1915 1920/1995-2000 MHz band as an extension of the PCS band, subject to resolving the band pairing gap issue.
The 1915-1920/1995-2000 MHz and 2020-2025 MHz bands are lightly used in Canada and could be available for repurposing to mobile broadband systems in a relatively short time frame, provided that the specific technical, spectrum pairing and North American ecosystem issues that affect these bands can be resolved.
Repurposing the 1695-1710 MHz sub-band would need to take into account compatibility with existing meteorological systems operating in the band. Also, there is not an obvious band with which to pair this spectrum in a manner that would be consistent with other bands used for commercial services. As a result, the amount of spectrum possibly repurposed from the AWS-2 bands is most likely 10 MHz, but could be as high as 30 MHz.
As the AWS-2 bands are relatively small and numerous, it is difficult to estimate when they would be available to the Canadian market. However, it is reasonable to expect that they could be available, in whole or in part, by 2017. As an equipment ecosystem starts to emerge, Industry Canada will conduct a public consultation on the appropriate policies, standards and licensing rules.
2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz
Current Use in Canada
The bands 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz are allocated to mobile-satellite service (MSS). In 2004, the Department decided to accommodate the development of an Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) mobile service in these bands as an integral part of mobile-satellite service offerings.
The TerreStar-1 satellite (currently operated by Gamma Acquisition Canada ULC, a Canadian licensed satellite operator) has been operating at the 111.1°W orbital position since 2009. This satellite uses the 2000-2010 MHz and 2190-2200 MHz bands, and is capable of delivering mobile-satellite services throughout North America. However, very limited services are currently being offered to the public. TerreStar Solutions, a Canadian reseller of capacity from the TerreStar-1 satellite, has an authorization from Industry Canada to reuse the 2000-2010 MHz and 2190-2200 MHz bands in Canada for ATC.
The DBSD satellite, a UK satellite, has been in orbit at 93°W since 2008 and uses the other 20 MHz in the 2010-2020 MHz and 2180-2190 MHz bands. This satellite is also capable of delivering mobile-satellite services throughout North America.
In the past, MSS licensees have argued that the MSS services in this band, while technically feasible, cannot achieve sufficient scale (even when considering the entire North American market) to be economically self-sufficient. They argue that the addition of terrestrial mobile services, which can be delivered in the same frequencies, are necessary in order to ensure financial sustainability of the mobile-satellite operations.
The United States recently defined a duplexing direction for terrestrial mobile broadband systems that would be consistent with the MSS service (2000-2020 MHz for uplink and 2180-2200 MHz for downlink). While this duplexing direction would minimize issues of coordination and coexistence between the terrestrial and satellite systems, it would create a conflict with future PCS systems operating below 2000 MHz, as referred to in Section 4.2.3 Advanced Wireless Services 2 (AWS-2).
In 2010, the FCC’s National Broadband Plan proposed repurposing the 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz bands (AWS-4) for mobile broadband services. In 2011, the FCC added co-primary mobile and fixed allocations (in addition to the MSS allocation) in these bands.
In December 2012, the FCC released its decision on the rules for the bands 2000-2020 MHz and 2180-2200 MHz.Footnote 45 The decision allows for the deployment of a terrestrial-only mobile broadband service (AWS-4) in these bands. The decision also grants authority to the current 2 GHz MSS licensee, DISH Network, to operate the terrestrial AWS-4 licence in order to eliminate a need for coordination between the two services.Footnote 46 The FCC also decided that AWS-4 terrestrial operations need to protect the MSS operations in this band.
The two MSS satellites that are authorized to serve North America have completed the international satellite coordination process through the ITU. In the 2000-2020 MHz band, the ITU regulations protect MSS satellites, with power limits on terrestrial services, and coordination is required between MSS terminals and terrestrial stations. In the 2180-2200 MHz band, existing MSS satellites are not required to protect new terrestrial services. MSS systems in these bands provide the flexibility to deploy multiple spot beams and to manage power and capacity as customer demand dictates. If a decision is made to use these frequencies for terrestrial broadband, the satellites have the potential to reduce the amount of spectrum being used in the spot beams or to turn off the power delivered to the beams. These considerations, among others, may determine Canada’s obligations to protect incumbent MSS operations, and implicitly, may determine who would be eligible in Canada to deploy terrestrial systems using these frequencies (namely, the existing MSS operators or other entities). It is also noted that one of the two satellites is licensed by Canada and has an authorization to provide MSS services within this country. The other satellite operator has a pending application.
Given that this spectrum will become available for mobile broadband services in the United States, these bands could also be considered, subject to public consultations, for mobile broadband services in Canada. Up to 40 MHz of spectrum could potentially be made available in the AWS-4 band. Awarding authorizations for terrestrial applications to the existing MSS operator(s) could ensure proper coordination of the applications, resulting in maximum use of the available spectrum. Alternatively, awarding authorizations for terrestrial applications to new terrestrial mobile broadband operators would require coordination challenges to be addressed. In these circumstances, it is likely that sharing the frequencies between the AWS-4 and the MSS operations would result in less than 40 MHz of spectrum being available for terrestrial mobile broadband.
It is anticipated that this spectrum could become available in 2014, or perhaps sooner, and that an equipment ecosystem would follow, depending on the level of industry interest.
Below 698 MHz (specific 600 MHz range is yet to be defined)
Current Use in Canada
The 600 MHz band (512-698 MHz) is being used by over-the-air TV broadcasting services (in 6 MHz channels), except for 608-614 MHz (Channel 37), which is used by the radio astronomy services and by medical telemetry devices. Most of the broadcasting operations are based on the digital ATSC standard (DTV), although some TV stations in suburban and rural areas are still operating with analog transmission based on the NTSC standard. In 2006, Industry Canada released rules enabling the remote rural broadband service (RRBS) to operate within the 512-698 MHz band, except on Channel 37, on a no-interference, no-protection basis with respect to all TV broadcast services. Based on the Department’s spectrum management database, 68 RRBS stations are currently licensed at this time. Licensed low power apparatus (LPA), such as wireless microphones, are also operating in the band.
In August 2011, Industry Canada initiated a public consultation process on introducing TV white space services in the television bands.Footnote 47 Industry Canada released its decision on TVWS devices on October 30, 2012, encouraging the manufacturers and service providers to deploy such technology.Footnote 48 This decision will be followed by additional work in 2013 on specific technical and operational requirements.
In the United States, the band 512-698 MHz also accommodates TV broadcasting in 6 MHz channels, licensed and unlicensed wireless microphones, and broadcast auxiliary services (BAS). In addition, the FCC has allowed unused TV channels to be used by TV white space (TVWS) devices.
In February 2012, the United States Congress directed the FCC to conduct an incentive auction of broadcast television spectrumFootnote 49 in order to reallocate portions of the UHF TV bands to mobile and fixed services. On , the FCC launched a public consultation on the proposed rules for such an auction.Footnote 50 It is expected that between 80 and 120 MHz spectrum could be made available for mobile broadband services through this process.
After decisions have been made about the amount of spectrum repurposed for mobile services in the United States, Industry Canada will be in a position to determine if the broadcasting use in Canada can be supported using a reduced amount of spectrum.
If a portion of the television band is allocated to mobile broadband services, it is expected that white space devices could adjust to operating on a reduced frequency range for broadcasting systems, since the operation of these devices is adaptable to existing conditions based on geospatial databases. However, potential impacts to the users of wireless microphones, wireless medical telemetry devices and other low-power devices may need to be mitigated by either reserving some spectrum for these applications or preventing their operation in mobile bands.
TV broadcasting operations functioning in the proximity of the shared Canada‑USA border are governed by the 2008 Interim Agreement between Canada and the U.S. Concerning Digital Television (DTV),Footnote 51 which includes an agreed DTV allotment plan. The Agreement will need to be updated to reflect the significant changes in the band that are forthcoming in the United States (assuming a successful process), and potentially in Canada as well.
The 600 MHz band is currently a subject of deliberations in advance of the World Radiocommunication Conference 2015 (WRC-15). The conference will look to address the need for additional internationally harmonized spectrum for mobile broadband services. In North America and in some countries in the Asia-Pacific region, the 700 MHz band was reallocated for use by mobile services following the conversion to digital television, which required less spectrum to satisfy the broadcasting spectrum demand. Additional spectrum under 1 GHz could be made available in the 600 MHz band. In Europe, the digital transition is occurring in the 800 MHz band, and a possible next step may be to consider the 700 MHz band. The 600 MHz may also be considered in the context of a future WRC.
The 600 MHz band is in the process of being reallocated to commercial mobile services in the United States. This reallocation is being done through a complex incentive auction process, which includes financial compensation to the current broadcasters as determined by a market-based valuation of the spectrum. The auction is targeted for 2014. If the process is successful, the resulting outcome will restructure the UHF TV band, enabling deployments of mobile broadband systems in the 600 MHz range. Due to complexities involved, this process is expected to take a number of years, possibly resulting in 80 to 120 MHz of additional spectrum for mobile broadband services.
It is expected that the Canadian usage of the UHF TV band will eventually be harmonized with usage in the United States. Industry Canada will evaluate the timing and the process that could be used in Canada for the repurposing of the 600 MHz band, based on the outcome of the incentive auction process in the United States. Any decision to review these bands will be made following consultations with the public.
The frequency range 3400-3800 MHz can be divided into four sub-bands: 3400-3475 MHz, 3475-3650 MHz, 3650-3700 MHz and 3700-3800 MHz.
Current use in Canada
The 3400-3475 MHz band is allocated to the radiolocation service for radar use in Canada and in the United States.
The 3475-3650 MHz band is allocated to various radiocommunication services, including the fixed service and the radiolocation service. However, the primary use of this band is for fixed wireless access (FWA) applications. Between 2003 and 2009, this band was auctioned in three paired blocks (25 MHz + 25 MHz) and one stand-alone/unpaired block (25 MHz) on a Tier 4 service area basis. A total of 677 licences were awarded to 33 licensees. Few systems have been deployed in this band, and licensees who have deployed are primarily using fixed WiMAX equipment. A licence-review consultation was launched in October 2012 concerning the renewal of licences that are set to begin expiring in 2014.Footnote 52
The 3650-3700 MHz band is used for mobile and fixed Wireless Broadband Service (WBS), based on a light licensing regime (i.e., stations’ locations and radio parameters are accessible through a public database, and licensees are required to deploy equipment that makes use of contention-based protocols). As of September 1, 2012, there were 116 WBS licences across the country with 641 associated stations.Footnote 53
The 3700-3800 MHz band is allocated to both the fixed service and the fixed-satellite service (FSS). The fixed use is for point-to-point links that provide wireless terrestrial backhaul and other two-way data applications. The 3700-3800 MHz band is heavily used by the FSS for the delivery of broadband services as well as feeder links for television broadcasts. It forms part of the larger pairing of 3700-4200 MHz (used for downlink) and 5925-6425 MHz (used for uplink), commonly referred to as the C-Band. The licences held by the top five users of the C-Band account for 65.9 percent of all frequency assignments (approximately 2,350) in this band. Additionally, there are three Canadian and 53 foreign satellites licensed to operate in the C-Band. Industry Canada currently requires that operators provide public benefit satellite capacity in the C-Band as part of their conditions of licence. A large number of remote northern communities depend on this satellite capacity in order to meet their communications needs.
The use of radars in the 3400-3475 MHz band impacts the spectrum availability in this frequency range. Such use is generally deemed to be incompatible with mobile broadband deployments.
In the 3650-3700 MHz band, licensees are required to deploy equipment that uses contention-based protocols in order to reduce the potential for interference and to facilitate the shared use of the band. Such technology is likely incompatible with proposed technologies, such as LTE, for mobile broadband.
FSS receiver earth stations operate above 3700 MHz for weather monitoring, national defence and security, TV distribution to TV broadcast stations and cable systems and services in the North. They are susceptible to interference from transmitters operating below 3700 MHz. Therefore, a minimum separation distance is required between any WBS base station or FWA station and the FSS receiver earth stations. Furthermore, in order to protect terrestrial services (including the fixed and mobile services), FSS satellite transmitters operating in the 3700-4200 MHz band are subject to some power flux density limits, specified in Article 21 of the International Radio Regulations.Footnote 54 Sharing between mobile base stations or subscriber terminals and FSS earth stations would be very difficult.
Currently, the mobile service allocations among the three ITU Regions in the 3500 MHz band are not harmonized and are subject to different technical requirements. However, many countries around the world are re-examining their plans for the use of this band, in whole or in part, to facilitate the introduction of commercial mobile services.
In the United States, the 3400-3550 MHz band is used by radars in the radiolocation service and there are no plans to repurpose these frequencies. Fixed and mobile services operate in the 3650-3700 MHz band for the deployment of terrestrial wireless broadband systems, using contention-based protocols. The 3700-3800 MHz band is also used for FSS. As part of the National Broadband Plan,Footnote 55 the 3550-3650 MHz band is being reviewed to allow for the introduction of wireless broadband systems, possibly on a shared basis with United States Government systems.
The FCC launched a public consultations in 2012, looking to make up to 150 MHz of spectrum available in the 3550‑3650 MHz and 3650‑3750 MHz bands for mobile and fixed wireless broadband services. The FCC suggest that this band is ideally suited for small cell technology using a contention-based access mechanism (i.e. a protocol that allows multiple users to share the same spectrum by using a set of rules when two or more transmitters attempt to simultaneously access the same channel) and innovative spectrum sharing.Footnote 56 The proposed approach builds on experience with spectrum sharing in the television white spaces, and broadly reflects the recommendations made by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST).Footnote 57
In Europe, the Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations (CEPT) adopted harmonized frequency arrangements for the 3400-3800 MHz band. The ECC decision on frequency arrangementsFootnote 58 took into account two possible duplex modes: Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) and Time Division Duplex (TDD). This decision is also intended to facilitate the deployment of high data rate mobile/fixed communications networks requiring large channel bandwidths.
Both Australia and Japan are also moving to review current uses of this band.
Many countries are reviewing their current use of frequencies around the 3500 MHz band to allow for the introduction of commercial mobile services. As network operators look to this band in the medium-term, an equipment ecosystem, including LTE equipment, is expected to become available.
Considering the international developments and the likelihood that mobile equipment for the 3500 MHz band will become available, Industry Canada may hold formal consultations to modify current allocations in order to better harmonize these allocations with those in other countries, as appropriate. A review and possible revision of the spectrum utilization policy and the technical rules currently in place for this band, or portion thereof, may be considered in the 2014-2015 time frame.
Once an international equipment ecosystem becomes evident, it is expected that from 100 to 175 MHz of spectrum could be repurposed for mobile broadband deployments without affecting the C-Band spectrum, used to provide FSS services or the critical radar applications near 3400 MHz.
The next ITU World Radiocommunication Conference in 2015 (WRC-15) will consider allocating additional spectrum to mobile broadband services.
Among other bands under discussion, spectrum near 1.4 GHz (commonly referred to as the L-Band) is of high interest to a number of countries, equipment manufacturers and service providers. For example, CEPT has established a working group to review the future use of the 1452-1492 MHz band.Footnote 59 Australia is also looking at the potential for mobile broadband in the 1427.9-1510.9 MHz band.Footnote 60 While it is too early to consider this band in Canada, due to a recent decision by the Minister to allocate part of the band for aeronautical mobile telemetry (AMT) for aircraft testing, at some point in the future it may be prudent to review its use.
The 2700-2900 MHz band may also be of interest, as it is located in the vicinity of bands already identified for mobile broadband services. These services offer similar propagation characteristics and may facilitate the use of common radio components, such as antennas. However, spectrum sharing between mobile broadband services and incumbent operations in this band may be challenging.
Other bands between 300 MHz and 6 GHz, including some of the bands discussed in the previous sections, may also be considered by WRC-15 for additional regional and global mobile allocations.
Canada is actively involved, both domestically and internationally, in identifying the additional mobile spectrum that will be the subject of discussion at WRC-15. A number of bands will be reviewed, based both on their merit toward global mobile spectrum harmonization as well as on their impact on existing users. It is anticipated that the conference will find sufficient new spectrum to support mobile services. This spectrum, or a subset of it, may be put into service in Canada several years following the WRC-15 decisions.
Current Use in Canada
In 1996, licences were issued through a comparative process for two 500 MHz frequency blocks in the 28 GHz band for Local Multipoint Communication Systems (LMCS): Block A (27.85-28.35 GHz) and Block B (27.35-27.85 GHz). The remaining four 500 MHz blocks (Blocks C, D, E and F) from 25.35 to 27.35 GHz were held in reserve. Only experimental deployments took place, and all licences were eventually returned to Industry Canada by January 2002.
In June 2011, following a public consultation, the lower and upper portions of the band 25.25-28.35 GHz (25.25-26.5 GHz and 27.5-28.35 GHz) were opened to fixed systems for the deployment of broadband applications. The middle portion of the band (26.5-27.5 GHz) is being held in reserve and will be subject to a future review, given that it is used for Tracking and Data Relay Satellite (TDRS) as well as other systems in the United States.
In addition to the fixed service, in Canada the 25.5-27 GHz portion of the band is allocated for earth exploration-satellite (space-to-earth), inter-satellite, mobile and space research (space-to-earth) on a primary basis, and to standard frequency and time signal-satellite (earth-to-space) on a secondary basis. The 27-28.5 GHz range is allocated to fixed, fixed-satellite (earth-to-space) and mobile on a primary basis, as well as to inter-satellite service in 27-27.5 GHz.
Currently, a total of 19 fixed links and an additional 12 earth station assignments operate within both portions of the band.
The new Canadian band plan for the 25.25‑26.5 GHz and 27.5‑28.35 GHz bands allows for the use of some existing equipment produced for the European market. While consideration of the geostationary-satellite orbit by fixed systems operating in the band 25.25‑27.5 GHz is essential, the technical requirements of Article 21 of the ITU Radio RegulationsFootnote 61 also apply to terrestrial fixed systems sharing with space services.
The range 25.25-27.5 GHz is currently designated for government use in the United States, while the 27.5-28.35 GHz band is designated for Local Multipoint Distributions Systems (LMDS).
In Europe, the two paired 24.549‑25.445 GHz and 25.557‑26.453 GHz bands have been designated to fixed services. Europe has also designated the 26.5‑27.5 GHz range for government use. In addition, the Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) designations have been made for the 27.5-27.8285 GHz and 28.4445-28.9485 GHz bands.
Taking into account that equipment is becoming available on the market and that demand for fixed backhaul systems is expected to increase, 2100 MHz of spectrum (25.25-26.5 GHz and 27.5-28.35 GHz) was opened to fixed systems for the deployment of broadband applications in June 2011.
Given the immediate need for spectrum, licences are being granted on a first-come, first-serve, non-standard basis for deployment at a specific site in parts of the 25.25-26.5 GHz and 27.5-28.35 GHz bands, pending the establishment of technical requirements and a formal licensing process.
71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-94 GHz and 94.1-95 GHz
Current Use in Canada
In June 2012, the 70/80/90 GHz bands were designated for fixed service in order to support the deployment of mobile broadband services. There are currently seven backhaul links and seven radar links within these bands. In addition, the 92-95 MHz band remains designated for use by indoor licence-exempt devices.
Once the technical requirements have been finalized, spectrum licences will be issued on a Tier 4 service area basis through a first-come, first-serve process. Licensees are required to share the spectrum with other licensees in a given area.
In addition to the fixed service, the 71-74 GHz band is allocated on a primary basis to fixed-satellite (space-to-earth), mobile and mobile-satellite (space-to-earth) services. The 74-76 GHz range is also allocated to broadcasting, broadcasting-satellite, fixed, fixed-satellite (space-to-earth) and mobile services on a primary basis, and to space research (space-to-earth) services on a secondary basis. The 81-84 GHz band is allocated on a primary basis to fixed, fixed-satellite (earth-to-space), mobile, mobile-satellite (earth-to-space) and radio astronomy services, and to space research (space-to-earth) services on a secondary basis. The 84-86 GHz range is allocated to fixed, fixed-satellite (earth-to-space), mobile and radio astronomy services on a primary basis.
The large amount of bandwidth available in these frequencies can provide gigabit capacity in an environment where equipment is deployed in close proximity. At the same time, potential interference can be minimized due to the unique propagation conditions that exist in these millimetre-wave frequency bands as well as the use of highly directional pencil-sized beams. With the potential for high-density fixed service deployments and use by other primary services (including radio astronomy and future FSS), technical and regulatory guidelines are required for sharing purposes.
There are a variety of adjacent band services allocated in portions of the 76-81 GHz and 86-92 GHz bands, including radio astronomy, radiolocation, space research (space-to-earth), space research (passive), amateur, amateur-satellite and EESS, earth exploration-satellite services (passive). Given the significance of the information gathered by these adjacent services, particularly by EESS (passive) to predict severe weather and to analyze climate change and its impacts, there is a requirement for adequate protection with respect to unwanted emissions in the 86-92 GHz band.
Technical specifications and standards are currently being developed for these bands.
In the United States, the FCC is employing a light licensing approach to authorize the use of the 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-94 GHz and 94.1-95 GHz bands on a non-exclusive, nationwide basis. This involves the issuance of a licence as well as advance registration of links. Licences are issued for a period of 10 years and include rights to non-exclusive access to the entire 12.9 GHz of spectrum on a first-come, first-serve basis, with site-by-site registration and coordination by database managers. Although there is no limit to the number of non-exclusive nationwide licences that may be granted for these bands, there is a 12-month build-out requirement that, if not met, voids the database registration for the particular links involved.
In the United Kingdom, Ofcom has also adopted a light licensing approach to the 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz bands for broadband fixed wireless systems. Licences are available on an unlimited, non-exclusive, nationwide basis, with an indefinite licence term and a five-year notice period of revocation. Prior to operating in the band, an operator must apply for a licence. Once this prerequisite is met, the licensee is required to register the links with the Ofcom registration database.
The introduction of 12.9 GHz of spectrum in the bands 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-94 GHz and 94.1-95 GHz for fixed point-to-point links will provide an opportunity for the deployment of high-capacity links in support of broadband applications.
Current Use in Canada
This band is shared between Fixed Satellite Service (earth-to-space) and Fixed Service on a co-primary basis.
In accordance with the ITU Radio Regulations Appendix 30B allotment plan,Footnote 62 Canada is currently allocated three geostationary orbital positions (107.3°W, 111.1°W and 114.9°W) in the allotment Ku band (12.75-13.25 GHz), and has access to 106.5°W for the implementation of one additional system (MSAT-1 operated by SkyTerra). The 106.5°W orbital position is only available until the end of MSAT-1’s life cycle, at which point the allotment at 107.3°W will be used for the future launch of MSV-2, replacing MSAT-1. Canada’s allotment at 111.1° W is assigned to Terrastar and is currently in use by the Terrestar-1 satellite. The remaining allotment at 114.9°W is available for assignment to Canadian satellite operators. Two of the three Canadian positions will continue to be assigned for feeder links and tracking telemetry and command (TT&C) in support of Canadian mobile satellites. The feeder link and TT&C operations for each mobile-satellite system typically involve a small number of gateway earth stations. There are currently two such gateway earth stations located in Canada, but there may be more as the service develops.
The 12.7-13.2 GHz portion of the band is used by various FS applications, including Very High Capacity Microwave (VHCM) point-to-multipoint for distribution of cable programming to head-ends as well as TV studio-to-transmitter links. Currently, there are roughly 60 licences comprising more than 2000 licensed frequency assignments. TV pick-up operations, including Electronic News Gathering (ENG), are licensed on a geographical basis over a defined area within the 13.2-13.25 GHz portion of the band, as well as on a case-by-case basis within 13.15-13.2 GHz. There are more than 50 ENG frequency assignments within the 13.15-13.25 GHz range.
As the band is shared among a variety of services and applications, frequency coordination is required to limit the potential of interference to existing licensees. Since TV operations, specifically Electronic News Gathering, are used to cover breaking news and special events, they traditionally need to be deployed quickly. To accommodate this requirement, special domestic inter-user coordination on an event-by-event basis is used. Given the unpredictable and itinerant nature of TV pickup operations, sharing with future backhaul systems may not be practical in geographic areas where TV operations are licensed. However, for areas without TV pickup licensees, sharing is feasible.
The FCC has made available additional spectrum (within the 12.7-13.15 GHz band) for backhaul use by permitting FS operators to share this band with Fixed and Mobile Broadcast Auxiliary Service (BAS) and Cable TV Relay Service (CARS). Backhaul links can now be deployed within the 12.7-13.15 GHz band in geographic areas outside of where BAS and CARS, including TV pickup stations, are licensed.
Given the interest and spectrum demand of mid-range frequencies for backhaul, like the 13 GHz band, Industry Canada’s backhaul consultation, released on December 21, 2012,Footnote 63 proposed to introduce backhaul services in the band 12.7-13.2 GHz on a coordinated basis with FSS uplinks and other currently licensed FS systems. In the portion of the band shared with TV pickup operations (13.15-13.2 GHz), sharing on an urban/rural basis was proposed (i.e., preference would be given to existing systems in metropolitan areas).
The results of the consultation will allow the Department to make a decision regarding the provision of additional backhaul spectrum in this band.
Current Use in Canada
The band has primary allocations for fixed and radio navigation services, while specific portions are also allocated to space (space-to-earth and deep space) and inter-satellite services. The band is available for high-density applications in the fixed service (as per Resolution 75, WRC-2000).
This band is one of very few bands allocated internationally, as well as across all three ITU Regions (apart from the United States), where the fixed service does not share on a co-primary basis with the fixed-satellite service. It is therefore well suited for high-density fixed service (HDFS) applications, including both point-to-point and point-to-multipoint configurations.
The band is not allocated for fixed service use in the United States. The 31.8-32.0 GHz portion is allocated to the radio navigation and space research (space-to-earth and deep space) services, and the 32.0-33.3 GHz portion to the radio navigation and space research (space-to-earth and deep space) services, all on a primary basis. The 32.3-33.0 GHz band is also allocated to the inter-satellite and radio navigation services, while the 33.0-33.4 GHz band is allocated to the radio navigation service, all on a primary basis.
In Europe, this band is allocated for the fixed and radio navigation services shared with the space research services (space-to-earth and deep space) in 31.8 - 32.3 GHz, and with inter-satellite in 32.3-33.4 GHz. It is also used for HDFS applications. In particular, the United Kingdom’s Ofcom divided the band into six nationwide blocks (2 x 126 MHz) and awarded them by auction in 2008.
Industry Canada is seeking comments on making the band available for backhaul or for other fixed service applications through the Department’s backhaul consultations, released on December 21, 2012.Footnote 64 The results of the consultation will allow the Department to make a decision regarding the use of this spectrum in 18 to 24 months’ time.
Current Use in Canada
The 40.5-41.0 GHz portion of the band is allocated to broadcasting, broadcasting-satellite, FS and FSS on a primary basis, and to mobile and mobile-satellite (space-to-earth) services on a secondary basis. The 41.0-42.5 GHz portion of the band is allocated to broadcasting, broadcasting-satellite, FS and FSS on a primary basis, and to mobile on a secondary basis. The 42.5-43.5 GHz portion is allocated to FS, FSS (earth-to-space), mobile (except aeronautical mobile) and radio astronomy services on a primary basis. Within the entire band, there is currently only a single assignment to a receive-only station for radio astronomy purposes.
Although the 40.5-43.5 GHz band is available for high-density applications in the fixed service (pursuant to ITU Radio Regulation footnote 5.547), potential constraints to high-density applications in the fixed service will need to be taken into account, due to the potential deployment of high-density applications in the fixed-satellite service in the 39.5-40.0 GHz and 40.5-42.0 GHz bands (No. 5.516B). Co-frequency sharing may not be feasible between HDFS and HDFSS systems, but sharing situations (where only one of the services operates) may be possible.
Future use on a shared basis may be feasible, although special consideration will need to be given to radio astronomy station locations when siting FS transmitting stations due to the potential for interference.
In the United States, the FS and FSS operate on a co-primary basis within the 40.5-42.5 GHz band, but segmentation and power flux density limits encourage the use of 40.0-42.0 GHz by FSS and 42.0-42.5 GHz by FS. In November 2010, the FCC released a proposal to increase sharing between terrestrial and satellite services within the 37.5-42.5 GHz portion of the band.
The entire 40.5-43.5 GHz band is available for HDFS applications through WRC-2000 Resolution 75,Footnote 65 but the 40.5-42.0 GHz portion is also identified for HDFSS applications (space-to-earth) in Region 2.
In Europe, the 40.5-43.5 GHz band is allocated for HDFS and takes priority over uncoordinated FSS terminals within the 40.5-42.5 GHz portion. The 42.5-43.5 GHz portion of the band is used in the UK by the radio astronomy service. In 2008, Ofcom auctioned the 40.5-43.5 GHz band (six national blocks).Footnote 66
Through Industry Canada’s backhaul consultation, the Department is exploring whether there is sufficient interest in FS deployments within the band. The results of the consultation will allow the Department to make a decision regarding additional backhaul spectrum in this band in 18 to 24 months’ time. The potentially large bandwidths available make this band suitable for high-capacity backhaul links.
At the moment, one-third of all IP-based traffic is either originated or terminated on a Radio Local Area Network (RLAN). This figure is expected to jump to half of all IP traffic by 2015, according to Cisco’s Visual Index.10 Such traffic is being driven by both consumer and enterprise demands for applications that that are bandwidth- and throughput-intensive.
While RLANs in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz band can now operate on channels that are 20 MHz- and 40 MHz-wide, RLANs in the 5 GHz range will be able to operate on channels that are 80 MHz- and 160 MHz-wide once the IEEE 802.11ac standard is ratified. Contiguous channels across the 5 GHz range would allow RLANs to operate at these larger bandwidths, thereby supporting high-throughput applications. RLANs are also becoming key components of mobile operators’ network deployment strategies as operators look to offload more traffic from their cellular networks. As a result, the 5 GHz band will likely play an increasingly important role in network deployment.
The following section provides an overview of Industry Canada’s current assessment of potential bands that could be used to support the deployment of commercial mobile systems, based on a licence-exempt regime. Figure 9 shows the 5 GHz frequency range as well as which bands could potentially support future deployment of RLANs or Wi-Fi-enabled devices, subject to compatibility analyses with existing services.
Current Use in Canada
The 5350-5460 MHz band is allocated to aeronautical radio navigation, earth exploration satellite (active), radiolocation and space research (active) services. The 5460-5470 MHz band is allocated to the earth exploration satellite (active), radiolocation, radio navigation and space research (active) services.
Currently, the 5350-5470 MHz band is used by the Canadian Space Agency’s RADARSAT earth exploration satellites. These satellites provide images of the earth from space and allow for mapping, marine surveillance, ice and environmental monitoring and disaster and resource management. The RADARSAT satellites provide data to the Government of Canada, as well as to many agencies in the United States and to private users worldwide.
In 2003, the World Radio Conference (WRC-03) allocated the 5150-5350 MHz and 5470-5725 MHz bands to the mobile service and identified these bands for use by wireless access systems, including RLANs. Compatibility studies between RLANs and incumbent primary services, including the earth exploration satellite services (EESS), were undertaken for these bands. These studies demonstrated that specific technical measures are required so that RLANs can coexist with incumbent services in these bands.
The 5350-5470 MHz band was not considered by WRC-03, and is not currently being used by RLANs. Further studies may be required to determine the feasibility of deploying RLANs in this band, taking into account the potential aggregate interference created by RLANs over the large footprint of the satellite.
The international allocation of the 5350-5460 MHz and 5460-5470 MHz bands is consistent with their current use in Canada. While there are no studies under way at the ITU to identify the bands for mobile broadband or RLANs use, they are being studied in the United States and could be part of the U.S. proposals to WRC-15.
As part of the U.S. Jobs Act of 2012,Footnote 67 the NTIA was instructed to evaluate known and proposed spectrum sharing technologies, such as Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS), as well as the risks to federal licensees if RLANs are allowed to operate in this band. The report, released in January 2013, identified a number of potential risks of harmful interference to federal systems from licence-exempt devices in this bandFootnote 68. The report concludes that further analysis will be required to determine whether and how the identified risk factors can be mitigated. EESS systems are not deployed in this band in the United States, but several government agencies in the United States use RADARSAT data.
In September 2012, the European Union announced that it will examine the possibility of additional harmonized licence-exempt spectrum for Wi-Fi types of networks in the 5 GHz range. Expanding spectrum available for licence-exempt applications is seen both as a key driver for wireless innovation and as an efficient use of the radio spectrum.Footnote 69
In Canada, the 5350-5470 MHz band is extensively used by the RADARSAT satellites. If RLANs were to be deployed in this band in the United States, the EESS in Canada could be impacted due to the aggregate effects of interference over the large footprint of its operation.
4.4.2 5850-5925 MHz Band
Current Use in Canada
The 5850-5925 MHz band is allocated to fixed, fixed satellite and mobile services on a primary basis. This band also overlaps with the 5725-5875 MHz band, which is designated for ISM applications. RLANs certified to the IEEE 802.11a/n standards can operate in this ISM band.
In Canada and in the United States, the band is designated for ITS-DSRC (Intelligent Transport Systems/Dedicated Short-Range Communications). The ITU-R defines ITS as systems that utilize the combination of computers, communications, positioning and automation technologies to improve the safety, management and efficiency of terrestrial transportation. Many of the ITS applications require radio spectrum, since they involve communications with moving vehicles.
To date, there have been some trials of ITS-DSRC systems in Canada but no deployment in this band. In 2006, a moratorium was placed on the licensing of new fixed systems. Some FSS systems continue to operate in this band.
The compatibility between RLANs and ITS is the central technical issue. The NTIA in the United States is studying the possible impact of licence-exempt RLAN use on existing services, including ITS-DSRC systems.
In the United States, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is now evaluating whether to mandate an anti-collision technology using DSRC spectrum for all vehicles sold in the United States. A decision is expected in 2013.
In February 2012, the United States Congress instructed the NTIA to evaluate known and proposed spectrum sharing technologies as well as the risks to federal licensees if RLANs are allowed to operate in this band. As discussed above, the NTIA released a report in January 2013, which concluded that further analysis is required to determine whether and how risks of harmful interference can be mitigated.Footnote 70
Currently, there are no studies under way at the ITU to identify the 5850-5925 MHz band for broadband mobile systems or RLANs use.
In September 2012, the European Union announced that it will examine the possibility of additional harmonized licence-exempt spectrum for Wi-Fi-type networks in the 5 GHz band. Expanding spectrum available for licence-exempt applications is seen both as a key driver for wireless innovation and as an efficient use of the radio spectrum.Footnote 71
Given the importance of harmonized spectrum and regulatory approaches in the North American marketplace, Canada will follow developments in the United States and in Europe before making a decision on the future use of this band.
Note: The services identified in green boxes are those which overlap with potential new allocations for licence-exempt use (RLANs/Wi-Fi).
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