Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework for the 700 MHz Band and Aspects Related to Commercial Mobile Spectrum

5. 700 MHz Band Plan Issues and Considerations

5.1 700 MHz Band Plan Architecture for Commercial Mobile Systems

Recent advances in wireless communication technology and electronics miniaturization have provided a richer experience for consumers of advanced broadband wireless services, leading to increased demand for such services and resulting in a significant increase in the use of bandwidth-intensive multimedia applications. In order to provide maximum benefits to consumers of broadband wireless services and to support the growth in bandwidth demand, the architecture of the 700 MHz band will be assessed in view of the following criteria, in no particular order:

  • promoting efficient use of the limited radio spectrum by maximizing capacity in the 700 MHz band;
  • harmonization of equipment specifications to the extent possible, enabling economies of scale and greater equipment availability for consumer and infrastructure equipment;
  • deployment of infrastructure with reduced capital and operational costs, enabling affordable services to consumers;
  • international roaming;
  • cross-border frequency coordination;
  • impact on competition and investment when packaging the available spectrum for auction.

Although a maximum of 84 MHz of spectrum is available in the 700 MHz band for commercial mobile services (taking into account the current 24 MHz designated for public safety), there are several technical considerations, such as guardbands, which may limit the amount of spectrum to be auctioned. Mobile broadband systems require larger frequency blocks, which would reduce the number of blocks available for auction.

Considering the current deployments in the United States and the band plan structures adopted by the Asia-Pacific Telecommunity (APT), there are currently two main international band plans, technical rules and utilization options which may, with certain adaptations, be implemented in Canada.

In considering the band plan architecture to be implemented in Canada, the Department is proposing four options for consideration:

  • Option 1: Harmonize with the U.S. band plan;
  • Option 2a: U.S. band plan with slight adjustments – with 8 and 10 MHz channel blocks in the Lower 700 MHz;
  • Option 2b: U.S. band plan with slight adjustments – with a mix of 3 and 5 MHz channel blocks in the Lower 700 MHz;
  • Option 3: Harmonize with the APT band plan.

These band plans, technical rules and utilization options are discussed below.

Option 1: Harmonize with the U.S. band plan

In the United States, the reclamation of television spectrum above TV channel 51 was addressed in two proceedings: the Upper 700 MHz Band (TV channels 60-69), which comprises 60 MHz, and the Lower 700 MHz Band (TV channels 52-59), which comprises 48 MHz.

The Lower and Upper 700 MHz bands were auctioned in multiple stages between September 2002 and March 2008. Footnote 12 U.S. licensees have begun trial networks and plan to launch commercial services in approximately 30 markets by the end of 2010, with a nationwide service by the end of 2013. Footnote 13.

The U.S. band plan is shown in Figure 5.1 below. As depicted in the figure, the U.S. band plan is generally based on a 6 MHz channel grid, and includes both paired and unpaired blocks.

Figure 5.1 - U.S. Band plan for the 700 MHz band Footnote 14
Figure 5.1 - U.S. Band plan for the 700 MHz band (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.1

Note 1: The highlighted text in the table identifies frequency blocks auctioned prior to Auction 73 in 2008.

Table 5.1 — Licences available in the Option 1
Commercial Spectrum Public Safety Guardbands
Paired Unpaired Broadband  
3 licences @ 6 + 6 MHz (each)* 2 licences @ 6 MHz 5 + 5/10 + 10 MHz15 2 licences @ 1+1 MHz (each)
1 licence @ 11 + 11 MHz*   Narrowband  
1/ 0 Footnote 15 licence @ 5 + 5 MHz   8+8 MHz  
Total: 68/58 MHz* Total: 12 MHz Total: 26/36 MHz Total: 4 MHz
Total SPECTRUM: 108 MHz      

*Equipment currently available in this band uses 5MHz and 10 MHz channel bandwidths. Therefore, 5 MHz in each 6 MHz block and 10 MHz in each 11 MHz block will be used. As a result, 8 MHz of the total paired spectrum (as indicated in the table) would not be effectively used. Consequently, the total usable paired spectrum, by equipment using 5/10 MHz channels bandwidths, would be 60/50 MHz.

FCC technical rules for this band Footnote 16 mandate the use of FDD mode of operation for the blocks in the Upper 700 MHz (746-806 MHz), with the base station transmission in the 746-763 MHz range, in order to ensure electromagnetic compatibility with the public safety systems operating in the frequency range 763-775/793-805 MHz.

On the other hand, for the Lower 700 MHz band (698-746 MHz), the FCC's approach in setting technical rules for the U.S. band plan was to rely on the industry to adopt methods for the deployment of radio systems. The duplexing mode of operation (FDD, TDD or unidirectional) is not prescribed for either paired or unpaired blocks. Guardbands are not provisioned between the paired and unpaired portions of the band. Furthermore, the FCC technical rules explicitly state that no protection from interference between stations in adjacent frequency blocks or geographic areas is afforded. Therefore, interference issues are expected to be resolved by the licensees.

Since the auction and licensing of the 700 MHz spectrum, U.S. operators in the band have announced and/or have started deploying systems based on the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) Footnote 17 and proprietary standards as depicted in Figure 5.2.

Figure 5.2: Comparison of U.S. band plan and 3GPP technical specifications for equipment
Figure 5.2: Comparison of U.S. band plan and 3GPP technical specifications for
equipment (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.2

3GPP requirements for bands 12, 13, 14 and 17 mandate that the user equipment support 1.4, 3, 5 and 10 MHz channel bandwidths. Present and planned deployments in the United States are based on 5 and 10 MHz channel equipment.

In the Lower 700 MHz unpaired blocks D and  E (716-728 MHz), unidirectional mobile systems based on a proprietary standard (MediaFLOTM) were deployed. There is no 3GPP standard defined for this frequency range.

The problem of potential self-interference caused by user equipment operating in the D Block (758-763/ 788-793 MHz) to Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers in the same device was evaluated by the industry. The GPS operates on a centre frequency of 1575.42 MHz and has an operating bandwidth of 2 MHz. This interference arises when a user device transmits energy in the 787.21 MHz to 788.21 MHz range, which may generate a second harmonic that falls within the GPS receiver passband.

As noted from Figure 5.2 above, the frequency range 787.21-788.27 MHz lies predominantly within the guardband and partially into the uplink Footnote 18 of the D Block in the Upper 700 MHz. Current equipment specifications set by the 3GPP for out-of-band emissions ensure that relatively low energy levels at the D Block band edge will be emitted, thus minimizing potential interference to the internal GPS receiver. As a result, potential self-interference is not expected to hinder the GPS function of commercial equipment.

Adopting Option 1 would promote economies of scale by allowing the Canadian market access to a wide selection of low-cost equipment. It would enable cross-border roaming and allow simpler cross-border frequency arrangement and coordination procedures.

Although the U.S. band plan is suitable for the American market, it presents a few challenges which may impact the Canadian industry. In the United States, portions of the Lower 700 MHz band have been auctioned while broadcasting undertakings using 6 MHz channel widths were still in operation in other parts of the band. As a result, the Lower 700 MHz band (and, to some extent, the Upper 700 MHz band) was structured around a 6 MHz channel grid. Although the 6 MHz channel grid ensured compatibility with the previous broadcasting use of the band, the new broadband mobile technologies being deployed in this band are based on 5 MHz channel widths. Noting that the deployment of mobile broadband systems in Canada will take place only after the completion of the DTV transition in this frequency range, the 6 MHz channels present a challenge from the perspective of effective spectrum utilization. Over the entire 700 MHz band, as much as 12 MHz of spectrum would not be used effectively by new broadband technologies.

Should the U.S. band plan as described above be adopted in Canada, deployments may be affected by potential interference issues that have been identified between adjacent services, as depicted in following figure:

  1. Lower 700 MHz band base receivers complying with 3GPP Band 12 requirements may potentially be subject to interference from high power DTV transmissions in the adjacent DTV channel 51.
  2. As no guardbands are provided between the paired and unpaired operations in the Lower 700 MHz band, mutual harmful interference is possible between services adjacent to either the 716 or 728 MHz frequencies.
  3. There is potential risk of overload interference to broadband base receivers operating above 776 MHz from high power public safety narrowband transmissions immediately below 775 MHz.
Figure 5.3: Potential interference issues between adjacent services
Figure 5.3: Potential interference issues between adjacent services (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.3

Options 2a and 2b: U.S. band plan with slight adjustments

Two band plan options are proposed based on the U.S. band plan, using the same transmit (TX) and receive (RX) radio frequency ranges as implemented in United States. However, a few modifications are proposed for the channelling plan in the Lower 700 MHz with a view to making more efficient use of the available spectrum. In this way, compared with Option 1, the channel plan for both options 2a and 2b (as described below) could enable a more effective use of 6 MHz of spectrum.

The Option 2a band plan is intended to structure the available 700 MHz spectrum to enable the use of 10 + 10 MHz channels as much as possible.

As widely reported in literature and indicated by the industry in other consultation processes, broadband radio channels of wider bandwidth (for example, 10 MHz vs. two 5 MHz channels) provide clear technical benefits, facilitating and enabling deployments of mobile broadband systems by offering:

  • higher per hertz spectral efficiency, enabling the provision of high capacity services in urban areas with fewer base stations;
  • extended reach, enabling the provision of target broadband speeds in rural areas while using fewer towers and improving in-building penetration in urban areas;
  • reduced carbon footprint, as well as capital and operational costs (less equipment to manufacture and install, and reduced energy consumption); and
  • reduced real estate requirements (antenna space on towers and rack space in equipment shelters).

The total amount of spectrum in the 700 MHz band is limited. A band architecture based on 10 MHz increments will result in a limited number of spectrum blocks available for auction; in this case, for example, a maximum of four blocks of paired spectrum would be available.

The Option 2b band plan is mostly structured in units of 5 + 5 MHz where possible. Recognizing that wider channels provide technical advantages, auctioning the spectrum in units of 5 + 5 MHz may provide flexibility by relying on market forces to aggregate 5 MHz blocks to form contiguous larger blocks. As well, this would double the number of blocks available for auction. However, auctioning the spectrum in 5 + 5 MHz blocks may increase the risks for bidders wishing to acquire contiguous larger blocks, resulting in band fragmentation and possibly hindering the deployment of more advanced broadband systems.

Option 2a

The band plan shown in Figure 5.4 is proposed as Option 2a for the 700 MHz band plan. To take advantage of equipment availability and economies of scale, the proposed band plan uses the same transmit (TX) and receive (RX) radio frequency ranges as implemented in United States. However, a few modifications are proposed for the channelling plan with a view to making more efficient use of the available spectrum.

Figure 5.4: Option 2a band plan architecture
Figure 5.4: Option 2a band plan architecture (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.4

* Use of this range is subject to the pending decision on spectrum use for broadband public safety (see Section 5.2).
** This range is designated for Narrowband Public Safety, and is not subject to this consultation.

Table 5.2 —Licences available in the Option 2a band plan
Commercial Spectrum Public Safety Guardbands
Paired Unpaired Broadband  
1 licences @ 10 + 10 MHz (each) 1 licence @ 12 MHz 0 /5 + 5/10 + 10 MHz Footnote 19 2 MHz
1 licence @ 8 + 8 MHz   Narrowband  
1 licence @ 11 + 11 MHz*   8 + 8 MHz  
1 licence @ 10 + 10/5+5/0 MHz Footnote 19      
TOTAL: 78/68/58 MHz TOTAL: 12 MHz TOTAL: 16/26/36 MHz TOTAL: 2MHz
TOTAL SPECTRUM: 108 MHz      

* Equipment currently available in this band uses 5 MHz and 10 MHz channel bandwidths, therefore, 10 MHz in each 11 MHz block will be used. As a result, 2 MHz of the total paired spectrum (as indicated in the table), would not be effectively used. Consequently, the total useable paired spectrum, by equipment using 5/10 MHz channels bandwidths, would be 76/66/56 MHz.

As can be seen in the above figure, duplexing directions are specified for the paired blocks. To minimize the possibility of interference between systems in paired and unpaired spectrum allocations, technical rules may be imposed such that operations in the unpaired spectrum will not interfere with systems in the paired blocks. These rules may result in significant usage restrictions for operations in the 12 MHz unpaired block.

In the Lower 700 MHz band, the 8 + 8 MHz block would enable deployments of equipment compliant with 3GPP band 12, as depicted in Figure 5.2. The duplexing directions follow the 3GPP specifications. A 3 MHz radio channel and a 5 MHz radio channel (both supported by the 3GPP standard) can fit within the 8 MHz block. In specific geographic areas where interference from DTV channel 51 may occur, a portion of the 3 MHz channel may be used as a guardband. For instance, a 1.4 MHz plus a 5 MHz radio channel combination (also supported by 3GPP standards) could be employed, providing the possibility for a guardband implementation between DTV channel 51 and the commercial deployment.

The 10 + 10 MHz block would enable deployments of equipment compliant with 3GPP bands 12 and 17, using either 5 MHz or 10 MHz channels.

In the Upper 700 MHz band, one 11 + 11 MHz block and one 10 + 10 MHz block are proposed, in line with 3GPP bands 13 and 14 respectively, noting that the 11 MHz paired block effectively accommodates only a 10 + 10 MHz channel.

It should be noted that, pending a decision regarding the use of commercial mobile broadband systems by public safety agencies (see Section 5.2), the amount of spectrum available for the commercial auction in the range 758-768/788-798 MHz could be 0 MHz, 5 + 5 MHz, or 10 + 10 MHz, with the balance being designated to private systems for public safety applications.

Because the spectrum blocks would not fully overlap in frequency with the U.S. auctioned blocks, the frequency coordination process may not be as simple as with Option 1 for the Lower 700 MHz band. There would be no impact to cross-border roaming between Canada and the United States.

Option 2b

The band plan shown in Figure 5.5 is proposed as Option 2b for the 700 MHz band plan. The Option 2b band plan is, from the point of view of TX/ RX filtering, similar to Option 2a band plan. However, the band plan is mostly structured in units of 5 + 5 MHz where possible.

Figure 5.5: Option 2b band plan architecture
Figure 5.5: Option 2b band plan architecture (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.5

* Use of this range is subject to the pending decision on spectrum use for broadband public safety (see Section 5.2)
** This range is designated for narrowband public safety, and is not subject to this consultation.

Table 5.3 — Licences available in the Option 2b band plan
Commercial Spectrum Public Safety Guardbands
Paired Unpaired Broadband  
7/6/5 Footnote 20 licences @ 5 + 5 MHz (each) 2 licence @ 6 + 6 MHz 0/5 + 5/10 + 10 MHz Footnote 20 4 MHz
1 licence @ 3 + 3 MHz   Narrowband  
    8 + 8 MHz  
TOTAL: 76/ 66/ 56 MHz TOTAL: 12 MHz TOTAL: 16/26/36 MHz TOTAL: 4 MHz
TOTAL SPECTRUM: 108 MHz      

As can be seen from the above figure, duplexing directions are specified for the paired blocks. To avoid the possibility of interference between systems in paired and unpaired spectrum allocations, technical rules may be imposed such that operations in the unpaired spectrum will not interfere with systems in the paired blocks. These rules may result in significant usage restrictions for operations in the unpaired blocks (2 X 6 MHz).

As with Option 2a, it should be noted that, pending a decision regarding the use of commercial mobile broadband spectrum by public safety agencies (see Section 5.2), the amount of spectrum available for the commercial auction (in the range 758-768/788-798 MHz) could be 0, one block of 5 + 5 MHz (exactly as per the U.S. D Block), or two blocks of 5 + 5 MHz, with the balance being designated to private systems for public safety applications.

Because the spectrum blocks would not fully overlap in frequency with U.S. auctioned blocks, the frequency coordination process may not be as simple as with Option 1. There would be no impact on cross-border roaming between Canada and the United States.

Option 3: Harmonize with the FDD APT band plan

In September 2010, the APT, serving member countries in the Asia Pacific Region (including Australia, the People's Republic of China, New Zealand, Japan and the Republic of Korea), announced the adoption of two band plan arrangements for IMT for the 698-806 MHz range. The APT band plan for FDD operations is shown in Figure 5.6 below.

Figure 5.6: APT band plan for FDD operations in the 698-806 MHz range
Figure 5.6: APT band plan for FDD operations in the 698-806 MHz range (the link to the long description is located below the image)

Description of Figure 5.6

Table 5.4 — Licences available in the APT band plan
Commercial Spectrum Public Safety Guardbands
Paired Unpaired Broadband and Narrowband  
number of licences to be determined (dependent on equipment specifications for channel bandwidths) 0 MHz the amount of spectrum is to be determined (possible public safety provision to be made) 5 + 3 MHz
10 MHz (centre gap)
TotalL: 90 MHz Total: 0 MHz Total: to be determined Total: 18 MHz
Total SPECTRUM: 108 MHz      

The above APT band plan maximizes the available contiguous spectrum in the 700 MHz band given that there is a total of 90 MHz of paired spectrum available to be licensed. The APT band plan offers additional flexibility in terms of block sizes, as 5, 10, 15 and 20 MHz block sizes could be possibly implemented. The adoption of this band plan in Canada would allow the Canadian market to take advantage of a larger wireless ecosystem. Moreover, uniform equipment specifications will be required for the entire band, thereby allowing compatibility for all blocks in this band plan. This will enable economies of scale and flexibility for consumers.

The adoption of this band plan will affect the public safety spectrum. If the APT band plan were adopted, provisions for public safety spectrum (narrowband and possibly broadband) could be made by modifying SP-746 and SP-768. Furthermore, the current narrowband public safety deployments would need to be reallocated to other parts of the 700 MHz band within the context of the APT band plan. This option would cause interoperability and equipment compatibility issues between Canada and the

United States for both commercial and public safety services, and availability of equipment for public safety systems (both narrowband and broadband) may be limited. As well, interference and frequency coordination issues may affect deployments in the proximity of the Canada-United States border. In this case, cross-border roaming between Canada and US would be impacted.

Although there are no equipment specifications to accommodate the APT band plan, standards organizations, such as the 3GPP, will develop equipment specifications and the associated channel bandwidths which the equipment must support. Due to the large size of the market in the APT countries, it is expected that equipment will be manufactured for this band plan to meet the above frequency arrangement.

Guardbands

All the band architectures presented in the options above will require some amount of spectrum to be set aside as guardbands, as shown in figures 5.1, 5.4, 5.5 and 5.6. This spectrum could be left unused, or the Department may investigate possible uses which would be electromagnetically compatible with services in adjacent blocks. It should be noted that the equipment availability to deploy radio systems in the frequency range in the guardbands is unclear at this time. The Department could auction the spectrum in the guardbands (as done in the United States).

5-1. Based on the criteria listed above, which of the four band plan options should be adopted in Canada? Why is this option preferred over the other options? If Option 3 (APT band plan) is selected, what should the block sizes be?

In providing your responses, include supporting arguments, including potential benefits to wireless subscribers.

5-2. The band plans presented in the options above include guardbands. Should the Department auction the guardbands, or should these frequencies be held in reserve for future use such that they are technically compatible with services in the adjacent bands?

Also comment on any related aspects not addressed above or other possible options, including combinations of options.

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