Study of Future Demand for Radio Spectrum in Canada 2011-2015

6.6 Land-Mobile Service

6.6.1 Overview

Land-mobile (LM) systems support a wide range of communication services, including push-to-talk voice dispatch, paging, telemetry and low-speed data. Land-mobile systems consist of base stations, repeaters, portables and mobiles.

A wide range of licensees make use of land-mobile spectrum. These licensees include commercial licensees (voice and data dispatch, paging and voice/data); government licensees (communications supporting public safety and government operations, etc.); and private licensees (communications for private companies). Land-mobile service accommodates special communication requirements, closed user groups, service functionalities and operation needs that may not be supported by public wireless networks. Public safety agencies, such as police, fire and emergency medical services, extensively utilize the general land-mobile bands for Mission critical communications. The next section, 6.7, on Public Safety (PS) service, will address the spectrum requirements within the general land-mobile bands and the dedicated bands to public safety.

A number LM frequency bands have been providing the bulk of mobile communications services for various users across Canada. The prime LM bands are the 150 MHz (VHF UHF) band, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz bands. Of late, some additional spectrum was added in the 220 MHz and 900 MHz bands. Both the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands are used extensively for mobile operation due to their superior coverage and economics. There are more than 300,000 frequency assignments in the 150 MHz band and more than 120,000 assignments in the 450 MHz band. The use of 800 and 900 MHz bands is based on deploying trunking systems, which include the advanced ESMR cellular technology.

In densely populated areas, such as Southern Ontario's Golden Horseshoe Area (GHA), Montreal and the Greater Vancouver Area (GVA), the use of all four prime bands (150, 450, 800 and 900 MHz) is intense, and special spectrum management measures are used to release limited frequencies for new radio licences. These measures include the use of trunking and narrowband technologyFootnote 31, terminal-loading requirements, and spectrum monitoring aimed at ensuring efficient use of the limited spectrum. In some situations, frequencies are clawed back to be reassigned to more urgent or pressing services.

For many users, private land mobile represents a unique economic solution to meet particular communications needs. LM communications allow the best means of securing service, coverage and functionality critical to their operations. The 900 MHz trunking band is moderately used, and the 220 MHz is lightly used. There is the prospect of further re-farming spectrum in the 150 and 450 MHz bands to narrowband technology using 6.25/7.5 kHz channels (Phase II of the redeployment plan).

6.6.2 Spectrum Inventory and Utilization

The Inventory ReportFootnote 32 provides the band plans and general spectrum usage in the four main land-mobile bands, 150, 450, 800 and 900 MHz, as outlined in the figures below (Figures 6.6.1, 6.6.3, 6.6.5 and 6.6.7).

The largest concentrations of frequency assignments are in large urban centres, as shown in the charts below.

150 MHz VHF and 450 MHz UHF Land-Mobile Bands

A total of 32 MHz of spectrum is available in the 150 MHz band, which is subject to Canada-U.S. sharing arrangements along the border. Montreal, Vancouver, Toronto and Victoria have the greatest concentration of subscribers that use this frequency band, as shown in Figure 6.6.2, below.

Figure 6.6.1 — The 150 MHz VHF Band Plan for Land-Mobile Service

The 150 MHz VHF Band Plan for Land-Mobile Service (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.1

This figure shows the band plan for 150 MHz VHF for the land mobile service. The mobile designations are from 138 MHz to 144 MHz, 148 MHz to 149.08 MHz, 150.5 MHz to 156 MHz, 157.45 MHz to 160.17 MHz, and 162.05 MHz to 174 MHz. Other parts of the band: Amateur service from 144 MHz to 148 MHz; SARIAN-F at 149.08 MHz; MSS from 149.8-150.5 MHz; maritime from 156-157.45 MHz and 161.58-162.05 MHz; and railway from 160.17-161.58 MHz;


Figure 6.6.2 — The 150 MHz VHF Major Metropolitan Distribution

The 150 MHz VHF Major Metropolitan Distribution (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.2

This chart provides the numbers of VHF licenses and frequencies in metropolitan areas. The approximate values from the chart are summarized in the following table. It is noted that these values are estimates, and that given possible inaccuracies in the values, it would be more beneficial to focus on the trends.

The 150 MHz VHF Major Metropolitan Distribution
Metropolitan Area Licence Frequency
Calgary ~240 ~650
Edmonton ~350 ~570
Halifax ~130 ~180
Montreal ~740 ~1580
Ottawa ~220 ~470
Quebec City ~240 ~480
Regina ~85 ~170
Saint John ~40 ~80
St. John's ~140 ~380
Toronto ~530 ~920
Vancouver ~800 ~1500
Victoria ~320 ~1200
Winnipeg ~260 ~500

A total of 44 MHz of spectrum is available in the 450 MHz band, which is subject to the Canada-U.S. sharing arrangements along the border.

Figure 6.6.3 — The 450 MHz UHF Band Plan for Land-Mobile Service

The 450 MHz UHF Band Plan for Land-Mobile Service (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.3

This figure shows the band plan for 450 MHz UHF Land Mobile service. Two separate blocks are shown from 406.1 to 430 MHz and from 450 to 470 MHz. These blocks are designated for mobile, with the exception of the following slivers of spectrum: 414-415 MHz – Fixed; 419-421 MHz – Fixed; 450-451 MHz – STL Aux; 455.025-456 MHz – STL Aux.


Montreal and Toronto have the greatest concentration of licenced frequencies, as can be seen in Figure 6.6.4.

Figure 6.6.4 — UHF Major Metropolitan Distribution

UHF Major Metropolitan Distribution (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.4

This chart provides the numbers of UHF licenses and frequencies in metropolitan areas. The approximate values from the chart are summarized in the following table. It is noted that these values are estimates, and that given possible inaccuracies in the values, it would be more beneficial to focus on the trends.

UHF Major Metropolitan Distribution
Metropolitan Area Licence Frequency
Calgary ~480 ~510
Edmonton ~510 ~1300
Halifax ~300 ~500
Montreal ~1700 ~3400
Ottawa ~350 ~700
Quebec City ~350 ~600
Regina ~200 ~300
Saint John ~80 ~120
St. John's ~150 ~300
Toronto ~1250 ~2800
Vancouver ~750 ~1480
Victoria ~175 ~250
Winnipeg ~325 ~490

800 MHz and 900 MHz UHF Land-Mobile Bands

A total of 28 MHz are assigned for general LM use in the 800 MHz band. Toronto and Montreal have the greatest concentration of 800 MHz users, as can be seen in Figure 6.6.6. A part of the 800 MHz band supports ESMR (iDEN-based cellular-like) service.

It is noted that the U.S. has realigned its 800 MHz land-mobile band plan. The changes include a shift of the 3 + 3 MHz public safety spectrum and a rearrangement of the trunking mobile and ESMR spectrum. As a result, part of the Canadian 800 MHz land-mobile band plan is no longer aligned with the U.S.

Figure 6.6.5 — The 800 MHz Band for Land-Mobile Service

The 800 MHz Band for Land-Mobile Service (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.5

This figure shows the band plan for 800 MHz for Land Mobile service. Two separate blocks are shown from 806 to 824 MHz and from 851 to 869 MHz. Base transmit from 851-866 MHz is paired with mobile transmit from 806 to 821 MHz. The remaining two blocks of spectrum, 821-824 MHz and 866-869 MHz, are designated for public safety.


Figure 6.6.6 — 800 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution

800 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.6

This chart provides the numbers of 800 MHz licenses and frequencies in metropolitan areas. The approximate values from the chart are summarized in the following table. It is noted that these values are estimates, and that given possible inaccuracies in the values, it would be more beneficial to focus on the trends.

800 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution
Metropolitan Area Licence Frequency
Calgary ~480 ~2500
Edmonton ~800 ~3000
Halifax ~100 ~200
Montreal ~1000 ~8000
Ottawa ~500 ~3500
Quebec City ~200 ~900
Regina ~150 ~200
Saint John ~100 ~100
St. John's ~100 ~100
Toronto ~1300 ~16500
Vancouver ~1000 ~480
Victoria ~100 ~500
Winnipeg ~100 ~600

A total of 15 MHz is assigned in the 900 MHz band for LM services. The largest concentration of subscribers that uses the 900 MHz band resides in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), as shown in Figure 6.6.8, after Figure 6.6.7. The 900 MHz band is lighly used, as compared to other land-mobile frequency bands.

Figure 6.6.7 — The 900 MHz Band Plan for Land-Mobile service

The 900 MHz Band Plan for Land-Mobile service (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Note: In the figure above, kindly note that 901-902/940-941 MHz is land mobile and no longer NBPCS, as shown in this figure from the Inventory Report.

Description of Figure 6.6.7

This figure shows the band plan for 900 MHz for Land Mobile service. The parts of the band plan are:

  • LM Base TX from 935-940 MHz paired with LM Mobile TX from 896-901 MHz
  • Narrowband PCS from 901-902 MHz, 930-931 MHz, and 940-941 MHz.
  • License Exempt from 902-928 MHz.
  • Fixed from 928-929 MHz and 932-935 MHz.
  • Paging from 929-930 MHz and 931-932 MHz.

Figure 6.6.8 — 900 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution

900 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.6.8

This chart provides the numbers of 900 MHz licenses and frequencies by Region. The approximate values from the chart are summarized in the following table. It is noted that these values are estimates, and that given possible inaccuracies in the values, it would be more beneficial to focus on the trends.

900 MHz Major Metropolitan Distribution
Metropolitan Area Licence Frequency
Pacific ~300 ~500
PNR ~250 ~350
Ontario ~1300 ~5100
Quebec ~3200 ~4000
Atlantic ~125 ~175

Spectrum Utilization

  • There is approximately 173 MHz of spectrum designated for land-mobile systems (27-941 MHz range), as shown in Table 3.1 of the Inventory Report. A total of 152 MHz is designated for general land-mobile users, and 22 MHz is designated exclusively for public safety (800 and 700 MHz). The four most popular bands (150, 450, 800 and 900 MHz) represent approximately 120 MHz, or 82% of the general land-mobile spectrum designations. However, due to the Canada-U.S. sharing arrangements, a portion of the 150 and 450 MHz spectrum is not usable in Canada along the U.S. border.
  • Canada has been implementing Phase I narrowband technology (equivalent of 15/12.5 kHz channelling) at 150 and 450 MHz for a few years. This is especially true as it relates to new systems in high-usage areas, such as in large cities, where additional licensees may not be accommodatable without moving to 12.5 kHz. To benefit from the spectrum efficiency of narrowband technology, coordination is needed with the U.S. along the border for similar technology implementation.
  • Narrowband systems are based on advanced digital technology, such as trunking systems using TDMA. New technologies, such as TETRAPOL, Software Defined (SDR) and multiband radios, promise to further increase spectrum efficiency for land-mobile bands. The next step in narrowband technology is the implementation of Phase II, which is based on the equivalent of 7.5/6.25 kHz channelling. Phase II implementation is anticipated to begin within two years.
  • Table 6.6.1, below, shows the frequency assignments per MHz for each band and the frequency usage for the four mobile bands. It also shows the frequency density in the 150/450 bands for the three largest cities.
  • In summary:
    • Overall: The 150 MHz band has approximately three times more assignments per MHz than the 450/800 MHz bands, which speaks to its popular use across Canada. The table also shows that the 900 MHz band is underutilized, with the 800 MHz band having almost five times more assignments per MHz.
    • High-density areas: In the 150 MHz band, Vancouver and Montreal have a concentration of frequencies 2.5 to 3.25 times more than in Toronto, based on an area of 100 square kilometers.
    • In the 450 MHz band, Montreal has a much higher frequency density than Toronto and Vancouver.
    • The difference may be explained by the actual number of frequencies available in Toronto for use due to the Canada-U.S. sharing arrangement.
    • In general, the 220 MHz and 900 MHz bands are lightly used.

Table 6.6.1 — Overall frequency assignments per band and per MHz; and frequency density for large cities (Freq./MHz/100 sq. km.)

Band MHz
Total freq. assign. per band
BW (MHz)
Freq. Assign. Per MHz
Density of frequency assignments per MHz (Freq./MHz) Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver
Freq./MHz/
100 sq. km
Total Area in Sq. km
Pop./Sq.Km (average)
150 VHF
302,000
32
9438
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 1600 freq. or 50 freq./MHz, Vancouver = 1500 freq. or 47 freq./MHz, Toronto = 900 freq. or 28 freq./MHz
green Montreal = 1600 freq. or 50 freq./MHz
blue Vancouver = 1500 freq. or 47 freq./MHz
red Toronto = 900 freq. or 28 freq./MHz
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 4.0 f/MHz/100 sq. Km., Vancouver = 3.0 f/MHz/100 sq. Km., Toronto = 1.2 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
green Montreal = 4.0 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
blue Vancouver = 3.0 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
red Toronto = 1.2 f/MHz/100 sq. Km
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 2,279, Vancouver = 1,676, Toronto = 1,178
green Montreal = 2,279
blue Vancouver = 1,676
red Toronto = 1,178
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 2,540, Vancouver = 2,005, Toronto = 1,748
green Montreal = 2,540
blue Vancouver = 2,005
red Toronto = 1,748
450 UHF
121,000
44
2750
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 4700 freq. or 107 freq./MHz, Vancouver = 1800 freq. or 96 freq./MHz, Toronto = 1800 freq. or 41 freq./MHz
green Montreal = 4700 freq. or 107 freq./MHz
blue Vancouver = 1800 freq. or 96 freq./MHz
red Toronto = 1800 freq. or 41 freq./MHz
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 3.5 f/MHz/100 sq. Km., Vancouver = 6.4 f/MHz/100 sq. Km., Toronto = 4.2 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
green Montreal = 3.5 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
blue Vancouver = 6.4 f/MHz/100 sq. Km.
red Toronto = 4.2 f/MHz/100 sq. Km
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 2.279 sq. Km., Vancouver = 1,676 sq. Km., Toronto = 1,178 sq. Km.
green Montreal = 2.279 sq. Km.
blue Vancouver = 1,676 sq. Km.
red Toronto = 1,178 sq. Km
Pie chart with values: Montreal = 2,540, Vancouver = 2,005, Toronto = 1,740
green Montreal = 2,540
blue Vancouver = 2,005
red Toronto = 1,740
800 UHF
99,000
30
3300
Congested in large cities
900 UHF
11,000
15
733
Lightly utilized
Total
533,000
121
4405

Source: Inventory Report and Red Mobile Analysis


The licensing trends for the four land-mobile bands, in terms of number of clients, licences and frequencies over the past 10 years, are outlined in figures 3.18 to 3.22 of the Inventory Report. The Inventory Report summarizes the trends as follows:

  • Assignments have been somewhat declining in the VHF band, increasing in the 800 MHz and 900 MHz bands, and they have remained steady in the UHF band.
  • VHF and UHF bands are heavily used, with a large number of clients in each band.
  • Overall, frequency assignments, the number of licences and users, are relatively stable in the land-mobile bands.
  • Commercial operators, with a large client base, use the 800 MHz band heavily.
  • The 900 MHz band is not heavily used.

6.6.3 Stakeholder Input and Research Analysis

The following information has been gathered through various sources of primary and secondary research. This includes input from the Department of National Defence (DND), regional telecom carriers and other sources. Use of general land-mobile bands for public safety, including the RCMP input, is covered in the public service section, 6.7.

Comments from Stakeholders

  • Based on comments from several regional carriers and stakeholders, it is noted that the use of land-mobile spectrum varies significantly depending on the location and region. In large urban centres (i.e. GTA, GVA, Montreal, etc.) and along certain corridors, portions of the spectrum are heavily used. In contrast, LM spectrum is lightly used in many rural and low-density urban regions. Moderate congestion is observed in some of the medium-sized urban cities (i.e. Regina, Saskatoon, etc.).
  • The DND noted that its Combat Net Radio (IRIS network) operates in the 30-108 MHz range, using sets of frequencies with frequency-hopping technology that can coexist with other users in the same spectrum. The Combat Radio system is expected to continue using the same range of spectrum, even when modernized. Also, some use of the VHF land-mobile band is made at the Canadian Forces bases for less-critical communications. Spectrum is lightly used at military bases, and only moderate growth is expected over the next five years.
  • Over the years, there has been a slow migration of private land-mobile users to commercial systems. The 220 MHz is a suitable alternative to traditional VHF solutions, but acceptance depends significantly on product availability and pricing. According to comments from a major operator, the 900 MHz band does not appear to be a suitable alternative to 700 and 800 MHz, due to performance and option of equipment available.
  • It was noted by a large operator that it is turning down its private mobile services at 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands and migrating users onto commercial mobile (cellular) services in densely populated areas. For the foreseeable future, the operator will continue to utilize the 150 MHz band for private mobile in geographic areas where cellular coverage is not sufficient to meet operational requirements.
  • In areas of low-population density, it has been noted that at least one regional operator plans to utilize the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands to provide subscribers telephone services for the next five years. The fixed wireless service offerings will move to 3G cellular services as infrastructure is introduced.
  • Paging in the VHF band remains a desired service, but the market is not growing. Cellular services address many of the requirements in densely populated regions. VHF paging solutions enjoy high allegiance in rural areas, for volunteer firefighting and EMS applications. Stakeholders noted that no substantial spectrum demand growth is anticipated over the next five years for the traditional paging applications.
  • While at least one regional operator anticipates that commercial mobile networks will be the preferred substitute for government agency users in the land-mobile service in the coming years, most wireless commercial operators generally hold this view. Some operators, therefore, have the view that enterprise and private use of land-mobile spectrum is expected to decline significantly as users migrate to commercial mobile services over the next five years.
  • Similarly, operators believe that commercial mobile networks will be the standard for broadband data communications for enterprise and private mobile users.

Research and Analysis of the Spectrum Management Environment

  • The prime land-mobile bands are at 150MHz, 450 MHz, 800 MHz and 900 MHz and are assigned to a wide range of users from government, commercial and private licensees. An intensive usage of these bands, with the exception of the 900 MHz, has been deployed in large urban areas, such as Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Vancouver and Victoria. Moreover, the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands are heavily used in a number of regions across Canada.
  • The licensing of land-mobile systems in VHF is based on a first-come, first-served basis. Portions of 400 MHz are coordinated on an Inter-leaved or block & zone basis. 700, 800 and 900 MHz are coordinated as block and zone. This involves significant spectrum management activity in the planning of frequency assignments, coordination of installations and monitoring of spectrum for efficient use.
  • Land-mobile service is unlike commercial cellular where the continuous rollout of advanced technology and spectrum-efficient systems are driven by new service offerings, competition and market forces. The implementation of advanced and spectrum-efficient technology in land-mobile bands is often driven by the spectrum regulator in order to accommodate the greatest number of users and service growth within a limited amount of spectrum.
  • To achieve greater spectrum efficiency, several spectrum-management measures have been adopted. These include (especially for high-usage service areas) the maximization of mobile units per assigned frequencies, use of narrowband and advanced technology, the monitoring of spectrum usage/traffic and the clawback of lightly used frequencies.
  • These spectrum measures have allowed for the possibility of further use of the limited land-mobile spectrum over the years. The continued application of best practices in spectrum management within the existing spectrum resource should ensure that reasonable land-mobile frequencies are available for assignment to meet the growing or changing needs of users over the next five years. This assumes that a portion of the users and traffic continues to migrate onto commercial mobile networks, where possible, and preferred by the users.
  • Public Safety represents a very large user group of the traditional 150, 450 and 800 MHz land-mobile bands, in addition to its use of exclusive public safety spectrum (3 + 3 MHz at 800 MHz and 12 + 12 MHz at 700 MHz).
  • Some provincial and municipal public safety systems, such as the Province of Quebec and Montreal Police, extensively use the 150 MHz band. Other provincial public safety systems, such as Saskatchewan, use the 450 MHz band. In addition, large public safety systems (GVA's E-COMM, Toronto) extensively use the 800 MHz band. In general, for wide coverage in rural and remote areas, there is compelling reason to secure frequency assignments in the 150 MHz and/or the 450 MHz bands. This is especially true for areas, such as for southwestern British Columbia and northeastern Alberta and the Northern Territories.
  • The spectrum coordination arrangement with the U.S. in the 150/450 MHz bands and the rollout of narrowband digital technology — such as TDMA, system trunking, and APCO-25 based on Phase I re-farming (15/12.5 kHz channel equivalent) — are having a significant impact on the availability of spectrum and its efficient uses.
  • The prospect of further narrowband technology under Phase II re-farming (7.5/6.25 kHz channel equivalent) in the 150/450 MHz bands, promises a more efficient use of spectrum. Furthermore, the availability of software-defined-radios (SDR), multi-band radios and the efficiency of TETRAPOL trunking systems is expected to extend spectrum availability.
  • The significant portion of the 800 MHz band has been occupied by Enhanced System Mobile Radio (ESMR-iDEN), providing high-mobility cellular-like service, particularly in large urban areas. While the ESMR service is preferred by existing subscribers for its Push-to-Talk (PTT) capability, many have been gradually moving to advanced cellular networks over the last few years.

6.6.4 Service and Spectrum Demand

Approach in Forecasting Future Demand for Services and Spectrum

The aforementioned information and analyses, contained in sections 6.6.2 and 6.6.3, provide a good information base to assist in projecting future service and spectrum demand in land mobile. Also, the information related to the use of mobile spectrum, as presented in Section 6.7 for Public Safety, has to be reconciled as part of the demand for land-mobile bands.

The information considered in estimating the demand for service and spectrum includes:

  • The use of key land-mobile bands (including public safety);
  • Past trends and anticipated usage and user plans;
  • Industry stakeholder perspectives, dynamics, challenges and plans;
  • Technology and regulatory impacts;
  • The level of frequency concentration in high-density urban centres;
  • The use of land mobile for public safety and key issues related to that use;
  • Industry Canada policy and operation provisions and measures influencing spectrum availability.

The approach to project the future demand for service and spectrum in the land-mobile bands is based on information gathered through the various sources mentioned.

Service Demand: Market Analysis

Land-mobile spectrum accommodates a wide range of mobile, paging and fixed applications utilized by a large variety of users, including the private sector, public safety and government agencies. Extensive coordination has to take place in congested urban centres to licence a modest number of new frequencies being released. Through various measures, spectrum managers have been able to modestly accommodate clients thus far. However, dense urban cities and certain corridors are experiencing pressure on spectrum available in some of the most popular bands (e.g. 150/450 MHz).

Land-Mobile Service Demand: Existing and Emerging Service Drivers

Public and private land-mobile services support a wide range of applications, including:

  • Mobile voice: voice messaging and dispatch, group calling, voice paging, etc.
  • Mobile data: low-speed data transmission, with a growing need for high-bandwidth data applications.
  • Specialized service applications: fixed links for tele-control (SCADA), telemetry, monitoring, alarms, machine-to-machine.

Industry trends are expected to improve usage as a result of spectrum efficiency improvements and enhancements in system performance. Some of these trends include:

  • A steadily accelerating degree of migration of some land-mobile users, including enterprise, government, and some PS to advanced commercial mobile (HSPA+ and LTE) networks that meet their features and functionality needs;
  • Newer technologies and standards, such as narrowband TDMA, SDR, multi-band radio, APCO-25, and TETRA will increase the efficiency of land-mobile bands. A better use of the underutilized 900MHz and 220 MHz bands should also occur. Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) systems have many options, including new systems in the 220 MHz and 1400 MHz bands. In some cases, the actual market deployment of these technologies and market penetration of devices capable of fully utilizing these new technologies will take several more years, and, therefore, the net benefit of these developments will be somewhat limited in the near term and may start to have more significant an impact in the later portion of the Study's timeframe;
  • The growing use of cellular for M2M communications is occurring for a range of meter reading and control requirements including water meters and smart meters;
  • Continued monitoring of frequency channel traffic loading and clawback of underutilized frequencies for reassignment.

For many years now, land-mobile services have grown in four main mobile bands (150, 450, 800 and 900 MHz bands) with some 533,000 frequencies presently licenced. These frequency assignments are spread across some 120 MHz of spectrum. The main groups of licensees are commercial and various levels of government users (federal, provincial, municipal and foreign governments), which includes public safety. The distribution of frequencies by groups of users and band is shown in the table below.

Table 6.6.2 — Distrubtion of frequencies, clients and bands
Band/users 150 MHz (freq.) 450 MHz (freq.) 800 MHz (freq.) 900 MHz (freq.) Total (freq.)
Commercial 179,000 91,000 62,000 7,000 362,000 (65%)
Federal Gov. 22,000 8,000 2,000 - 33,000 (6%)
Municipal Gov. 45,000 13,000 31,000 1,000 95,000 (17%)
Provincial Gov. 34,000 8,000 3,000 - 46,000 (8%)
Foreign Gov. 20,000 1,000 - 3,000 25,000 (4%)
Total (frequencies) 300,000 (56%) 121,000 (23%) 98,000 (18%) 11,000 (2%) 533,000 (100%)
MHz available 32 MHz 44 MHz 30 MHz 15 MHz 121 MHz
Total freq. in largest, high-density cities Freq. 22,500 Freq. 38,600 freq. 4,650 freq. 74,600 Freq.

Source: Inventory Report and Red Mobile Analysis


From Table 6.6.2, notice that:

  • Commercial licensees are the largest user group with about 64% use of the frequency assignments (FA). Commercial users represent a very diverse group, ranging from commercial wireless carriers, enterprises, public utilities, industrial, manufacturing and production companies, and resource companies (oil, gas, logging, etc.). Some of these commercial licensees also provide services to local governments.
  • Government represents the second-largest group, based on the number of frequency assignments. Municipalities have the higher assignments in this category, with close to 17%, followed by Provincial governments at 8% FA, and then the Federal Government at 6% of the assignments. A large portion of frequency used by the three levels of government is for public safety, under the multiple categories of PS users. This category of PS users includes mission-critical PS needs of first responders (fire, police and emergency medical services) at all levels of government; municipal operations, including transportation, traffic control, public works, etc.; provincial departments, such as natural resources, public works and others; and federal departments, such as parks, transport, environment, public works and natural resources.
  • The ESMR-iDEN service in the 800 MHz trunk mobile band has been historically popular, especially for its PTT capability that has been unrivalled by alternative cellular systems. However, users have been migrating to cellular systems over the last few years, and it is expected that this trend will continue to some extent, especially as iDEN technology approaches sunset. Service at this band has also been preferred by many users for its historically better in-building RF performance.
  • Users prefer using the 150/45 MHz bands for their better coverage, especially in-building coverage.

The degree of demand for land-mobile service will influence the amount of spectrum required. With the proliferation of smartphones and tablets, growth of vertical-focused mobile applications (apps), the inherent nature of LM users being mobile, and the need for users to streamline costs, the trend has been to migrate to commercial cellular services, where possible. This should take place at a steadily increasingly pace, especially as communication requirements move towards integrated services using multimedia and high-speed data in the private and, to some degree, government sectors.

Although, the numbers of land-mobile users, that use existing LM services, are still expected to grow over this period, resulting in both an increase in voice traffic and mobile units, a growing segment of LM users will have some of their communication needs met by public cellular networks. It is estimated, from the Public Safety section in this Report that the demand for land-mobile frequencies in the 150 and 450 MHz bands will continue for most of the public service systems and may increase, in some cases. In large cities, it is envisaged that the exclusive PS frequencies at 700 MHz for narrowband/wideband service may not be enough, and a continued high demand for 800 MHz will prevail well until 2015.

Table 6.6.3 — Service demand projections
Spectrum Voice (dispatch, paging) Data services
Now
  • Extensive use of land-mobile (150, 450, 800 MHz) bands in large cities and 150/450 MHz in certain regions;
  • Significant spectrum used by PS for voice
  • Modest use of 900 MHz band.
  • Use of land mobile for telemetry, monitoring, especially in rural areas
  • High use of commercial cellular for data services (including PS data needs)
2015
  • Continued extensive use of 150/450 MHz land-mobile bands by PS, and other users;
  • Increased use of cellular for voice by certain users.
  • The new 700 MHz band is unlikely to meet all the voice growth needs of PS in certain urban areas, and growth may occur in the 800 MHz band.
  • Greater rollout of advanced narrowband technology (Phase I/II) and systems based on TDMA, SDR, multi-band radio, APCO-25, and TETRA trunking will improve spectrum efficiency and use of these systems.
  • Substantial use for fixed broadband at 5 GHz;
  • Use of commercial mobile broadband (HSPA+ and LTE) by PS.
  • The 220 MHz band, as well as new spectrum at 1400 MHz, will continue to accommodate Automatic Meter Reading (AMR) requirements.

Source: Red Mobile Analysis


Spectrum Demand

In general, the Study envisages that a modest number of land-mobile frequencies will be released over the next three to five years, due to spectrum efficiency and some migration to commercial cellular service. However, these will quickly be taken up by demand, especially in dense urban areas in the case of the most popular bands. Some of the new public safety systems being built in the 700 MHz band will complement existing systems in the land-mobile band. Advanced commercial mobile networks are expected to accommodate some of the broadband mobile data services and functionality of government and commercial land-mobile users. However, the recently released 700 MHz PS spectrum designated for narrowband/wideband services may not be enough to accommodate growth for mission-critical voice traffic of some public safety systems, and continued use of frequencies in the 800 MHz band will be required for the foreseeable future.

There will always be a high demand for land-mobile service in the 150/450 MHz, due to the inherent economic advantage and wide area coverage. As frequencies are released, they will be assigned to existing systems or new systems.

  • High Demand: The 150, 450, and 800 MHz bands are of high demand for land-mobile service. The 150 and 450 MHz bands will continue to be congested in many regions of the country. The 800 MHz has been heavily used in large cities, but declining ESMR usage is expected to continue over the near term.
  • Moderate Demand: The 220 and 900 MHz bands are expected to have moderate levels of demand until more cost-effective and higher-performing equipment is available.

Pressure Points:

  • Of the 152 MHz of general land-mobile spectrum, 104 MHz (68%) resides in three high-demand bands (150/450/800 MHz). The 150/450 MHz bands are fully occupied in large cities and certain regions (PS, large users), and the 800 MHz band is fully occupied in large cities (due to ESMR, public safety and other usage). However, the number of subscribers on the commercial (iDEN-based) ESMR system has been steadily declining with the gradual migration of users to advanced cellular networks.
  • The exclusive 800 MHz band (3 + 3), for public safety, is fully occupied in cities and certain areas.

6.6.5 Conclusion

For many years now, land-mobile services have been managed in an environment of very high congestions for the 150, 450 and 800 MHz bands. While spectrum for particular applications may not be readily available in the preferred band(s), users have been accommodated or offered alternative spectrum in less-encumbered bands (900 MHz, 220 MHz or others). Public records have shown that the demand for VHF, UHF and 800 MHz frequencies have exceeded spectrum availability in certain large cities and areas of the country. Industry Canada has used a number of spectrum-management measures to ensure the most efficient use of the limited resource and has encouraged a greater use of the underutilized bands.

In conclusion, while regulatory measures, alongside industry trends, may help in releasing frequencies in congested land-mobile bands, any released frequencies are expected to address pent-up, or ongoing, demand in these bands. Also, some of the technology enhancements will start to make a more significant difference in the later part of the Study period. Therefore, despite the migration of users, technology enhancements and regulatory measures, little net-change is expected in the overall demand for spectrum in the bands already seeing pressure, with some increased usage of the currently underutilized bands over the 2010-2015 period.

6.7 Public Safety Service

6.7.1 Overview

The availability of spectrum for effective public safety operation is an important spectrum-management objective. An operating principle has been to give public safety agencies preference to access frequency assignments in the land-mobile bands, and to designate spectrum exclusively for public safety radio systems, where possible. It is recognized that other government agencies may be involved in activities related to the preservation of life and the protection of property, and therefore may also have a need for similar spectrum access for their radio systems. In general, a hierarchy of spectrum access and licensing priority for public safety spectrum is used as follows:

  • Category 1: police, fire and emergency medical services;
  • Category 2: forestry, public works, public transit, dangerous chemical cleanup, customs and other agencies contributing to public safety; and
  • Category 3: other government agencies and selected supervisory personnel of certain non-government agencies (i.e. hydro and gas utilities).

The 150 MHz, 450 MHz, 800 MHz, and 900 MHz land-mobile bands have been extensively used, over the years, by public safety agencies. As discussed in Section 6.6, above, these bands are shared with a wide range of users, often in highly congested spectrum. The adoption of narrowband technology, terminal loading, advanced digital trunking systems, and spectrum monitoring have assisted Industry Canada in continually releasing some frequencies for licensing in the land-mobile bands. This detailed management of the spectrum is of particular importance to enable Industry Canada to accommodate the most pressing needs in congested urban areas and vicinities. A main issue of concern with public safety systems has been the large number of incompatible systems in operation by distinct agencies of municipal, provincial and federal jurisdictions, and the lack of interoperability. The problem was underscored with first responders' inability to communicate following the 9/11 attacks in the U.S. For new PS systems, the first-responder communities in the U.S. and Canada have diligently worked with their regulators to arrive at common system standards and interoperability specifications. Radio Policy (RP)-25, released in 2009, provides the principles to facilitate and enable radio interoperability.

Through a series of policy and technical standard proceedingsFootnote 33 during the 2004-2010 timeframe, Industry Canada allocated and designated the bands 764-776 MHz and 794-806 MHz (12 + 12 MHz) for public safety use. Furthermore, a rearrangement of the band plan was made in the 2009-2010 timeframe, in which the sub-bands 768-776 MHz and 798-806 MHz (8 + 8 MHz) were designated to narrowband/broadband PS systems. The release of the remaining sub-bands 764-768 MHz and 794-798 MHz (4 + 4 MHz) is subject to future spectrum proceedings. Since then, a number of public safety agencies have either received approvals for, or have submitted applications to begin, developing modern public safety systems with full interoperability, in the new 700 MHz spectrum. At this early phase of implementation, a significant amount of the 700 MHz spectrum remains available fo r new PS systems across Canada.

6.7.2 Spectrum Inventory and Utilization

The Inventory Report outlines the frequency bands dedicated to public safety in 800 MHz and the upper 700 MHz bands, as shown in Figure 6.7.1, below.

Figure 6.7.1 — 800 MHz public safety band plan (3 + 3 MHz), exclusively to PS

800 MHz public safety band plan (3 + 3 MHz), exclusively to PS (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.7.1

This figure shows the band plan for 800 MHz for public safety. The two blocks of spectrum, 821-824 MHz and 866-869 MHz, are designated for public safety. Two separate blocks from 806 to 824 MHz and from 851 to 869 MHz are shown for land mobile, with base transmit from 851-866 MHz paired with mobile transmit from 806 to 821 MHz.


Figure 6.7.2 — 700 MHz public safety band plan (8 + 8 MHz opened for PS, according to SRSP-511Footnote 34)

700 MHz public safety band plan (8 + 8 MHz opened for PS, according to SRSP-511) (the long description is located below the image)

Source: Inventory Report

Description of Figure 6.7.2

This figure shows the band plan for 700 MHz Public Safety. Two separate blocks are shown from 768 to 776 MHz and from 798 to 806 MHz. Public Safety Base transmit from 768-775 MHz is paired with public safety mobile transmit from 798-805MHz. The remaining two blocks of spectrum, 775-776 MHz and 805-806 MHz, are unpaired.


The new 700 MHz public safety spectrum (8 + 8 MHz) was assigned to narrowband and wideband applications in 2009. This provides important dedicated spectrum for the development of new systems and to augment or replace existing systems.

In late 2010, Industry Canada carried out further public consultation for the remaining spectrum in the 700 MHz range (in ranges 698-768 MHz and 776-798 MHz) for commercial broadband mobile service and broadband use for public safetyFootnote 35.

A significant number of comments were received from federal, provincial and municipal public safety users with strong support for the allocation of continuous 10 + 10 MHz blocks for broadband public safety applications.

There is unanimous support to align the Canadian band plan with the U.S. band plan, according to the scheme in Figure 6.7.3, below.

The PS community has proposed that a total of 10 + 10 MHz be assigned to broadband PS applications. This spectrum would be made up of paired blocks D (5 + 5 MHz) and the adjacent 5 + 5 MHz of spectrum, of which 4 + 4 MHz is already allocated to public safety spectrum. Some other respondents to the 700 MHz Consultation have suggested that, given the extensive use of advanced cellular networks to support much of the broadband traffic needs of PS, only 5 + 5 MHz is sufficient for PS use.

Figure 6.7.3 — U.S. Band plan for the 700 MHz band proposed for Canada (paired D blocks 5 + 5 MHz for broadband PS spectrum)

U.S. Band plan for the 700 MHz band proposed for Canada (the long description is located below the image)
Description of Figure 6.7.3

This figure shows the U.S. Band Plan for the 700 MHz band proposed for Canada.

Lower 700 MHz band (TV Channels 52-59)
Block Frequency (MHz) Bandwidth (MHz) Pairing Area Type Licenses
A 698-704, 728-743 12 2x6MHz EA 176
B 704-710, 734-740 12 2x6MHz CMA 734
C 710-716, 740-746 12 2x6MHz CMA 734
D 716-722 6 Unpaired EAG 6
E 722-728 6 Unpaired EA 176
C 746-757, 776-787 22 2x11MHz REAG 12
A 757-758, 787-788 2 MHz 2x1 MHz MEA 52
D 758-776 MHz 10 MHz 2x5 MHz Nationwide 1*
B 775-776, 805-806 2 MHz 2x1 MHz MEA 52

* Subject to conditions respecting a public/private partnership


Industry Canada released 50 MHz of spectrum for public safety to accommodate broadband access systems in the band 4940-4990 MHz in 2006Footnote 36. The 50 MHz has the prospect of greatly improving the communications, data access and coordination of the operation of various public service agencies from urban centres to small communities (during normal operation and during emergency situations).

Although some broadband systems have been implemented by public safety agencies, the deployments are still at an early stage, and a significant amount of unused spectrum remains available.

In addition to the exclusive spectrum assigned to PS agencies, public safety makes extensive use of the traditional land-mobile bands (described in Section 6.6.2, above). These LM bands are shared with thousands of other users. For example, some radio systems are in operation in the 150, 450 and 800 MHz bands and used by the police, fire and emergency services in many of Canada's large cities.

Spectrum Utilization

From the Inventory Report, the land-mobile frequencies assigned to government users are summarized in Table 6.7.1, shown below. From this information, we obtain a general understanding of the level of frequency assignments that support government requirements, of which public safety is a large and critical component.

Table 6.7.1 — Total frequency assigned in each bands, cities and governments

Band
Frequency Assignments (FA) across Canada
Bandwidth (BW) [MHz] FA/BW [Freq/MHz] Freq. Assign. Per MHz
Largest concentration of Frequency Assignments
Frequency Assignments used by all levels of Government (Canada-wide)
150 VHF
300,000
32 MHz
9375 FA/MHz
Bar graph containing the following approximated values: Montreal: ~1600, Vancouver: ~1500, Victoria: ~1200, Toronto: ~900
Montreal: ~1600,
Vancouver: ~1500,
Victoria: ~1200,
Toronto: ~900
Pie chart containing the following nos. of assignments: Commercial 179,000, Municipal govt. 45,000, Provincial govt. 34,000, Federal govt. 22,000,Foreign govt. 20,000
Commercial 179,000
Municipal govt. 45,000
Provincial govt. 34,000
Federal govt. 22,000
Foreign govt. 20,000
450 VHF
121,000
44 MHz
2750 FA/MHz
Bar graph containing the following approximated values: Montreal: ~4800, Vancouver: ~4200, Victoria: ~1800, Toronto: ~1700
Montreal: ~4800
Toronto: ~4200
Vancouver: ~1800
Edmonton: ~1700
Pie chart containing the following nos. of assignments: Commercial 91,000, Municipal govt. 13,000, Provincial govt. 8,000, Federal govt. 8,000, Foreign govt. 1,000
Commercial 91,000
Municipal govt. 13,000
Provincial govt. 8,000
Federal govt. 8,000
Foreign govt. 1,000
800 UHF
100,000
28 MHz
3571 FA/MHz
N/A
Pie chart containing the following nos. of assignments: Commercial 91,000, Municipal govt. 13,000, Provincial govt. 8,000, Federal govt. 8,000
Commercial 91,000
Municipal govt. 13,000
Provincial govt. 8,000
Federal govt. 8,000
900 UHF
11,000
15 MHz
733 FA/MHz
N/A
Pie chart containing the following nos. of assignments: Commercial 7,000, Municipal govt. 1,000, Foreign govt. 3,000
Commercial 7,000
Municipal govt. 1,000
Foreign govt. 3,000
Total
533,000
120 MHz
N/A
Pie chart containing the following nos. of assignments: Commercial 362,000 (65%), Municipal govt. 95,000 (17%), Provincial govt. 46,000 (8%), Federal govt. 33,000 (6%), Foreign govt. 25,000 (4%)
Commercial 362,000 (65%)
Municipal govt. 95,000 (17%)
Provincial govt. 46,000 (8%)
Federal govt. 33,000 (6%)
Foreign govt. 25,000 (4%)

Source: Inventory Report and Red Mobile Analysis


The government is a large user of the land-mobile bands. An important and large portion of the government frequency assignments is for service within the three categories of public safety discussed earlier. Municipal governments are the largest government users in the 150 and 450 MHz bands, and a sizable amount of that spectrum is for public safety first responders, including police, fire, ambulance and emergency services (category 1). Provincial and federal governments are the second-largest government users of the 150 and 450 MHz bands, which consist of a sizable amount of spectrum used for first public safety networks.

6.7.3 Stakeholder Input and Research Analysis

The following information has been gathered through various sources of primary and secondary research, including:

  • RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police);
  • Some regional telecom carriers;
  • Some comments from public safety community on new broadband spectrum at 700 MHz.

Highlight of RCMP Comments

In its submission, the RCMP provided a unique account of the major public safety communication activities across Canada. The RCMP provides federal and provincial/municipal policing to eight provinces (with the exception of Ontario and Quebec), the three territories, three international airports, 184 Aboriginal communities and to more than 190 MunicipalitiesFootnote 37.

A synopsis of RCMP's input is as follows:

  • The RCMP suggested that, in order to obtain the full benefit for broadband public service communications, and to adequately deploy LTE, at least 10 + 10 MHz is needed in the 700 MHz band.
  • The RCMP noted that there will be a gradual rollout of 700 MHz narrowband spectrum for new PS systems. Some areas have relatively new communications systems and may not implement 700 MHz over the next five years.
  • New communication systems to be deployed within the next five years are expected to use the new 700 MHz PS band. Depending on the type of system installed, this may release some spectrum in land-mobile bands over time as users migrate and older systems are taken offline.
  • In the view of the RCMP, if the modernization of the Maritime PS network goes ahead, VHF spectrum is expected to be released over time, as services are moved to 700 MHz band, and older systems are no longer operational. Likewise, some of the 800 MHz spectrum may also be released over time.
  • A new Alberta system would be a hybrid of the 700 MHz and VHF system to accommodate multi-users. Some spectrum could be reused, exchanged or returned, depending on how many other users will be part of the provincial system.
  • In Ontario, the RCMP is in the early planning stages of revamping its communications system. The 400 and 700 MHz bands are being considered, based on a 12.5 kHz P25 Trunking system. There will be a requirement for more UHF spectrum with the 700 MHz to improve coverage and to provide better in-building coverage in dense urban areas.
  • There is a lack of interoperability for channels at VHF and 450 MHz, domestically and along the border.
  • A new communications system has recently been installed in the province of Saskatchewan for multi-users using P25 trunking technology in the VHF band. 450 MHz and 900 MHz bands are used for point-to-point links.
  • In B.C., there are considerations to establish a 700 MHz infrastructure in a number of urban centres. Currently, there is a multi-cell 800 MHz EDACS trunked radio system, which is due for a technology refresh in 2014. It could be expected that the new system will operate in the public safety 700 MHz band. It could be anticipated that a great deal of the 800 MHz spectrum will be released as the EDACS system is decommissioned. The RCMP currently uses commercial service providers for most of its mobile data requirements, and it expects this trend to continue.
  • The RCMP in British Columbia is currently a large user of the VHF spectrum, mainly at 150 MHz. Although the VHF band is congested, and it is difficult to get new assignments, this frequency band is better suited than 700 MHz for many of the operations outside of the urban core. The RCMP expects to continue to fully utilize any available spectrum in this band.
  • The Manitoba Fleetnet system, which operates in the 800 MHz band, supports a multi-user environment. The demand for new spectrum in Manitoba will be modest. The RCMP will make use of new 3G/4G technology, but it will not replace the current land-mobile systems.

Comments from Telecom Carriers

  • According to input from carriers, their view is that several public safety requirements could be met through secure or dedicated service arrangements, with commercial service providers using 3.5/4G networks. However, the current land-mobile assignments to public safety will not necessarily be vacated soon for the 700 MHz spectrum.
  • Their view was that existing trunked radio solutions are very inefficient in their use of spectrum. The modernization of public safety mobile systems will free up spectrum for commercial and private use.
  • A gradual migration is anticipated from existing PS systems in land-mobile bands to a dedicated 700 MHz PS spectrum.

Some Comments on Potential New Broadband Spectrum at 700 MHz for Public Safety

In the recent 700 MHz band Consultation, Industry Canada sought comments on potentially assigning broadband spectrum (5 + 5 MHz block D) for Public Safety. PS users have encouraged Industry Canada in their public comments to assign as much as 10 + 10 MHz of 700 MHz broadband spectrum for a range of applications. The PS community's argument for new spectrum is based on a range of new broadband data service applications and operation requirements rather than the growth of traditional narrowband voice services.

Several studies and papers are available to support a range of different views on the approach to accommodate broadband public safety at 700 MHz. The opinions of these studies vary on the best approach to be taken. Without bias towards any specific submission, we summarize the findings of three studies herein to provide a background to some of the viewpoints, and to enable us to summarize some of the anticipated service demand, based on analysis of some industry players. The reader is strongly urged to also review the responses to the 700 MHz Consultation for a more detailed and complete review.

1. A study done by Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) for the public safety communityFootnote 38 on the 700 MHz broadband Consultation has established the aggregate data for day-to-day operations and for an extreme event, such as a large riot. Their analysis is for a multi-user system's requirement over the course of 10 years and is illustrated in Figure 6.7.4, below:

Figure 6.7.4 — Aggregate data demand (downlink and uplink)

Aggregate data demand (the long description is located below the image)

Source: based on information taken from Figure 3.6, page 23, of DRDC Submission

Description of Figure 6.7.4

This chart provides the aggregate data demand (downlink and uplink). The data is summarized in the following table:

Aggregate data demand (downlink and uplink)
Year Aggregate Data Demand
Year 1 20 Mbps
Year 2 21 Mbps
Year 3 24 Mbps
Year 4 28 Mbps
Year 5 30 Mbps
Year 10 50 Mbps

Some conclusions of the DRDC study list are as follows:

  • 10 + 10 MHz may be insufficient bandwidth to support public safety in the 10-15-year horizon;
  • However, they also note that, improved spectral efficiency will likely outpace public safety demand for data, and, as a consequence, the required spectrum should decrease beyond year 10 (penetration of LTE devices among public safety users is expected to saturate).
  • Despite the rapid pace of technology innovation, the ability to meet PS requirements with 10 + 10 MHz in the distant future, i.e. beyond 15 years, is not evident.

2. Another study of interest is by Motorola, titled, "Barricaded Suspect Incident Analysis: Enhancing critical incident response with public safety using Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology"Footnote 39.

The study analyzes the cumulative broadband traffic as various components of public safety activity are added to a safety crisis situation along the action timeline. The study shows the broadband data capacity usage for downlink and uplink transmission. From the examples presented, it can be determined how the average cell-sector capacity would accommodate the various data usage scenarios with an LTE system using either 5 + 5 MHz channels or 10 + 10 MHz channels. The scenarios show a cumulative data utilization of 16,000 MB for downlink data, and 10,000 MB for uplink data, transmitted for a period of 250 minutes. The average sector capacity of an LTE 5 + 5 MHz channel is 8 Mbps downlink and 3.5 Mbps uplink. That of a 10 + 10 MHz channel is 16.7 Mbps and 8.4 Mbps, respectively.

3. Lastly, an FCC whitepaperFootnote 40 focuses on the use of 5 + 5 MHz spectrum, and describes the scope and merit of the recommendations of the National Broadband Plan (NBP) on the deployment of a nationwide interoperable public safety broadband wireless network, based on LTE technology at 700 MHz. The NBP recommends, among other things, the development of a broadband public safety network based on 10 MHz (block D) leveraging a partnership with commercial carriers. Under the recommended Plan, the PS community would hold full right to the spectrum and the infrastructure, which will be shared between public safety and commercial entities, to improve economics and efficiency. The Plan would provide capacity for all day-to-day operations and for serious emergency scenarios. Surge capacity for emergency would be provided through priority access onto commercial LTE networks.

At this time, the FCC has decided that new public safety broadband networks in the 700 MHz band will need to use LTE technology to ensure synergy and compatibility with LTE commercial networks. At the time of authoring this document, the FCC had not yet decided on the approach for developing a nationwide PS broadband infrastructure or whether to adopt the NBP recommendations, in part or in whole.

Analysis of the Spectrum Management Environment of Public Safety

  • Public safety is a large user group of the 150, 450 and 800 MHz land-mobile bands. In addition, public safety users have exclusive access to public safety spectrum in the 800 MHz (3 + 3 MHz) and 700 MHz (12 + 12 MHz) bands. Many of the government radio systems are used for some form of public safety and protection services.
  • Public safety is afforded some priority access for shared land-mobile bands.
  • The public safety band at 800 MHz is extensively used in large urban centres across the country. As the U.S. has rearranged the band plan at 800 MHz for public safety and some of the trunk mobile/ESMR spectrum, these portions of the band are no longer aligned in the common use for public safety operation along the border.
  • Several spectrum management measures are being adopted to achieve greater spectrum efficiency and system interoperability. These include, in high-usage service areas, the maximization of mobile units per assigned frequencies, use of narrowband and advanced technologies, the monitoring of spectrum usage/traffic and clawback of lightly used frequencies. Furthermore, this includes the development of common systems at 700 MHz to be shared by several public safety users (police, fire and emergency first respondents).
  • The continued application of these best practices should ensure that reasonable land-mobile frequencies, in conjunction with the new 700 MHz band, meet the evolving needs of public safety service over the next five years.
  • Some provincial and municipal public safety systems, i.e. Province of Quebec and Montreal, make extensive use of the 150 MHz band. Other provincial public safety systems, such as Saskatchewan, use the 450 MHz band. In addition, the 800 MHz band is extensively used for large public safety systems, i.e. the Greater Vancouver Area (E-COMM) and Toronto. In general, for wide coverage in rural and remote areas, there is a high demand for the 150 MHz and 450 MHz bands
  • There is considerable interest in developing common public safety systems at 700 MHz for police, fire and ambulance. Some of these new 700 MHz systems are being integrated as hybrid to existing systems. As examples, narrowband 700 MHz systems are proposed in Greater Vancouver Area with the existing 800 MHz ECOMM system, and in Alberta, with the existing province-wide 150 MHz system.
  • The prospect of further implementation of narrowband technology, under Phase II re-farming (7.5/6.25 kHz channel equivalent) in the 150/450 MHz bands, may help to increase the number of equivalent frequency assignments over the next few years. Furthermore, the availability of software-defined-radio (SDR), multi-band radio and the efficiency of TETRAPOL trunking systems could greatly improve the more efficient use of spectrum.
  • Advanced commercial cellular networks, using HSPA and LTE, may also accommodate some of the public safety data requirements.

6.7.4 Services and Spectrum Demand

Approach in Forecasting Future Demand for Public Safety Service and Spectrum

The foregoing information and analysis, contained in sections 6.7.2 and 6.7.3, were used to assess future service and spectrum demand for public safety. Also, some information presented in the land-mobile service, Section 6.6, is relevant to public safety. In determining the service and spectrum demand environment, the following was considered:

  • The exclusive PS assignment at 800 and 700 MHz bands;
  • Past trends and anticipated usage;
  • Stakeholder perspectives, dynamics, challenges and plans;
  • Technology and policy provisions for new PS systems;
  • Level of frequency concentration in high-density urban centres;
  • The PS use of land mobile for public safety and key issues related to that use;
  • The prospect of broadband public safety network in the 700 MHz band.

Service Demand: Market Analysis

Public safety systems support specialized radio applications with features and functionality often different from traditional commercial mobile services. The use of the spectrum is based on having dedicated and reliable communications, which are often time-critical in nature.

The demand for services will continue to grow, with an accelerated move towards high-speed data and broadband communications for public safety applications. In general, the common elements of change in this sector, based on stakeholder input and research include growth in the following applications:

  • Voice traffic: voice dispatch; group calling; 9-1-1 calls;
  • Broadband data: multitude of broadband applications;
  • Messaging: SMS, MMS, email;
  • Database access and record upload: Map info, building plans, still images, biometric data, traffic advisories, etc.;
  • Monitoring: i.e. vehicle location, tracking resources, telemetry;
  • Video applications: surveillance, tactical support, ambulance-patient monitoring, public transit, etc.

The degree of demand for these applications varies on a day-to-day basis. Also, with public safety, one needs to account for extraordinary events, in which case, there can be a significant spike in usage and, hence, in demand.

As highlighted in Table 6.7.4, below, over the next several years to 2015, government land-mobile users and PS service agencies are expected to make greater use of advanced cellular networks, such as HSPA+ and LTE, for data-rich applications. This is considered especially true where the combination of high data rates, mobility and large coverage areas come into play.

While the use of 4.9 GHz spectrum is still limited, it is felt that its use for metropolitan area broadband wireless communications will increasingly play an important role for access and some point-to-point connectivity between sites.

The potential of future broadband PS spectrum at 700 MHz would accommodate a range of public safety needs for high-speed data communications. LTE technology for new broadband PS networks at 700 MHz would provide a common air-interface between public safety and commercial broadband networks.

Table 6.7.4 — General quantification of service and spectrum demand
Public Safety Service needs & plans Solutions & installation base Spectrum usage & needs
Past PS began to implement:
  • Multi-user systems and interoperability;
  • Broadband RLAN for day-to-day operation of fire, police and EMS in 4940 MHz;
  • 700 MHz networks.
Now (2011)
  • Major modernizations underway in PS systems in various locations, using 700 MHz (as described by RCMP).
  • Continued PS use of Land-mobile bands for voice services
  • Large number of municipal frequency assignments are used for PS
  • Other government frequency assignments are also used for PS-related services.
  • PS is large user of land mobile;
  • Only limited land-mobile frequencies available for growth in certain areas.
Future (to 2015)
  • High growth of new broadband PS applications, i.e. first respondents, emergency;
  • Continued growth of voice and low-data communications
  • A large number of narrowband PS assignments in 700 MHz;
  • A considerable number of broadband systems in the fixed 4940 MHz band
  • Use of some commercial HSPA+ and LTE commercial systems for broadband PS communications.
  • Extensive use of 700 MHz and continued use of land-mobile bands for voice growth.
  • Increase use of commercial HSPA+ and LTE for PS broadband data applications
  • PS broadband network, at 700 MHz, may begin accommodating broadband applications

Source: Red Mobile Analysis


Spectrum Demand

Public safety services have been assigned a total of 22 MHz of public safety spectrum for narrowband/wideband mobile applications and 50 MHz of spectrum for broadband applications. The following spectrum has been exclusively assigned for PS use:

  • 800 MHz band (3 + 3 MHz);
  • 700 MHz band (8 + 8 MHz); and
  • 4940 MHz band (50 MHz for broadband).

Industry Canada is considering the assignment of additional spectrum in the 700 MHz band for broadband PS use.

The demand for spectrum in this band is influenced by a number of dynamics including organic growth of users and traffic on existing LM bands, rapid growth as a result of data-rich multimedia applications, the migration of some services onto cellular networks and the evolution of PS systems on new spectrum.

In assessing the level of impact, it is important to note the key areas of pressure, as described below.

Pressure Points:

  • The 150, 450 and 800 MHz land-mobile bands are fully occupied in large cities and certain regions with few frequencies available to be assigned.
  • Generally, groups of frequencies are not available in the 150, 450 MHz and 800 bands to expand public safety systems or to establish critical mobile communications along the border.
  • The exclusive PS spectrum in the 800 MHz band (3 + 3) is fully occupied in the largest cities.

Clearly, the prime LM bands used by PS for communications are either highly congested or quickly approaching congestion for large urban cities. As a result of the rollout of new 700 MHz systems; the sharing of common system among PS agencies; and more spectrally efficient technologies in use, it is envisaged that a small portion of contiguous land mobile frequency assignments may be released overtime, and likely closer to the 2014-15 timeframe. However, we believe that, in many situations, these dynamics may not be entirely enough to fulfill the organically growing need for narrowband communications, and any released spectrum will likely be utilized to service this demand. This is because it will take time for new systems to be implemented and for users to migrate. In addition, legacy systems will continue to be used in conjunction to the new systems well beyond the 2015 timeframe.

In terms of addressing the need for broadband communications, it is noted that the existing 4.9 GHz spectrum is underutilized, and its use will continue to grow for metropolitan-area use. However, for larger coverage areas, and where better coverage is needed in-building, the allocation of 700 MHz spectrum for mobile broadband use would provide opportunities for PS to have high-speed data capabilities for a wide range of data-rich services and applications.

6.7.5 Conclusion

In summary, groups of 150/450/800 MHz land-mobile frequencies are not available for new PS systems, especially in border areas and dense urban cities. Despite developments including use of newer, more spectrally efficient technologies; narrowbanding; use of 700 MHz spectrum; and use of cellular networks for some PS applications, it is expected that any released frequency assignments will be used up to serve existing demand.

In terms of PS communications, interoperability is crucial between first responders from different PS agencies, and new deployments in the 700 MHz band are expected to facilitate this.

Despite the new 700 MHz spectrum, it is expected that the 800 MHz land-mobile spectrum used by PS will continue to grow at current rates in large urban areas over the Study period.

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