Radio Spectrum Inventory: A 2010 Snapshot — Canada

Chapter 11–Radiodetermination (terrestrial) Service

11.1 Background

11.1.1 Definition of Service

Radiodetermination systems use the propagation properties of radio waves to determine the position, velocity or other characteristics of an object, or to obtain information relating to these parameters. The radiodetermination service includes the radionavigation service and the radiolocation service. Radionavigation is used for the purposes of navigation, including obstruction warning and/or to determine one's position. Radiolocation is used for purposes other than navigation. This may include monitoring environmental conditions (lightning, storms, precipitation and wind), locating, identifying, and characterizing objects in the water or air.

11.1.2 Broad Description of Type of Service/Applications

Radionavigation and radiolocation systems are often referred to as radar devices. Radar is an acronym that stands for radio detection and ranging. A radar device uses radio waves to identify characteristics of objects such as range, altitude, direction or speed. The radio wave emitted from the radar device hits the object being detected and scatters in many directions. The portion of the signal that returns to the radar device can be analyzed to determine the characteristics of the object under interest.

The use of radiodetermination systems for military purposes gained popularity during the Second World War to locate air, ground and sea targets. Today, the civilian world uses radiodetermination systems to monitor aircraft, vessels, vehicles and various components of weather, such as precipitation, wind direction and speed. Newer applications include automobile radar for driving in reverse, ground penetration radar for geological purposes, building penetrating radar for public safety, as well as speed radar for determining the speed of automobiles and trains.

Radiodetermination systems typically use high power pulsed signals and operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The use of pulsed signals allow radionavigation and radiolocation systems to share spectrum easily so they are often allocated within the same frequency range. The high power pulsed nature of the emissions result in difficult sharing scenarios with services such as fixed and mobile.

The radionavigation service most often operates in frequency bands with a primary allocation and has special recognition in the ITU's international Radio Regulations under Article 4.10:

4.10 Member States recognize that the safety aspects of radionavigation and other safety services require special measures to ensure their freedom from harmful interference; it is necessary therefore to take this factor into account in the assignment and use of frequencies.

Radiolocation radars perform a variety of functions, such as:

  • tracking space launch vehicles and aeronautical vehicles undergoing developmental and operational testing;
  • sea and air surveillance;
  • environmental measurements (e.g. study of ocean water cycles and weather phenomena such as hurricanes);
  • Earth imaging; and
  • national defence and multinational peacekeeping.

11.2 Current Allocations and Utilization

11.2.1 List of Allocated Bands

  • 2900-3100 MHz
  • 5460-5470 MHz
  • 9300-9800 MHz
  • 15700-16200 MHz
  • 24250-24650 MHz
  • 31800-33400 MHz
  • 430-450 MHz
  • 902-928 MHz
  • 1215-1390 MHz
  • 2300-2500 MHz
  • 2900-3500 MHz
  • 5250-5850 MHz
  • 8500-10550 MHz
  • 13400-14000 MHz
  • 15700-17300 MHz
  • 24050-24250 MHz
  • 33400-36000 MHz

11.2.2 Type of Licence (spectrum vs. frequency)

Radionavigation and radiolocation systems are licensed by frequency. Military radar systems often operate in frequency hopping mode and have many frequencies assigned to one station. Operation in frequency hopping mode prevents the radar signals from being intercepted and/or disrupted.

11.2.3 Comparison with the United States

In general, radionavigation and radiolocation services are allocated globally through the ITU's international Radio Regulations. As a result, Canada and the United States have very similar allocations for radionavigation and radiolocation services. There are slight differences between the countries in terms of the status of allocations. For example, in the United States, the band 9000-9200 MHz is allocated to the radiolocation service on a secondary basis, whereas in Canada, it is allocated on a primary basis.

Radiodetermination use from 52  MHz to 38GHz (for additional information, refer to Annex 1):
Radiodetermination use from 52 GHz [Description of Figure]

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11.3 Spectrum Inventory and Analysis

11.3.1 Major Users

430-450 MHz Radiolocation service–Used by surveyors for Differential Global Positioning Service (DGPS)

The band 430-450 MHz is currently underutilized by the radiolocation service. In rural areas, it is used for surveying activities to provide more accurate positioning information. This application uses low power, land mobile equipment to augment Global Positioning Service (GPS) data for more accurate location information. Wind shear radar/wind profiler applications are commonly used in this band, but not currently in Canada. This frequency band provides unique characteristics that are ideal for very long range detection, identification and tracking of objects. In some countries, space object tracking and cataloguing are accomplished in this frequency band using very high power transmitters and high antenna gains.

902-928 MHz Radiolocation service–Limited to Government of Canada

Radiolocation applications in this band are limited to shipborne radar along the coastline of Canada, including Hudson Bay, James Bay and up the St. Lawrence River as far as Rimouski, Quebec. Shipboard sea and air surveillance radars are used for ship protection and operate continuously while the ship is under way, as well as entering and leaving port areas. These surveillance radars usually employ moderately high power transmitters and high antenna gains, which scan electronically in elevation and mechanically a full 360° in azimuth. Operations can be such that multiple ships are operating these radars simultaneously in a given geographical area.

1215-1390 MHz Radiolocation service–Mostly used by government departments

Most radiolocation systems in this band are part of the North Warning System along the north and east coasts of Canada, which include a chain of short–and long-range radar stations (Figure 1). The North Warning System provides strategic aerospace surveillance to ensure that Canadian sovereignty is upheld and support Canada's role in NORAD. The cost of the system is shared between Canada and the United States. The radiolocation systems operating in this band are primarily used for detection of airborne objects. They are required to measure target altitude, as well as range and bearing. These radars must have a great sensitivity and must provide a high degree of suppression for all forms of clutter return, including that from sea, land and precipitation. NAV CANADA also operates some aeronautical radionavigation systems in the sub-band 1300-1350 MHz.

Figure 1–Map showing geographic concentration of radiolocation stations along the north and east coasts of Canada operated by the North Warning System in the band 1215-1390 MHz and aeronautical radionavigation stations
Figure 1–Map showing geographic concentration of radiolocation stations along the north and east coasts of Canada operated by the North Warning System in the band 1215-1390 MHz and aeronautical radionavigation stations [Description of Figure 1]
2900-3100 MHz Radionavigation and radiolocation service–Mostly used by government departments

This band has limited terrestrial use in Canada, but is used on aircraft and ships. It is primarily used by radiolocation services with 84% of assignments and radionavigation services using 16% of assignments. This band is also used for commercial shipborne radars, which are not licensed in Canada. Internationally, this band is used for an integrated weather network spanning the entire United States, Guam, Puerto Rico, Japan, South Korea, China and Portugal.

3100-3500 MHz Radiolocation service

In Canada, there is very limited use of this band by terrestrial radiolocation applications. It is a popular band for air defence radar applications on aircraft.

5250-5850 MHz Radiolocation service–Mostly used by government departments

Environment Canada operates its network of weather radars in the sub-band 5600-5650 MHz. These meteorological radars are used for detection of severe weather elements, such as tornadoes, hurricanes and violent thunderstorms, as well as wind shear and turbulence. Quantitative measurements are used in real time as a critical and unique data source for hydrological, meteorological and environmental forecasting. Through numerical data assimilation, modelling and forecasting of weather, flooding and pollution, particularly on the occasions of damaging events, the data are used to increase the accuracy and timeliness of forecasts and warnings. These applications can be critical to safety and protection of the general public for both life and property.

Figure 2–Map of radar sites in the band 5250-5850 MHz. Most radars in this band belong to Environment Canada's meteorological radar network.
Figure 2–Map of radar sites in the band 5250-5850 MHz. Most radars in this band belong to Environment Canada's meteorological radar network. [Description of Figure 2]

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8500-10550 MHz Radiolocation and radionavigation service–Mostly used by government departments

The band 9300-9800 MHz is the workhorse band for terrestrial radionavigation. It is a commonly used band by Canadian Coast Guard and Fisheries and Oceans Canada for monitoring vessel traffic, and NAV CANADA as part of its air traffic control operations. It is also used by commercial shipborne radar on ships ranging from pleasure craft to large carrier vessels. Across Canada, the band 10500-10550 MHz is heavily used by law enforcement, railways and transit authorities for speed detection. Low-power applications include ground penetrating radar for geophysical surveys and mapping operations.

15700-17300 MHz Radiolocation service

This band is currently used by low-power transportable radiolocation systems. These systems are typically ground penetrating radar or building penetrating radar used for mapping and public safety. This band is also used for airport surface detection equipment under the radionavigation service in the band 15700-16200 MHz.

33400-36000 MHz Radiolocation service

Due to the short range of radar devices as the frequency band increases, this band is being increasingly used by radiolocation devices to detect the speed of traffic and trains. These devices are also used for sporting events, such as car racing, and to measure the speed of baseball pitches. Bands not used currently in Canada by radiodetermination services:

  • 890-902 MHz Radiolocation
  • 928-942 MHz Radiolocation
  • 2300-2500 MHz Radiolocation
  • 3100-3500 MHz Radiolocation
  • 5460-5470 MHz Radionavigation
  • 24250-24650 MHz Radionavigation
  • 31800-33400 MHz Radionavigation

11.3.2 Number of assignments and geographic information

Table 11.1
Service Band (MHz) Location Number of Assignments
Radiolocation 430-450 Mostly rural >4000
Radiolocation 902-928 Limited to coastline 0 (ships not licensed)
Radiolocation and radionavigation 1215-1390 East/west coast
Northern Canada
99 radionavigation
1,430 radiolocation
Radiolocation 2700-2900 Airborne commercial and military 9 assignments
Radionavigation 2900-3100 Across Canada 128
Radionavigation 5250-5850 Across Canada 35 Environment Canada weather radar,
9 other
Across Canada Heavily used and some growth
> 500 radiolocation
1 weather radar
> 1,000 aircraft
Radiolocation 13400-14000 Limited use in Canada > 400 aircraft station
1 radiolocation
Across Canada 21 aircraft
400 low power
Radiolocation 33400-36000 Across Canada 60

11.4 Trend Charts

Chart 1–Trends by frequency bands from 1998 to 2010
Chart 1–Trends by frequency bands from 1998 to 2010 [Description of chart 1]

In general, the number of assignments in the radionavigation and radiolocation services has been relatively stable over the past 12 years. However, as these systems become more sensitive and sophisticated, they require more bandwidth. This may not result in more assignments, but will result in more spectrum use by the same number of licensees.

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