Consultation on Renewal Process for 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz Licences

5. Spectrum in the 2300 MHz Band (WCS)

5.1 The 2300 MHz Band Internationally

27. Global deployment in the 2300 MHz band, although limited, has been gradually increasing. WiMAX equipment is currently deployed in a number of countries. It is expected that by 2014, several LTE networks with time-division duplexing (LTE TDD) using the 2300 MHz spectrum will be launched in the form of new deployments and WiMAX-to-LTE TDD migration — predominantly in China, India, Malaysia, Australia and South Korea. In particular, operators in India and China have been conducting field trials and demonstrations of LTE TDD technology through joint ventures with manufacturers and chipset vendors.

28. Although the amount of designated spectrum differs among countries, most band plans within the Asia-Pacific region consist of 90 to 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum. In Hong Kong, South Korea and Malaysia, 90 MHz (3 × 30 MHz) of contiguous spectrum was designated for mobile deployments. In India, a total of 40 MHz (2 × 20 MHz) of spectrum was allocated in each service area for Broadband Wireless Access (BWA). These band plans differ significantly from those in North America, where only 30 MHz (15 + 15 MHz) of non-contiguous spectrum is available.

29. In 1997 in the United States, the FCC auctioned and issued WCS licences for a 10-year term with a requirement to demonstrate “substantial service” by 2007. In 2006, the FCC granted a three-year extension (until July 21, 2010) on this requirement, in response to licensees’ claims that both a lack of equipment availability and uncertainty regarding the technical rules for the operation of satellite digital audio radio service (S-DARS) terrestrial repeaters had negatively affected the use and development of the band. The FCC did not extend the licence term at that time, thereby requiring licensees to file renewal applications before the end of the term in 2007.

30. In May 2010, the FCC imposed a freeze on the submission of competing applications (and rejected those previously filed) and granted the renewal for a 10-year term (to 2017). To help ensure deployment within the band, the FCC included enhanced deployment requirements in the renewals for both mobile and fixed operations.

31. To facilitate mobile service deployment in the WCS band, the FCC adopted new rulesFootnote 11 governing the operation of WCS and S-DARS, based on technical analyses and industry interference test results. However, the WCS Coalition filed a petition for reconsideration in September 2010, requesting that the FCC revisit and modify some of the new rules. The FCC has not yet addressed this petition.

32. In June 2012, AT&T and SiriusXM submitted to the FCC a joint proposal that reflects a compromise between WCS and S-DARS interests. This proposal is meant to enable the deployment of LTE systems in the WCS bands while protecting the S-DARS operations, which may lead to changes to the WCS band plan and spectrum usage policyFootnote 12 in the United States. These changes may influence the Canadian band plan and equipment ecosystem, as described in paragraphs 35 and 39.

5.2 Current 2300 MHz Spectrum Usage and Band Plan in Canada

33. In Canada, the 2300-2400 MHz band is allocated on a primary basis to the fixed, mobile and radiolocation services, and to the broadcasting-satellite service (sound) in the band 2310-2360 MHz.Footnote 13 The 2305-2320 MHz and 2345-2360 MHz portions were specifically identified and designated for WCS applications in fixed and mobile environments. The 2320-2345 MHz portion was designated for S-DARS and its complementary terrestrial broadcasting component.

Figure 1 - 2300 MHz Wireless Communication Services (WCS), 30 MHz

Figure 1 – 2300 MHz Wireless Communication Services (WCS), 30 

MHz (the long description is located below the image)
Description of Figure 1

This figure shows the band plan for auctioned 2300 MHz licences. There is one 15 + 15 MHz paired block, labelled A (2305-2320MHz) and A’ (2345-2360 MHz).

34. To facilitate the expansion and enhancement of innovative wireless services such as high-speed Internet, from 2004 to 2009 Industry Canada awarded licences for 15 + 15 MHz blocks in the WCS band. Although the expected use of the spectrum is primarily for the provision of BWA, licensees are free to deploy the spectrum for other applications under the mobile and fixed services, as long as they comply with the technical rules.

35. If new radio applications emerge in the WCS band, Industry Canada may consider revising both the spectrum utilization policy and the band plan for portions of the band.

5.3 Equipment Availability in the 2300 MHz Band

36. Prior to June 2001, spectrum at 2300 MHz in Canada was used for point-to-point networks. These systems were grandfathered following a licensing moratorium placed on 2285-2360 MHz in 2000.Footnote 14 Subsequently, the band was repurposed for WCS, a wireless access technology.Footnote 15 At that time, it was anticipated that the 2300 MHz band would be used predominantly for the provision of local broadband access in fixed point-to-multipoint configurations, although licensees could deploy a full range of systems, including mobile services. However, the restrictive technical specifications placed on mobile devices, such as the out-of-band emission limits (similar to those used in the United States), may have reduced the equipment availability for mobile services in Canada. Consequently, there has been virtually no deployment of mobile services in the band.

37. In order to facilitate operations more effectively through the enactment of mobile broadband technologies in the band, Industry Canada is updating the technical rules for WCS. Harmonizing the current rules with the rules that were newly adopted by the FCC in 2010 is a possibility that is also being considered. This review of the rules, undertaken in collaboration with the Radio Advisory Board of Canada, aims to draft rules that enable deployment of mobile broadband systems in the WCS band while also ensuring coexistence with services in the adjacent bands.

38. A significant ecosystem for LTE devices is expected to emerge in the 2300 MHz band, given that global interest is growing—especially in Asia-Pacific countries—to deploy broadband systems in this band.

39. The amount of non-contiguous WCS spectrum available in Canada and the United States contrasts with the wider contiguous blocks of spectrum in other global band plans. In addition, the service environment in Canada and the United States is different from other global band plans. Efforts must be made to minimize the potential mutual interference between WCS and S-DARS. It remains to be seen whether global equipment will develop further and whether the newly adopted FCC rules, along with any potential revisions to these rules (see paragraph 32), will aid the development of the Canadian equipment ecosystem in the WCS band.

5.4 Status of WCS Licence Deployment in Canada

40. Licensees in the band that are in compliance with the conditions of licence for the current term have an expectation of renewal unless a fundamental reallocation of the band or overriding policy need occurs.Footnote 16 Deployment levels may increase as a result of both the revised deployment requirements as well as the extension of the deployment condition to the end of the licence term. However, given the lack of equipment, additional deployment over the next two years is expected to be minimal.

Table 2 – Deployment for licences in the 2300 MHz band as of July 2011Footnote 17
Number of Licences Met Requirement Partial Deployment No Deployment
172 1 (0.6%) 3 (1.7%) 168 (97.7%)

6. Spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band (FWA)

6.1 The 3500 MHz Band Internationally

41. Currently, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) Table of Frequency Allocations specifies differences among the three ITU regions for the services allocated in the 3400-3800 MHz band. While the fixed service is allocated on a primary basis for the whole band, the mobile service allocations are not harmonized and are therefore subject to different technical requirements in different ITU regions.

42. Many countries around the world are re-examining their 3400-3800 MHz band plans, or parts thereof, to facilitate the introduction of mobile services. So far, this band has been used in many countries to deploy various fixed services and nomadic applications, which provide voice and data services in rural or remote regions as well as urban areas.

43. In Europe, the band 3400-3600 MHz is used primarily for FWA deployments, and this band has numerous country-specific frequency arrangements. To facilitate the introduction of mobile and fixed communications networks, the Electronic Communications Committee of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations has adopted two harmonized frequency-division duplexing (FDD) and TDD frequency arrangements for the band 3400-3600 MHz, and one TDD frequency arrangement for the band 3600-3800 MHz.Footnote 18

44. In the United States, the radiolocation service operates in the band 3400 3650 MHz. The fixed and mobile services operate in the band 3650-3700 MHz, which is used for the deployment of terrestrial wireless broadband applications. As part of the National Broadband Plan,Footnote 19 the band 3550-3650 MHz is under review for a potential reallocation that would allow for the introduction of wireless broadband applications. This reallocation may be subject to large geographic limitations (known as exclusion zones) along the coasts and near specific military sites, owing to the presence of high-power government radar systems. At the time of this document’s publication, the FCC had not made a decision on this band.

6.2 Current 3500 MHz Spectrum Usage and Band Plan in Canada

45. As identified in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations,Footnote 20 the following services have primary allocations or co-primary allocations, or both, in various sub ranges of the band 3400 3800 MHz: radiolocation, mobile, fixed and fixed satellite. The mobile service only has a co primary allocation in the band 3650-3700 MHz and is therefore outside the scope of this consultation. The band plans and technical requirements can be found in the Standard Radio System Plan (SRSP) 303.4, Technical Requirements for Fixed Wireless Access Systems in the Band 3475-3650 MHz.Footnote 21

46. FWA systems are licensed under the fixed service. Licensees may deploy fixed, point to multipoint and point-to-point applications in support of FWA applications, including ancillary portable terminals.

47. Between 2004 and 2009, Industry Canada auctioned the FWA Blocks D, E, F and G in the band 3475 3650 MHz. The 175 MHz of spectrum was auctioned in three paired 25 + 25 MHz blocks (D and H; E and J; F and K) and one stand-alone 25 MHz block (G). These licences were issued on a Tier 4 basis.

Figure 2 — 3500 MHz Fixed Wireless Access (FWA)

Figure 2 – 3500 MHz Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) (the long 

description is located below the image)
Description of Figure 2

This figure shows the band plan for auctioned 3500 MHz licences. It shows the 175 MHz of spectrum from 3475 MHz to 3650 MHz, which is broken into 7 x 25 MHz blocks. The blocks are labelled as follows: D (3475-3500 MHz), E (3500-3525 MHz), F (3525-3550 MHz), G (3550-3575 MHz), H (3575-3600 MHz), J (3600-3625 MHz), and K (3625-3650 MHz). Blocks D and H, E and J, and F and K are paired. Block G is a stand-alone 25 MHz block.

6.3 Equipment Availability in the 3500 MHz Band

48. Although WiMAX-certified base stations for the 3500 MHz band have been available since 2006, the majority of customer premise units (e.g., USB modems, laptops and tablets) began to be certified in 2009. To date, deployments in the 3500 MHz band are fixed and portable, and various versions of WiMAX are used in most of them.

49. At the moment, there is no commercially available 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) LTE equipment for this band.Footnote 22 However, many countries are evaluating their band plans for the 3500 MHz band with a view to allow mobile service in the band. Therefore, an LTE equipment ecosystem is expected to evolve over the next few years as these new band plans are developed internationally and as operators begin deploying in this band. LTE standards support both FDD and TDD modes, and dual mode LTE FDD/TDD chipsets are expected to become available, thereby allowing operators to offer handsets that can operate in existing FDD networks and in newer TDD networks.

50. Given the likelihood that mobile equipment will soon be readily available for the 3500 MHz band, Industry Canada will need to consider the policies and technical rules that are currently in place for this band.

6.4 Impact of Potential Changes to the Band

51. In light of the international developments discussed above, Industry Canada expects significant changes over the next few years to international allocations for the mobile service and frequency arrangements in the 3500 MHz band. The Department will consider changes to the band plan and will modify current allocations in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations to harmonize with those of other countries, as appropriate. The Department reserves the right to decide whether to implement a new band plan, as well as the right to take any action necessary to ensure that a new band plan can be implemented.

52. Licensees in the 3500 MHz band are hereby given advance notification that changes to the existing allocation and band plan may be considered in the next two to three years. Changes may include review of, and possibly revision to, the spectrum utilization policy, the band plan and the authorized frequencies. A consultation process will precede any such changes.

6.5 Status of FWA Licence Deployment in Canada

53. Licensees in the band that are in compliance with the conditions of licence have an expectation of renewal unless a fundamental reallocation of the band or overriding policy need occurs. The second extension and the new deployment requirements are expected to provide additional opportunities for the licensees to comply with the conditions of licence.

Table 3 – Deployment for licences in the 3500 MHz band as of July 2011Footnote 23
Number of Licences Met Requirement Partial Deployment No Deployment
758 128 (16.9%) 68 (9.0%) 562 (74.1%)
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