Decisions on a Band Plan for Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework to License Spectrum in the Band 2500-2690 MHz

Part A – Decisions on Band Plan and Mapping of Incumbents to the New Band Plan (Continued)

2. Mapping of Incumbents into the BRS Band Plan

2.1 General Discussion

The Department consulted on methods to reorganize the frequency blocks authorized for use by incumbents in the band plan:

  1. through voluntary agreements which rely on market forces and mutually beneficial solutions instead of the Department imposing a solution; or
  2. through direct action by the Department, for example, by the reassignment of spectrum licences, among other possible measures.

The following sections provide Industry Canada's decisions on the mapping of incumbents into the BRS band plan, categorized by specific geographic areas and mapping scenarios.

2.2 Mapping of Incumbents in Regions where the MDS Spectrum has not been Licensed

In certain regions (shown as Region A in Appendix A), including Alberta, the Atlantic Provinces, the Yukon, and parts of British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec, spectrum holdings in the 0–2690 MHz band are currently divided between a BRS licensee (Inukshuk, the former MCS incumbent) and Industry Canada (the MDS spectrum holder). Currently, Inukshuk holds a BRS licence in the bands 0–2535 MHz and 8–2596 MHz, as well as an interim MCS licence in the band 5–2568 MHz.

In the Northwest Territories (NWT) and Nunavut, SSI currently holds two MCS licences. Conversion to BRS will require SSI to return a portion of its MCS spectrum to the Department. The MDS spectrum has not been licensed in these areas.

To facilitate the use of paired spectrum, the Department sought comments in DGSO-001-10 on its proposal to mandate the exchange of the existing licence authorizing the use 20 MHz of the MCS spectrum by the MCS incumbent for a new one authorizing the use of 20 MHz of currently unassigned spectrum.

Inukshuk supported the principle of licence exchanges where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed.

SSI was of the view that a reassignment of licences should not be mandated in NWT and Nunavut, in order to provide operators with maximum flexibility in the use of BRS spectrum. SSI stressed that this approach would be crucial for SSI given the difficulties and costs associated with replacing its wireless equipment in these areas. SSI commented that its operation employs TDD technology to bring Internet service to 54 of the most remote communities in Canada and that the new BRS band plan would require significant changes to its operation and equipment.

The Department notes that, should a mandatory reassignment of licences not be required with the adoption of the ITU band plan, the band 2620–2660 MHz in the upper paired spectrum would be left without a paired frequency block in the lower portion of the band. A mandated reassignment would provide, to both incumbents and new entrants, the certainty of the availability of paired spectrum in a timely manner. The Department understands the concern of incumbents currently using TDD technology that it will be necessary to ensure that sufficient time be allowed for the physical migration of the existing network facilities to minimize any negative impact of migration to the new band plan. The issue of a physical migration date will be addressed in Section 2.2.1 below. Therefore, the bands 2540–2570 MHz and 2660–2690 MHz will be designated as returned spectrum. As well, BRS licensees in the band 2520–2540 MHz will be required to exchange their licences authorizing the use of this spectrum for a licence authorizing the use of unassigned spectrum in the 2620–2640 MHz range. Industry Canada will issue a new BRS licence authorizing the use of spectrum blocks of 2500–2520 MHz, 2620–2640 MHz and 2570–2595 MHz.

2.2.1 Physical Migration Date – Bands 2520–2540 MHz, 2540–2570 MHz and 2595–2596 MHz

Comments were sought on the timing aspects related to the physical migration of the existing network facilities to the new band plan, including the timing required for the completion of all transactions regarding spectrum exchanges and returned spectrum. MTS Allstream was of the view that Industry Canada should give incumbents as much time as is reasonably necessary to migrate to the new band plan. TELUS, Motorola and RABC stated that incumbents should be given a period of 12 months starting from the issuance of a displacement notice by Industry Canada. The Department should issue displacement notices after having reviewed and approved displacement requests from BRS licensees. Inukshuk provided similar comments, except it stated that incumbents should be given a minimum period of 12 months starting from the issuance of a displacement notice by the Department. EastLink and QMI preferred using the auction date as a reference point. EastLink urged Industry Canada to set a hard deadline for transition based on the auction date, whereas QMI proposed that migration be completed no later than 12 months before the beginning of the auction. EastLink further indicated that a period of less than 12–36 months from the date of displacement notice would be preferable. SSI urged the Department to make its band plan determinations sufficiently flexible to accommodate the constraints faced by SSI in its operating territory. In order to avoid disruption to its network and customers, SSI requested the maximum time available for migration of existing network facilities to the new band plan—ideally, not before March 31, 2021.

The Department recognizes the challenges associated with the physical migration of existing systems and their impact on users, particularly in northern areas of Canada, i.e. Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, where a longer migration time may be necessary. In order to minimize such impact, the Department agrees that existing systems will not be required to be displaced unless and until it becomes necessary. The Department agrees that sufficient time should be given to incumbents in order to update or replace the existing MCS and MDS radio systems with new systems based on the new BRS band plan and new broadband technologies, including the transition of current users to new systems. However, the Department also recognizes that a prolonged migration time can prevent the deployment of new BRS systems. Therefore, it has been decided that the transition policy included in Section 2.2.2 will apply.

Accordingly, incumbent licensees are herewith advised to begin planning and implementing their migration plan in a timely manner.

2.2.2 Decisions
Decisions applicable to Region A in Appendix A:

2-1 In areas (shown as Region A in Appendix A) where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed, new BRS licences based on an "exchange" of spectrum usage, as shown in Figure 7 below, will apply.

Figure 6 – Band plan prior to April 1, 2011, in areas where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed

Figure 6 – Band plan prior to April 1, 2011, in areas where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed  (the long description is located below the image)

Figure 7 – BRS band plan as of April 1, 2011, in areas where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed

Figure 7 – BRS band plan as of April 1, 2011, in areas where the MDS spectrum has not been licensed  (the long description is located below the image)

2-2 BRS licences authorizing use of the bands 2500–2520 MHz, 2570–2595 MHz and 2620–2640 MHz will be issued to eligible incumbents.

2-3 The bands 2520–2570 MHz and 2640–2690 MHz (50 + 50 MHz of paired spectrum), and 2595–2620 MHz (25 MHz of unpaired spectrum) will be licensed by the Department, as set out in Part B of this paper.

2-4 Operations of stations by incumbent licensees in the bands 2520–2570 MHz and 2595–2596 MHz (see also Section 2.5 of this paper) are subject to the following conditions:

Incumbent systems in the bands 2520–2570 MHz and 2595–2596 MHz are permitted to continue to operate, but are subject to displacement. Industry Canada may issue a displacement notice on the following basis:

  1. Where a BRS licensee planning to deploy its services in its authorized spectrum identifies specific incumbent station(s) that may prevent their deployment, the BRS licensee can approach the Department with an identification of the areas, the spectrum required and time frames for their deployment that will be affected by an incumbent station(s). Industry Canada will examine the submission and may issue a displacement notice requiring the incumbent licensee to cease or migrate all or part of its operations in order to provide for the timely deployment of BRS systems by the BRS licensee.
  2. The following minimum notification periods will apply:
    1. For incumbent systems operating in Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut, incumbent stations subject to displacement will be afforded a minimum of a two-year notification period; and
    2. For incumbent systems operating in all other areas within Region A, incumbent stations subject to displacement will be afforded a minimum of a six-month notification period.
  3. Voluntary agreements between the BRS licensees and the incumbent licensees may provide for earlier displacement or for the continued operation of the incumbent systems.
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