Industry Canada Announces Assignment Process for Canadian Satellite Orbital Positions

July 11, 2006 13:40 ET

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--Industry Canada today announced the launch of a licensing initiative to authorize the development of Canadian satellites. Given that up to 29 satellite licences may be assigned, this will be the largest spectrum licensing initiative ever undertaken in Canada. A comparative competitive licensing process will be used in which applicants will be required to submit proposals to Industry Canada.

"We need to increase satellite capacity over the next few years, and this announcement is about securing and allocating satellite orbital resources" said the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of Industry. "This initiative will lead to new investments in Canada, and to new and more accessible telecommunications services for Canadians of all regions."

As a result of this initiative, Canadian commercial satellite operators are expected to provide the capacity needed to fully implement high-definition television in Canada and to carry other important new and advanced telecommunications services that are essential for connecting all regions of Canada, especially in the North, where satellites are the vital link to provide public safety, national security and government services.

Industry Canada expects that some satellites resulting from this initiative may be providing services as early as 2009-2010. The satellite industry will invest several hundred million dollars in building, launching and insuring satellites for each licence issued. Selected applicants are expected to direct 2 percent of their future operating revenues to fund special initiatives to improve access to telecommunications services in underserved communities.

In a new development for competitive satellite licensing in Canada, Industry Canada will be inviting comments from the Canadian satellite industry - particularly Canadian satellite users, i.e., those that would use the new satellites to deliver their value-added services - on plans from applicants for serving the Canadian market. Applicants will be selected based on the proposals that best benefit Canadians, and other criteria.

The licensing initiative will proceed shortly with the publication of a call for applications through a link on Industry Canada's Strategis website (strategis.ic.gc.ca/spectrum). Additional information is available on the website. A backgrounder is attached to this news release.

Backgrounder

Assignment Process for Canadian Satellite Orbital Positions

Key tenets of Industry Canada's mandate are to ensure all Canadians have access to vital communication services and to ensure the achievement of growth in the telecommunications industry. Canada is critically dependent on satellites for providing broadcasting and telecommunications services. In many communities, particularly in the North, satellite is the only way to provide vital links for public safety, national security and government services. It is envisioned that satellites will play an important future role in delivering emerging communication services to all Canadian communities.

Industry Canada continually works within the International Telecommunication Union's (ITU's) regulatory processes to secure rights to key satellite orbital positions and radio spectrum in order to meet the needs of satellite stakeholders. Canadian access to these orbital positions through this licensing process is time-limited, and is subjected to bringing satellites into operation within certain time frames. As it takes two to five years to build and launch a satellite, sufficient lead time is required to ensure Canada does not lose access to these resources.

Industry Canada consulted extensively with Canadian satellite industry stakeholders, including Canadian satellite users, their associations and commercial satellite operators, during 2005 and early 2006. There is a pressing need for additional satellite capacity in order to address communication requirements including the full development of Canadian high-definition television services, satellite broadband and other essential and advanced telecommunications services in the North.

Therefore, the time is right to commence this satellite licensing initiative, taking into account the recently completed stakeholder consultations indicating a need for additional satellite capacity, the readiness of commercial operators to invest in additional satellites and the ever-present time-sensitive requirements to launch new satellites within the international regulatory deadlines.

This licensing process will make 29 licences available and represents the largest spectrum licensing initiative ever launched by Industry Canada. Generally, Industry Canada assigns these valuable satellite positions by means of a comparative licensing process where it is evident that more than one company is interested. Bell ExpressVu, Ciel Satellite Communications Inc., Eutelsat SA and Telesat Canada have all indicated an interest in using orbital and spectrum resources being made available in this initiative. In this case, some of the positions are sought by more than one applicant and therefore a comparative licensing process will be used. This initiative involves a Call for Applications, followed by an opportunity for the public, including Canadian satellite users, to comment on the applications. In choosing between applications, the criteria to evaluate and compare applications include qualifications to participate in the process, benefits to Canadians, financial commitment to the project, satellite plans showing the feasibility of commitments and competencies of applicants to carry out the project.

Industry Canada continually strives to be fair, open and transparent in conducting its licensing processes. In terms of transparency, two new measures are being introduced in this process. First, Industry Canada will post all applicant plans for serving Canada on Strategis for comment. Second, Canadian satellite users will be able to participate directly in this licensing process. Industry Canada will facilitate communications between applicants and Canadian satellite users to ensure applicants understand future Canadian requirements. These satellite users will also be able to provide comments on applicant plans for serving Canada. Applicants will be provided with the opportunity to reply to any comments provided by satellite users. In keeping with transparency, all comments and reply comments received will be posted on Strategis.

A time line for major events in this process is provided below. Industry Canada expects to announce the results of this process in early 2007. The results will be published on Strategis. All applicants will be offered a debriefing by Industry Canada on the assessment of their application.

While plans to launch satellites are not yet available, it is expected that selected applicants will have satellites in service during the 2008-2010 time frame.

Assignment Process for Canadian Satellite Orbital Positions: Expected Time Line for Proposed Licensing Initiative
EventDate
1. Publish Call for Applications.July 15, 2006
2. Receive and publish a list of registered users.August 15, 2006
3. Receive applications and publish plans for serving Canadian requirements.November 15, 2006
4. Receive and publish public comments on plans.December 15, 2006
5. Publish reply comments from applicants. January 15, 2007
6. Evaluate applications and announce the results.Spring 2007
7. Follow-up with activities such as demonstrating compliance with regulatory requirements, issuance of licenses and commencement operations.As required
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