Radio Spectrum Inventory: A 2010 Snapshot — Canada

Chapter 2 – Fixed Systems (Backhaul and Fixed Wireless Access)

2.2 Current Allocations and Utilization

2.2.1 List of allocated bands

c. FWA

The FWA bands are listed in Table 2.4, which includes information on application and licence types and other notes of interest.

Table 2.4: Summary of FWA bands
Band Application(s) Type of Licence Notes
220-222 MHz
  • AMI and AMR
FCFS Shared with land mobile
512-698 MHz
  • Broadband Internet (RRBS)
FCFS Licence applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis for advanced communications services in remote rural communities in television channels that are unallotted and unassigned to the broadcasting service.
902-928 MHz
  • AMI and AMR
LE Licence-exempt band
953-960 MHz
  • rural telephone service
FCFS
1427-1432 MHz
  • AMI and AMR rural telephone service
FCFS
1435-1452 MHz Under consultation
  • Currently used for remote telephone service and is paired with the band 1492 MHz to 1517 MHz.
- Consultation proposes flexible fixed and mobile applications while maintaining rural telephone services
1452-1492 MHz Under consultation
  • Currently DAB allotment plan, no FWA
- Consultation proposes to rescind DAB allotment plan and allow flexible fixed and mobile applications, including FWA broadband Internet
1492-1518 MHz Under consultation
  • Currently used for remote telephone service and is paired with the band 1435 MHz to 1452 MHz.
FCFS spectrum licence Consultation proposing Aeronautical Mobile Telemetry (harmonize with the United States)
1780-1850 MHz
  • AMI and AMR
FCFS spectrum licence FWA systems used for the management of the electricity supply
2025-2110 MHz
2200-2285 MHz
  • Rural telephone services
FCFS spectrum licence Band mainly used for backhaul
2305-2320 MHz
2345-2360 MHz
  • Broadband Internet (WCS)
Auction spectrum licence
2400-2483.5 MHz
  • Broadband Internet AMI and AMR
LE Licence-exempt band
2500-2690 MHz Under consultation
  • Broadband Internet
Auction spectrum licence Consultation on designation for BRS (refer to Chapter 1 for further information)
3475-3650 MHz
  • Broadband Internet
Auction spectrum licence
3650-3700 MHz
  • Broadband Internet (WBS)
FCFS spectrum licence + contention-based protocol
24.25-24.45 GHz
25.05-25.25 GHz
  • Broadband Internet
Auction spectrum licence
25.35-28.35 GHz
  • Under consultation
- Previously auctioned LMCS spectrum has been returned. Consultation considering fixed p-p and p-mpt use.
38.6-40 GHz
  • Broadband Internet
FCFS Spectrum licence Area licensing with shared use

2.2.2 Type of Licence

Backhaul systems are typically site-licensed on a first-come, first-served (FCFS) basis. The 24.25-25.05 GHz/25.05-25.25 GHz and 38.6-40.0 GHz bands were auctioned in 1999.

FWA systems are site-licensed on an FCFS basis or spectrum-licensed in a particular geographic area by either a competitive process (i.e. auction) or on an FCFS basis. More recently, the Department has used a "lite" licensing regime in the 3.65 GHz band. Under this approach, licensees must apply for a non-exclusive spectrum licence in a geographic area on an FCFS basis and share the band using equipment with contention-based protocols.

2.2.3 Comparison with the United States

2.2.3.1 Backhaul Bands

The majority of backhaul bands are broadly harmonized between Canada and the United States. However, some bands are not harmonized, as described below.

In Canada, the band 1700-1850 MHz was traditionally used for backhaul. In the United States, this band has been reserved for use by federal government licensees. The band 1710-1755 MHz has since been reassigned for mobile Advanced Wireless Services in both Canada and the United States. In Canada, the band 1755-1780 MHz is on hold for possible future use for AWS as well. Although the band 1780-1850 MHz remains a backhaul band in Canada, this is not the case in the United States, and usage in Canada has therefore been low. In 2008 and 2009, Industry Canada decided to make technical rule changes to the sub-band 1800-1830 MHz to accommodate systems for the management of the electricity supply. The United States has yet to identify spectrum for this application.

Both Canada and the United States use the band 2025-2110 MHz for unidirectional applications, primarily electronic news gathering (ENG). Unlike the United States, helicopter ENG is also allowed in this band in Canada. In addition, Canada, unlike the United States, continues to allow the bands 2025-2110/2200-2285 MHz to be used for low and medium capacity backhaul systems.

The 7125-7725/7725-8275 MHz bands are designated for high-capacity use throughout, with some portions designated specifically for low-capacity use. In Canada, the majority of use of these bands is by electrical utilities, whereas in the United States, this is not the case.

Until 2010, the band 10.7-11.7 GHz was harmonized between Canada and the United States. However, as of December 2009, no new backhaul systems will be licensed in the sub-bands 11.075-11.2 GHz and 11.575-11.7 GHz in Canada until January 1, 2026 (though existing systems were grandfathered), so that this spectrum can be used for direct-to-home satellite television.

The United States does not have commercial backhaul spectrum in the band 14.5-15.35 GHz, as it is reserved for federal government licensees. In Canada, the sub-band 14.5-14.875/14.975-15.35 GHz had traditionally been available for two-way systems. In December 2009, spectrum for fixed backhaul systems was reduced to the sub-bands 14.5-14.66/14.975-15.135 GHz and 14.82-14.875/15.295-15.35 GHz. In Canada the sub-band 14.875-14.975 GHz is available for unidirectional backhaul systems.

It is also worth noting that, even in harmonized bands, the exact technical specifications may not be identical between Canada and the United States, though the same equipment should normally be usable in both countries.

2.2.3.2 FWA Bands

In general, Canadian fixed wireless bands align with the U.S. fixed wireless bands. Although the bands themselves are aligned, some usage differences may exist at times, particularly when bands are used for both FWA and backhaul applications. There may also be different channel sizes and pairings, as well as technical criteria. In bands not aligned with the United States, Canada may be harmonized with European spectrum, which allows continued economies of scale.

Notable differences with the United States exist in the following bands:

  • 512-698 MHz  Available in Canada on a case-by-case basis for advanced communications services in remote rural communities in television channels that are unallotted and unassigned to the broadcasting service. In the United States, this spectrum is used for licence-exempt TV Band Devices.
  • 1.435-1.525 GHz The band is under consultation in Canada to accommodate both aeronautical mobile telemetry (AMT) and flexible fixed and mobile applications, including FWA broadband Internet applications. In the United States this band is used solely for aeronautical telemetry.
  • 3.45-3.65 GHz – In Canada, the band is harmonized with European spectrum and allocated to the radiolocation service in the United States.
  • 25.35-28.35 GHz – The band is under consultation to allow fixed point-point and point-multipoint use. In the United States, this band is partially reserved for use by federal government use, and partially designated for fixed point-multipoint use.
Fixed service (Backhaul and FWA) use from 52 MHz to 38 GHz (for additional information, refer to Annex 1):
Fixed service (Backhaul and FWA) use from 52 MHz to 38 GHz (for additional information, refer to Annex 1) [Description of Figure]

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2.3 Spectrum Inventory and Analysis

2.3.1 Major Users

a. Unidirectional Data

The major users of unidirectional data links are those in the broadcasting industry. This includes both television and audio (AM/FM) broadcasting, as well as cable television distribution.

b. Two-way Data

Users of two-way data links include:

  • cellular, telephone and Internet service providers (ISPs), including national, regional and small local companies;
  • electrical power utilities;
  • banks, forestry companies, mining companies, oil and gas companies, pipelines, railways and other businesses;
  • municipal governments; and
  • Federal government departments, including Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Department of National Defence
c. FWA

FWA users include national, as well as smaller local/regional telephone and cellular providers, power utilities, broadcasters and other commercial entities providing telephone services, Internet services, or industrial applications.

2.3.2 Number of Assignments

a. Backhaul (unidirectional and two-way data): Number of Frequency Assignments

There are more than 53,000 fixed land station frequency assignments across Canada. It should be noted that the results of these frequency assignments only consider fixed assignments and do not include other services within the selected frequency bands (i.e. Earth, Space, Aeronautical, Land Mobile, and Aircraft). Figure 2.1 shows the distribution of assignments in each band.

Figure 2.1 – Total Number of Fixed Land Station Frequencies Assigned
Total Number of Fixed Land Station Frequencies Assigned [Description of Figure 2.1]
b. FWA

Detailed deployment data is not available for spectrum-licensed bands in the fixed service. As such, an analysis of the type of usage and relevant auction information was performed on 3 key FWA bands primarily used for broadband Internet applications.

2305-2320 MHz/2345-2360 MHz

This band is used for Wireless Communication Service (WCS), which is licensed under the fixed and mobile services. It was licensed through auctions in various service areas across the country (172 licences issued). There are also a significant number of commercial and government grandfathered point-to-point stations across the country.

WCS deployments can have elements of both the fixed and mobile services, but current technical restrictions limit some mobile applications and the band is predominantly used for the provision of local broadband access services in point-to-multipoint configurations and some broadband point-to-point configurations.

3475-3650 MHz

The 3475-3650 MHz band is used by the fixed service for both FWA and point-to-point applications. It provides three paired blocks of 25 + 25 MHz with 100 MHz separation and one unpaired block. The band is shared with some radiolocation operations and there is a small potential throughout Canada for interference that would cause a reduction in performance of FWA systems. In situations of national security, this band may experience increased interference due to radiolocation activities throughout Canada.

There are more than 1,000 assignments in this band and the large majority were made via auction of the spectrum blocks in various service areas. However, prior to the auction, the band was available for FCFS licensing in rural areas to support broadband access across the country. These licences are mostly concentrated in Ontario.

3650-3700 MHz

This band is used by the Wireless Broadband Service (WBS), allowing a full range of fixed and mobile applications. Spectrum licences are issued on an FCFS basis in various service areas with no limitation on the number of licences that may be issued for the same spectrum and geographic area. All licences have equal access to the spectrum and must use contention-based protocols for all equipment as described by departmental technical standards. As such, licensees do not have the same interference protection rights commonly associated with licensed systems and are expected to cooperate to identify and resolve interference issues themselves. Some FSS receive earth stations located across Canada have been grandfathered and WBS stations must coordinate with them when located within a certain radius of the FSS station(s). Currently, approximately 158 WBS spectrum licences have been issued.

2.3.3 Geographic Location

a. Regional Distribution

Figure 2.3 provides additional details on the distribution of fixed frequency assignments across Canada in each band, based on which region issued the assignment. The percentage distribution includes the frequency assignments of all services within the fixed service designated bands. It should be noted that these percentages are based on the total number of fixed assignments. The highest number of total frequency assignments across Canada in found in the paired bands 17.8-18.3 GHz, with approximately 4,600 assignments each, with the majority in Ontario.

The second highest number of total frequency assignments across Canada is found in the band 5925-6425 MHz, with nearly 4,000 assignments.

Figure 2.2 – Frequency Band Usage by Region
Frequency Band Usage by Region [Description of Figure 2.2]
b. Metropolitan Vs. Non-Metropolitan

Figure 2.3 shows the numbers of metropolitan versus non-metropolitan stations expressed as a percentage. According to the numbers, on average, approximately 65% of all backhaul links in Canada are located outside of metropolitan areas.

Figure 2.3 – Percentage of Metropolitan versus Non-metropolitan Use **Some of the flags were not input into the database**
Percentage of Metropolitan versus Non-metropolitan Use [Description of Figure 2_3]

Note [1]: Total number of frequency assignments associated with all metropolitan areas of Canada. Metropolitan areas are defined as cities with a large urban core population of at least 100,000 people.Footnote 9

Note [2]: Remaining frequency assignments not associated with a metropolitan area.

From the figure, it appears that the number of assignments in metropolitan areas tends to be greater in bands above 14 MHz. This may be due to the fact that the ranges of the microwave links are shorter at higher frequencies and, at the same time, the available capacity is greater.

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2.4 Trend Charts

The following figures show the trends in total number of frequency assignments of all services operating in the predominantly fixed bands, from 1998 to 2010, for a selected number of bands. It should be noted that these trends include not only fixed frequency assignments, but assignments for all services within the selected frequency bands, including Earth, Space, Aeronautical, Land Mobile, and Aircraft assignments.

a. 5925-6425 MHz

This band has seen a decrease of approximately 10% from 1998 to 2010. However, this overall trend masks a rapid decrease between 2000 and 2002, followed by a gradual year-to-year increase afterwards. The initial decrease may be related to the replacement of long-haul microwave networks, which were traditionally located in this band, by fibre optic networks. The more recent increase may be due to the introduction of new services in areas where fibre is not economical.

Figure 2.4 – 5 925-6 425 MHz Trend Chart
5 925-6 425 MHz Trend Chart [Description of Figure 2_4]

b. 10.7-11.7 GHz

There has been a 600% increase in frequency assignments from 1998 to 2010, with most of this growth occurring since 2006. There has been significant growth in use of this spectrum. This may be due to an increasing need for higher capacity short-haul networks to support the growth in broadband cellular two-way communication systems.

Figure 2.5 – 10.7-11.7 GHz Trend 1998 – 2010
Percentage of Metropolitan versus Non-metropolitan Use [Description of Figure 2_5]

c. 17.8-18.3/19.3-19.7 GHz

In the bands 17.8-18.3 and 19.3-19.7 GHz, the number of frequency assignments from 1998 to 2010 increased by more than 800%. The significant growth is also likely due to increased requirements for higher capacity short-haul networks for broadband cellular systems.

Figure 2.6 – 17.8-18.3/19.3-19.7 GHz Trend Chart
17.8-18.3/19.3-19.7 GHz Trend Chart [Description of Figure 2.6]

2.5 Conclusion

Backhaul spectrum usage has been growing rapidly in recent years. This is likely being driven by increasing capacity requirements in support of cellular mobile networks. There is no reason to expect this increase to slow in the future.

Most of the backhaul bands identified in this chapter show significant and increasing levels of use. One exception is the band 3700-4200 MHz, which had traditionally been used for long-haul telecommunications traffic, but which currently has only 147 frequency assignments for two-way systems. Part of the reason for this is likely due to the large antenna sizes needed in this frequency range and the need to coordinate with fixed satellite earth stations. The 5925-6425 MHz band has similar constraints in this respect, but contains far more backhaul frequency assignments. More restrictive licensing rules in the 3700 MHz band are a possible explanation for this difference.

The trend between 1998 and 2010, in the band 5925-6425 MHz has seen a decrease of approximately 10% from 1998 to 2010. However, since 2002, there has been a gradual year-to-year increase. The more recent increase may be due to the introduction of new services in areas where fibre is not economical.

The trends between 1998 and 2010, in the bands 10.7-11.7 GHz showed an increase in frequency assignments of 600% and 800% respectively, with this significant growth due to an increasing need for higher capacity short-haul networks to support the growth in broadband cellular two-way communication systems.

Bands above 20 GHz seem to be most heavily used in metropolitan areas. These bands are not capable of the same long-distance hops as in bands closer to 1 GHz, but this is much less of a factor while bandwidth, which is more plentiful at these frequencies, is more of a factor in metropolitan areas.

An absence of detailed usage data for the auctioned 24 and 38 GHz bands makes their usage difficult to assess.


Footnotes

  1. back to footnote reference 9 Statistics Canada Census 2006 definition of metropolitan area.
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