Consultation on Spectrum Utilization Policies and Technical Requirements Related to Backhaul Spectrum in Various Bands, Including Bands Shared With Satellite, Mobile and Other Services

Posted on Industry Canada website:

1. Intent

Through this consultation paper, announced in Canada Gazette notice SMSE-018-12, Industry Canada is hereby initiating public discussion on backhaul spectrum, in light of the increasing requirements and demand for backhaul capacity. This broad consultation seeks comments on the possibility of making additional spectrum available for backhaul, as well as views on updating standards and policies, with a view to increasing flexibility, utilization and efficiency, taking into account technological advances.

2. Policy Objectives

The Minister of Industry, through the Department of Industry Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations, with due regard to the objectives of the Telecommunications Act, is responsible for spectrum management in Canada. As such, the Minister is responsible for developing national policies for spectrum utilization and ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

In developing policies and a technical framework to make additional spectrum available, Industry Canada takes into consideration the need to provide spectrum access for new services and technologies, including backhaul applications; the impact of such a framework on all stakeholders; and the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC). The policy objective of the SPFC is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

3. Background

Spectrum is a finite resource and its management is contingent on effective policies and efficient practices to optimize its utilization and facilitate equitable sharing among users.

There is a growing shift towards wireless broadband services. With global mobile traffic expected to increase significantly over the next five years, mobile data traffic will overtake mobile voice. Wireless carriers, which rely on the use of fixed systems to backhaul their telecommunications traffic, are anticipating significant growth in their service offerings due to new broadband mobile data applications, the continued deployment of third and fourth generation wireless mobile systems, as well as increased usage of multimedia and high bandwidth applications. As a result of the Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) auction in 2008, many new wireless carriers have entered the Canadian marketplace, further pressuring existing backhaul spectrum resources. With the provision of these high-capacity (HC) applications to subscribers, carriers may need to increase their backhaul capacity to accommodate this traffic.

In addition to the traffic associated with mobile broadband, Internet service providers (ISPs) are also faced with increasing subscriber capacity and traffic requirements. Although ISPs use various solutions to connect their customers to their network, they are increasingly relying on wireless solutions, with some gradually identifying and employing licensed backhaul spectrum to meet their traffic needs.

Over the past few years, spectrum that was once designated for microwave backhaul use has been reallocated for other services. Most recently, the Department redesignated a portion of the 15 GHz bandFootnote 1 (14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz) for government-exclusive aeronautical mobile applications in the mobile service, and introduced a one-time transitional solution whereby the bands 11.075-11.2 GHz and 11.575-11.7 GHzFootnote 2 were reallocated to provide direct-to-home (DTH) services in Canada.

3.1 International Backhaul Strategies and Initiatives

Many administrations are either in the process of, or have completed, an assessment of spectrum utilization as part of their spectrum management planning. Given the significant increase in demand by various services, including backhaul, Industry Canada completed a spectrum inventoryFootnote 3 of the 52 MHz to 38 GHz frequency range, in which the Department examined the current Canadian spectrum environment. This study focussed on the allocations and assignments of 12 services and applications, including fixed backhaul. This data provided the Department with the necessary information to further its technical and strategic planning functions. The fixed service (FS) (point-to-point and point-to-multipoint) is allocated almost 24 GHz of spectrum within the 52 MHz to 95 GHz frequency range.

In addition to the spectrum inventory, the Department commissioned a study to evaluate the future demand of radio spectrum in Canada, which was recently released.Footnote 4 As part of the study of the many services and applications in the 52 MHz to 38 GHz range, detailed assessments were conducted on the following five services: cellular, broadcasting (radio and television), fixed wireless access, backhaul and satellite communication services. The findings indicated that due to several factors, including the offloading of traffic, the migration from microwave to fibre for high-capacity links and general improvement in spectral efficiencies, there is enough backhaul spectrum overall to meet the demand and growth in traffic over the next three to five years.Footnote 5 However, the report also noted that, given the high growth of assignments in frequency bands within the 11 to 23 GHz range and with the growth in cellular traffic, these bands will experience an increase in the demand over the next few years.

3.1.1 United States

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) National Broadband Plan (NBP)Footnote 6 included discussions and recommendations on increasing the flexibility, capacity and cost-effectiveness of spectrum for wireless backhaul services.

Given that many wireless providers increasingly rely on microwave for backhaul, especially in rural areas, the NBP recommended that the FCC take steps to ensure that sufficient microwave spectrum is available to meet current and future demand for wireless backhaul. The FCC has targeted the bands below 13 GHz for backhaul given their propagation characteristics. In addition, it recommended that the FCC revise Parts 74, 78 and 101 of its rules to allow for increased spectrum sharing among compatible point-to-point microwave services.

The NBP noted that the following bands below 12 GHz, currently available for point-to-point microwave backhaul, either on a primary basis or secondary to other uses in the band, are preferred for long-haul heavy route backhaul due to the rain fading effects at higher frequencies:

  • 3700-4200 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth on a primary basis);
  • 5925-6425 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite Earth-to-space on a primary basis);
  • 6525-6700 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite Earth-to-space on a primary basis);
  • 6700-6875 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite Earth-to-space and space-to-Earth on a primary basis);
  • 10550-10600 MHz (no other services sharing the band);
  • 10600-10680 MHz (shared with Earth exploration-satellite passive, space research passive on a primary basis); and
  • 10700-11700 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth on a primary basis).

In August 2010, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking and Notice of Inquiry (FCC 10-146),Footnote 7 in which it sought comments on ways to facilitate the use of microwave for wireless backhaul and other uses, and on ways to provide additional flexibility to broadcast auxiliary service and operational fixed microwave licensees. Specifically, the FCC sought comments on its proposed rulemakings that will permit greater sharing between FS operators in the bands 6875-7125 MHz and 12.7-13.2 GHz; the elimination of the “final link rule,” which prohibits broadcasters from using certain spectrum for their final link of program material delivery to broadcast stations; the use of adaptive modulation; and permit auxiliary fixed stations. The FCC 10-146 notice of inquiry sought comments and views on: relaxing the efficiency standards (capacity requirements) in rural areas; reviewing Part 101 antenna standards to make use of smaller antennas; weighing the impact on the radio environment; and in general, on increasing the flexibility of the rules and procedures as a means of reducing backhaul costs and promoting the growth of broadband.

The FCC published its Report and Order, Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, and Memorandum Opinion and Order (FCC 11-120)Footnote 8 in August 2011, announcing its decisions regarding FCC 10-146. Part 101 of the Rules was amended to provide an additional 650 MHz of FS allocations in the 7 GHz (6875- 6975 MHz and 7025-7125 MHz) and 13 GHz (12700-13150 MHz) bands in areas where TV pickup stations are not licensed, to eliminate the final link rule and to permit the use of adaptive modulation. Although a petition for reconsiderationFootnote 9 was filed in November 2011 regarding WT Docket No. 10-153Footnote 10 of the above rulemaking proceeding, the FCC declined to modify the Report and Order.

To provide additional flexibility for wireless backhaul, the FCC, through FCC 12-87,Footnote 11 has liberalized its rules to allow for smaller antennas in the 6 GHz (5925- 6875 MHz), 18 GHz (17700-18820 MHz and 18920-19700 MHz) and 23 GHz (21200-23600 MHz) bands, relaxed efficiency standards in rural areas, increased channel bandwidths in the Lower 6 GHz (5925-6425 MHz) and 11 GHz (10700-11700 MHz) bands to 60 MHz and 80 MHz respectively, revised the criteria for waivers when antennas are pointed towards geostationary satellites to better align with international regulations, and updated efficiency standards.

3.1.2 United Kingdom

In January 2007, the Office of Communications (Ofcom) for the United Kingdom (U.K.) released the results of a study it commissioned into future options for efficient backhaul.Footnote 12 Through industry stakeholder input on technology evolution, future backhaul requirements, and an examination of international trends and deployments, the impact of backhaul on the development of future U.K. networks’ ability to carry mixed traffic, high-capacity applications, and high data rate service was investigated.

The study revealed that increases in data volumes, data rates of new services and capacities, coupled with new devices and technologies, will drive backhaul needs. As population densities grow, there is a movement towards smaller cells (macro/micro/pico base station) resulting in the need for additional links spaced closer together. The study also indicated that each backhaul solution has its own merits for different types of deployment in rural, suburban and urban areas along with its own set of obstacles, whether it is public opposition to additional towers and antennas, lengthier rollout times, or range limitations.

Of the multiple backhaul technologies currently available, point-to-point microwave, fibre and DSL were anticipated to dominate future backhaul networks within the United Kingdom. Due to their overall variety of strengths in technical performance (range, capacity and reliability), cost and speed to deployment, some solutions are more suitable in certain areas than others. Ofcom anticipates that in the coming years, with the advancement of technology, increased traffic volumes and deployments in the rural, suburban and urban markets, there is enough spectrum (30 GHz available for point-to-point FS with the release of 10 GHz above 70 GHz), to meet the United Kingdom’s backhaul demands.

In March 2011, the United Kingdom’s Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS), in conjunction with other major departments of state, released a report entitled Enabling UK growth – Releasing public spectrum: Making 500 MHz of spectrum available by 2020,Footnote 13 in which it set out how it plans to release at least 500 MHz of public sector spectrum below 5 GHz by 2020. Although demand seems to be the highest for mobile services, various market demand studies and discussions with the industry were conducted to gauge demand for a wide range of possible applications. The market studies revealed that more than 100 MHz of additional backhaul spectrum was desired to support fixed and mobile broadband within the 3.5 GHz frequency range in rural areas, and within the 10 GHz frequency range in urban areas. In an effort to improve spectrum efficiencies, public spectrum holdings are being reviewed and additional spectrum may be released. DCMS plans to coordinate its spectrum release plans with Ofcom, where appropriate.

In 2011, Aegis Systems Ltd. provided Ofcom with its commissioned report on the underlying drivers of demand by various industry sectors (e.g. utility and public). Its analysis indicated that the dominant driver for this demand was backhaul, in particular for public mobile networks. Even though demand for fixed links in the United Kingdom has generally been stable over the past couple of years, there are some areas that are experiencing congestion. The study indicated that although there will be sufficient spectrum to meet all anticipated future needs for fixed links in the bands above 20 GHz, there may not be sufficient spectrum between 3 GHz and 20 GHz to meet the demand given the future deployment of broadband networks. Coinciding with the release of this study, on January 31, 2012, Ofcom initiated a consultation on spectrum management policy measures to facilitate more efficient usage of the fixed link bands between 1.4 GHz and 86 GHz. This multi-phase consultation focuses on the spectrum demand in the next five to 10 years and the underlying factors influencing change. Future consultations will examine possible changes to the management of these bands (e.g. new licensing mechanisms and new models of band management).

3.1.3 Australia

In April 2008, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released its spectrum demand analysis and five-year work plans entitled Five-year Spectrum Outlook 2009-2014.Footnote 14 The consultation examined the ACMA’s spectrum management program, drivers of spectrum demand, various work projects, including a review of government licences, as well as current and future spectrum requirements of nine radiocommunication services.

The analysis of microwave fixed services focused on long-haul, medium-haul, backhaul and urban networks. Spectrum demand in Australia is expected to be driven by a variety of factors, including international trends, increased capacity requirements to support broadband services, high-capacity applications and the increased use of non-radio alternatives.

Currently in Australia, the majority of bands are lightly to moderately utilized; however, the limited spectrum below 3 GHz has resulted in a shift to further use spectrum within the 6 to 8 GHz range. It is anticipated that all of the bands above 7 GHz will experience a growth in demand, in particular within the bands 50 GHz, 58 GHz, 71-76 GHz and 81-86 GHz. Although it is thought that there is sufficient spectrum to meet increased backhaul requirements, the ACMA anticipates that in highly dense areas, demand may exceed supply in 10 years within certain frequency bands (i.e. 7.5 GHz, 13 GHz, 15 GHz and 22 GHz). As such, the ACMA routinely conducts licensing studies and seeks input from stakeholders to gauge potential areas where congestion may be a concern. As a means of resolving demand issues, the ACMA investigates methods and technologies to increase spectrum efficiencies and will look to possibly releasing additional spectrum, exploring unpaired spectrum, and promoting non-radio alternatives.

4. Backhaul in Canada

Worldwide, regulators are dealing with increasing demands for access to radio spectrum. With advances in technology and the rapidly increasing demand for broadband mobile services, spectrum usage audits and forecasting are valuable tools in determining future spectrum demand. Through international benchmarking, it is becoming apparent that the demand for additional backhaul capacity is global, and not specific to Canada.

The international and regional nature of spectrum usage and harmonization provides regulators with opportunities to identify global trends and build on technological and spectrum management advances. While forecasting backhaul demand provides insight into future requirements, it is also important to understand how the spectrum is utilized and in what capacity. These spectrum studies and analyses provide regulators with valuable information, and are also beneficial to stakeholders in their design and planning for new wireless technology and services.

4.1 Overview of the Canadian Backhaul Market

There are multiple backhaul solutions, including fibre optics, leased lines, microwave radio and satellites. Generally, a combination of backhaul solutions is employed in Canada, with service providers tending to favour a mix of fibre and wireless microwave. Backhaul communication is defined as the “transport of aggregate communication signals from base stations to the core network.”Footnote 15 For the purposes of this consultation paper, backhaul is considered as any form of transport of aggregated traffic regardless of the source and destination.

Historically, microwave radio in the FS has been the largest user of spectrum above 1 GHz. Spectrum policies have provided for suitable spectrum for a variety of fixed system applications, such as: long-haul, heavy route microwave systems; light-to-medium route microwave systems; as well as systems supporting broadcast undertakings, including studio transmitter links (STL), highly portable news gathering units, inter-studio video transmission, and a variety of point-to-point and multipoint systems for cable television operations.

Backhaul networks are designed to employ a diverse range of frequency bands depending on specific technical requirements, design characteristics and operational practicalities. Although there are many frequency bands available for backhaul, the following are the most frequently assignedFootnote 16 in Canada:

  • Lower 6 GHz: 5925-6425 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite Earth-to-space on a primary basis);
  • Upper 6 GHz: 6425-6930 MHz (shared with fixed-satellite Earth-to-space and/or space-to-Earth on a primary basis);
  • 11 GHz: 10.7-11.7 GHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth on a primary basis);
  • 15 GHz: 14.5-15.35 GHz (shared with mobile, which is a primary/secondary service);
  • 18 GHz: 17.8-18.3 / 19.3-19.7 GHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth and/or Earth-to-space and/or meteorological-satellite service space-to-Earth on a primary basis);
  • 23 GHz: 21.8-22.4 / 23.0-23.6 GHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth on a primary basis); and
  • 38 GHz: 38.4-40.0 GHz (shared with fixed-satellite space-to-Earth, mobile and/or mobile-satellite space-to-Earth on a primary basis and/or Earth exploration- satellite space-to-Earth on a secondary basis).

Traditionally, bands shared on a co-primary basis between the FS and the fixed satellite service (FSS) could accommodate fixed microwave systems, due to the relatively limited number of stations in both services. As the number of FS and FSS deployments continues to increase, sharing and deployment issues may develop. For instance, in the 11 GHz band, which is shared on a primary basis between the FS and the FSS, there was tremendous growth in the total number of FS frequency assignments; a 600% increase from 1998 to 2010. This increase may be a result of requirements for higher capacity short-haul links to support the cellular systems. Concurrently, there is demand for the FSS to deploy very small aperture terminals (VSATs), and even direct-to-home television services. Increased deployments by both the FS and FSS may affect sharing, potential growth and expansion of these services in the future.

Since the issuance of AWS and other licences for mobile spectrum in the 2 GHz range in late 2008 and early 2009, there has been a dramatic increase in licence requests for microwave backhaul as new entrants have begun building their own networks, and as incumbents overlay and upgrade their networks for long-term evolution/high-speed packet access (LTE/HSPA+ technologies). This increase, especially in the higher frequency bands, is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1: Applications submitted for new fixed point-to-point assignmentsFootnote 17 within microwave site-specific licensedFootnote 18 bands above 1 GHz

Applications submitted for new fixed point-to-point 

assignments within microwave site-specific licensed bands above 1 GHz (the long description is located below the image)
Description of Figure 1

The chart represents the number of site-specific frequency assignments requested in 19 specific point-to- point microwave bands and sub-plans over a 12-year period from January 1, 2000, to December 31, 2011.

Figure 1
Band 200020012002200320042005200620072008200920102011
1.7 GHz spans 1700 to 1710 MHz paired with 1780 to 1850 MHz76414714382022652633
2 GHz spans 2025 to 2110 MHz paired with 2200 to 2285 MHz2756506610724615397706397135
4 GHz spans 3700 to 4200 MHz684365120000010
LL6 GHz spans 5850 to 5925 MHz1832271411264912113135247
L6 GHz spans 5925 to 6425 MHz17855233161202235192206262734672309
Upper 6 GHz spans 6425 to 6930 MHz263156143887482479196446355523
6930 to 7125 MHz184112326734252551732818
7 GHz Sub Plan I spans 7125 to 7250 MHz paired with 7300 to 7425 MHz1101001861481188411614212485117115
7 GHz Sub Plan II spans 7425 to 7725 MHz11312215013410159571338781100105
8 GHz spans 7725 to 8275 MHz61281063929299110113164331206
8275 to 8500 MHz4892071112273110720
10 GHz spans 10.55 to 10.68 GHz421251001187356896129274014
11 GHz spans 10.7 to 11.7 GHz3844531949110227271374120311261142
12.7 to 13.25 GHz8693383527322247117036606
15 GHz spans 14.5 to 14.875 GHz paired with 14.975 to 15.35 GHz18611999279391341415233162237940914
18 GHz spans 17.8 to 18.3 GHz paired with 19.3 to 19.7 GHz76809936439531947041760597711071535
23 GHz spans 21.8 to 22.4 GHz paired with 23.0 to 23.6 GHz818160981192003702402227197521091
25 GHz spans 25.25 to 26.5 GHz000000000000
27 GHz spans 27.5 to 28.35 GHz0000000000014

With the Department’s announcement to make spectrum available within the 700 MHz band for commercial mobile systems and the transition to Broadband Radio Service (BRS) in the band 2500-2690 MHz, as well as the further deployment of AWS, the continued evolution of cellular and Personal Communications Services (PCS) systems, and deployments of Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and Broadband Wireless Access (BWA), greater capacity demands are being placed on telecommunication providers’ backhaul networks. This, in conjunction with the transition and potential displacement of fixed systems from portions of the 2 GHz, 5.9 GHz, 11 GHz and 15 GHz bands, has resulted in congestion in some backhaul bands.

Figure 2: Total number of fixed service point-to-point microwave frequency assignmentsFootnote 19

Total number of fixed service point-to-point microwave 

frequency assignments (the long description is located below the image)
Description of Figure 2

This chart represents the total number of fixed service point-to-point microwave frequency assignments in 20 spectrum bands and sub-plans within Industry Canada’s database as of June 2011.

Figure 2
BandFrequency Assignments
1.7 GHz spans 1700 to 1710 MHz and 1780 to 1850 MHz972
2 GHz spans 2025 to 2110 paired with 2200 to 2285 MHz1102
4 GHz spans 3700 to 4200 MHz113
LL6 GHz spans 5850 to 5925 MHz913
L6 GHz spans 5925 to 6425 MHz4111
Upper 6 GHz spans 6425 to 6930 MHz3427
6930 to 7125 MHz1762
7 GHz Sub Plan I spans 7125 to 7250 MHz paired with 7300 to 7425 MHz1620
7 GHz Sub Plan II spans 7425 to 7725 MHz1475
8 GHz spans 7725 to 8275 MHz1234
8275 to 8500 MHz501
10 GHz spans 10.55 to 10.68 GHz834
11 GHz spans 10.7 to 11.7 GHz4601
12.7 to 13.25 GHz2131
15 GHz spans 14.5 to 14.875 GHz paired with 14.975 to 15.35 GHz3799
18 GHz spans 17.8 to 18.14 GHz paired with 19.3 to 19.7 GHz5652
18 GHz spans 18.14 to 18.3 GHz 10
23 GHz spans 21.8 to 22.4 GHz paired with 23.0 to 23.6 GHz4086
25 GHz spans 25.25 to 26.5 GHz16
27 GHz spans 27.5 to 28.35 GHz0

Fixed broadband and mobile broadband (i.e. 1.5 Mbps) are available to 98% of households in Canada.Footnote 20 Given the increased usage of new mobile broadband applications (e.g. high definition video on demand, mobile television and smart phones), telecommunication providers may require additional FS backhaul spectrum to build, expand and upgrade their networks to meet new traffic demands.

To address the service providers’ current and foreseen traffic growth, manufacturers are focusing on, and taking advantage of, advances in technology to deliver radios capable of meeting some of their customers’ growing needs. Canadian providers are currently deploying radios with features such as co-channel dual polarization (CCDP) with cross-polarization interference cancellation (XPIC), and adaptive modulation to effectively optimize the capacity and throughput delivered.

The following sections of this consultation list and describe in detail the frequency bands currently being used for backhaul, as well as the potential opportunities to introduce additional backhaul services in specific frequency bands already allocated to the FS. This consultation also addresses specific under-utilized frequency bands, or portions thereof, and how they may be leveraged to meet growing demands for capacity.

4.2 Backhaul Spectrum in Support of Fixed and Mobile Broadband

Spectrum is typically allocated to services whose specific needs are best tailored to the use of that particular frequency band. Based on the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations (CTFA)Footnote 21 and spectrum utilization policies which define the use or application of services, several bands may be used in support of fixed and mobile broadband. However, the growth and increased usage of fixed and mobile broadband have resulted in requests for additional backhaul spectrum to support these services and applications.

Due to a variety of technical and operational characteristics, including propagation and capacity, short-, medium-, and long-haul systems use different backhaul spectrum bands. The Department encourages the use of higher frequency bands for short hops and the preservation of lower frequency bands for longer hops, ensuring that the unique characteristics of the bands meet the technical requirements of the system. Unlike other countries, Canada does not have defined minimum path length or limits; rather, it addresses the link requirements from technical and operational perspectives.

The following subsections identify the frequency bands available for backhaul in Canada.

4.2.1 Frequency Bands for Short-haul Systems

For the purposes of this consultation, short-haul systems are defined as being one to 10 hops, and often considered to be localized or intra-regional systems. The frequency bands in Table 1 are therefore considered relevant for short-haul systems.

Table 1: Frequency bands for short-haul systems
Frequency BandsAvailable Spectrum (MHz)
23 GHz (21.8-22.4 GHz / 23.0-23.6 GHz)1200
24 GHz (24.25-24.45 GHz / 25.05-25.25 GHz)400a
25 GHz (25.25-26.5 GHz)1250
27 GHz (27.5-28.35 GHz)850
38 GHz (38.6-40 GHz) 1400b
70, 80 and 90 GHz (71-76, 81-86, 92-95 GHz)12900
  1. Broadband Wireless Access: Auction of the 24 GHz Frequency Band, October to November 1999, ( The Department has implemented a first-come, first-served process for any unassigned and/or returned 24 GHz spectrum through Canada Gazette notice DGRB-004-09, Decision on the Renewal of 24 and 38 GHz Spectrum Licences and Consultation on Spectrum Licence Fees for 24, 28 and 38 GHz Bands (
  2. Broadband Wireless Access: Auction of the 38 GHz Frequency Band (38.7-39.1/39.4-39.8 GHz) ( The Department has implemented a first-come, first- served process for any unassigned and/or returned 38 GHz spectrum through Canada Gazette notice DGRB-004-09, Decision on the Renewal of 24 and 38 GHz Spectrum Licences and Consultation on Spectrum Licence Fees for 24, 28 and 38 GHz Bands ( For one-way point-to- multipoint and one-way and two-way point-to-point systems in 38 GHz first- come, first-served spectrum, see CPC-2-1-17, Licensing Process and Application Procedure for Non-auctioned Spectrum Licences in the 38 GHz band.

In recognition of the growing demand for short-range backhaul facilities and broadband network infrastructure, the Department continues to advance its efforts to make spectrum available for use.

In May 2010, Industry Canada released DGTP-002-10, Consultation on the Use of the Band 25.25-28.35 GHz, for point-to-point and multipoint fixed systems.Footnote 22 The consultation presented band plan options, taking into account harmonization with other countries and sharing conditions with other radiocommunication services. Decisions on the band plan and licensing principles were established in June 2011 with the publication of SP 25.25 GHz, Spectrum Utilization Policy, Decisions on the Band 25.25-28.35 GHz.Footnote 23 In particular, fixed radio systems may be deployed in the bands 25.25-26.5 GHz and 27.5-28.35 GHz. The specific channelling plans and technical details will be soon developed through the revision or replacement of Standard Radio System Plan SRSP-325.35, Technical Requirements for Local Multipoint Communication Systems (LMCS) Operating in the Band 25.35-28.35 GHz.

Furthermore, the Department recently concluded a public consultationFootnote 24 on making available the bands 71-76 GHz (5000 MHz), 81-86 GHz (5000 MHz), and 92-94/94.1-95 GHz (2900 MHz) for FS in support of the deployment of broadband applications. Seven interested parties submitted commentsFootnote 25 on the proposed use of the bands, policy, technical specifications and licensing frameworks. In June 2012, the Department released SP 70 GHz, Decisions on the Frequency Bands 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz and 92-95 GHz, in which it announced its decisions, designating the bands 71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz and 92-95 GHz for use by the FS.

4.2.2 Frequency Bands for Medium-haul Systems

For the purposes of this consultation, medium-haul systems are defined as having up to 20 hops and covering distances of up to 1000 km, and are often considered to be intra-provincial systems. The frequency bands in Table 2 are therefore considered relevant for medium-haul systems.

Table 2: Frequency bands for medium-haul systems
Frequency BandsAvailable Spectrum (MHz)
10 GHz (10.55-10.68 GHz)130a
11 GHz (10.7-11.2 / 11.2-11.7 GHz)750b
13 GHz (12.7-13.25 GHz)550c
15 GHz (14.5-14.875 / 14.975-15.35 GHz)430d
18 GHz (17.8-18.3 /19.3-19.7 GHz)900
  1. The band 10.60-10.68 GHz is shared with the Earth exploration-satellite (passive), radio astronomy and space research (passive) services on a co-primary basis. See SRSP- 310.5: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 10.55-10.68 GHz (
  2. Following the Department’s decision to designate portions of the 11 GHz band (11.075-11.2 GHz and 11.575-11.7 GHz) for DTH services in Canada, 250 MHz is not available for more backhaul licences until 2028. See SRSP-310.7: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 10.7-11.7 GHz (
  3. This band is shared with the FSS (Earth-to-space) on a co-primary basis. Within the FS, the band is used by Very High-Capacity Microwave (VHCM) point-to-multipoint systems, TV STLs and TV pickups. See SRSP-312.7: Technical Requirements for Radio Systems Operating in the Fixed Service, in the Band 12.7-13.25 GHz (
  4. Following the Department’s decision to allocate certain portions of the 15 GHz band (14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz) for exclusive use by the Government of Canada for the aeronautical mobile service, 320 MHz is no longer available for backhaul. See SRSP-314.5: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 14.5-15.35 GHz (

Industry Canada periodically reallocates spectrum, as necessary, to support the implementation of new services or to comply with changes to international frequency allocations. Consequently, some of the resulting policy changes have limited the available spectrum traditionally used in the deployment of medium-haul systems.

In 2004, through Revisions to Spectrum Utilization Policies in the 3-30 GHz Frequency Range and Further Consultation (DGTP-008-04), the Department designated FS priority over FSS (space-to-Earth) within the bands 17.8-18.3 GHz and 19.3-19.7 GHz, and imposed a moratorium on licensing new FS systems in the bands 17.7-17.8 GHz and 18.3-19.3 GHz. In 2014, incumbent FS systems within the band 18.58-19.3 GHz may continue to operate, but on a non-interference basis with respect to FSS, and will be subject to displacement as required.

In December 2008, Industry Canada carried out a public consultation on the 11 GHz (10.7-11.7 GHz) band, with the release of Consultation Paper on the Possible Use of the Extended-Ku Spectrum Bands for Direct-to-Home (DTH) Satellite Broadcasting Services (DGTP-003-08), whereby comments were sought on the use of portions of the band to provide DTH satellite broadcasting services. Weighing the spectrum needs of the terrestrial and satellite services, in late 2009, the Department announced a transitional solution whereby DTH services would be permitted within the bands 11.075-11.2 GHz and 11.575-11.7 GHz until January 2028, after which time they would be migrated from the band.

Industry Canada also issued a public consultation document regarding accommodation of the Department of National Defence’s (DND) requirements for tactical common data link (TCDL) systems in a portion of the 15 GHz band. The consultation was entitled DGTP-004-08, Consultation Paper on Using a Portion of the Band 14.5-15.35 GHz for Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) Systems. In December 2009, the Department announced that a total of 320 MHz of spectrum (14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz) would be reallocated for the exclusive use by the Government of Canada.

As a result of the already moderate to heavy usage within this mid-range spectrum, coupled with the recent loss of the above-noted spectrum and potential displacements, various geographical areas may become highly congested, requiring the use of more directional antennas, higher spectral efficiencies and other enhanced technical standards.

4.2.3 Frequency Bands for Long-haul Systems

For the purposes of this consultation, long-haul systems may be comprised of hundreds of hops covering distances of up to 5,000 km, and are considered national or interprovincial systems. The following frequency bands are therefore considered relevant for long-haul systems.

Table 3: Frequency bands for long-haul systems
Frequency BandsAvailable Spectrum (MHz)
1.8 GHz (1700-1710 and 1780-1850 MHz)80a
Upper 2 GHz (2025-2110 / 2200-2285 MHz)170b
4 GHz (3700-4200 MHz)500c
Lower 6 GHz (5925-6425 MHz)500d
Upper 6 GHz (6425-6930 MHz)505e
7 GHz (7125-7250 MHz and 7300-7725 MHz)550f
8 GHz (7725-8275 MHz)550g
  1. The band 1800-1830 MHz (30 MHz) is identified for fixed radio systems used for the management of the electricity supply. See SRSP 301.7: Technical Requirements for Fixed Radio Systems Operating in the Bands 1700-1710 MHz and 1780-1850 MHz (
  2. TV pickup operations share the band 2025-2110 MHz with point-to-point systems on an urban/rural basis. See SRSP 302.0: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Bands 2025-2110 MHz and 2200-2285 MHz (
  3. The FS shares this band equally, on a primary basis, with the FSS (space-to-Earth). See SRSP 303.7: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 3700- 4200 MHz (
  4. The FS shares this band equally, on a primary basis, with the FSS (Earth-to-space) service. See SRSP 305.9: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 5925- 6425 MHz (
  5. The FS shares this band with other services, including the radio astronomy service, which operates in the band 6650-6675.2 MHz. See SRSP-306.4: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 6425-6930 MHz (
  6. Assignments will be made primarily, but not exclusively to, systems serving the telemetry, control and protection of electric power grids. See SP 7125-7725 MHz, Policy for the Fixed Service in the Band 7125-7725 MHz (
  7. The FS shares this band with other services and is required to coordinate with satellite systems. See SRSP-307.7: Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-Sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 7725- 8275 MHz (

These lower frequency bands were traditionally used in the design and rollout of national networks. Although most Canada-wide networks are currently in place, or are being decommissioned in favour of fibre, long-haul microwave systems are still being employed along certain corridors and to reach areas where other backhaul options may be cost prohibitive or not accessible.

As part of Industry Canada’s mandate to effectively manage spectrum in Canada, and in an effort to respond to new demands regarding radio spectrum, the Department, through this consultation, is seeking input from the industry regarding the operation of its networks, as well as its current and future requirements and deployment plans. Given that spectrum use evolves with changing technology and service requirements, the responses will assist Industry Canada in spectrum planning, with a view to increasing the utilization and efficiency of the spectrum.

The Department is seeking comments on specific requirements for wireless backhaul spectrum with respect to microwave short-, medium- and long-haul systems.

Please provide current and forecasted usage information and deployment plans for short-, medium- and long-haul wireless backhaul systems within your network.
Describe your current needs and technical requirements (e.g. capacity, data rates) for backhaul systems.
  1. Is there an immediate need for additional spectrum for network expansion or system upgrades? If so, how much spectrum is required and in which frequency range?
Describe your forecasted needs and technical requirements in the medium to long term (three to five years). Provide specifics regarding capacity, frequency (short-, medium- and long-haul) and other related aspects that may affect network design and operation.
  1. Is there a requirement for additional spectrum? If so, how much spectrum is required? In what frequency range? What are the related time frames?
Is there a continuing need for bands below 3.7 GHz for long-haul systems or could this need be met in bands at 3.7 GHz and above?

Responses should address short-, medium-, and long-haul systems individually. If any replies are considered proprietary, they must be submitted separately and clearly marked as “Confidential.”

4.2.4 Congestion

Because of propagation characteristics and population centres, deployments are not distributed uniformly across the country or within the frequency bands (see Figure 2 and Annex A). As indicated in Industry Canada’s Radio Spectrum Inventory,Footnote 26 although on average approximately 65% of all backhaul links in Canada are located outside of metropolitan areas,Footnote 27 the number of assignments in these urban areas tends to be greater in bands above 15 GHz. Generally, short-, medium-, and long-haul systems are best suited for specific niches and geographic areas. For instance, short-haul systems may be localized in urban centres, linking cell sites to fibre, whereas long- and medium-haul systems may route this traffic from one urban centre to another.

Congestion in bands is caused by a variety of factors, including deployment intensity within a geographical area and technical characteristics of systems (e.g. antenna, power). As part of the spectrum planning process and to accommodate new demands, certain frequency bands may be reallocated or repurposed for use by other services. Depending on the sharing and transition details, it may be necessary for some incumbent systems to be displaced to other bands, increasing the deployment intensity within these bands.

Congestion may also be the result of using older, less spectrally efficient equipment. In some bands, radio systems have been in operation for decades. If radio systems based on old, inefficient technologies are not removed or upgraded, new opportunities for the most effective use of the radio spectrum may be hindered. In specific situations, the Department may be required to alleviate frequency congestion in a frequency band or range of bands in a given geographical area, and may require the upgrade or removal of a system in the area that does not conform to current standards.

Given current and anticipated deployments, identify specific frequency bands and corresponding geographical areas in which you are experiencing or expect congestion. Please provide your deployment plans for these areas and proposals to mitigate congestion.

Responses should specifically address short-, medium-, and long-haul systems individually. If any replies are considered proprietary, they must be submitted separately and clearly marked as “Confidential.” Geographical Differences Policy Guideline (GDP guideline)

Recognizing the need for flexibility in spectrum utilization policies and technical standards, Industry Canada has introduced the Geographical Differences Policy guideline (GDP guideline),Footnote 28 which permits specification of enhanced provisions in congested areas and some relaxation of policy and/or technical requirements in uncongested areas. The following are definitions of FS frequency congestion areas, as per SP 1-20 GHz, Revisions to Microwave Spectrum Utilization Policies in the Range of 1 -20 GHz:

  • Uncongested Area
    An area in which the band has been available for use for several years but has had little or no use, nor is any projected. In terms of fixed service assignments, an indicator of an uncongested area is where 90% or more of the channels are available for use in 90% or more of the possible directions.
  • Normal Congestion Area
    An area where the population of systems does not preclude the introduction of a significant number of new systems. An indicator may be where 50% to 90% of the channels are available in 90% or more of the possible directions.
  • Moderately Congested Area
    An area in which the band is well used as intended, and there is adequate spectrum for future growth. A suitable indicator may be where 10% to 50% or fewer of the channels are available in 90% or more of the possible directions.
  • Highly Congested Area
    An area in which the possibility of finding an assignment for a specific system application is low, or at least it is very difficult to make an assignment. In this case, an indicator may be when 10% or fewer of the channels are available in 90% or more of the possible directions.

The application of the GDP guidelineFootnote 29 allows service providers to economically redeploy older equipment in more remote areas, whereas in moderately and highly congested areas, enhanced criteria such as improved antenna off-axis discrimination performance, as per the associated Standard Radio System Plan (SRSP), must be met to ensure that the maximum number of systems can be accommodated. The congestion levelFootnote 30 is an important parameter in the planning and design stages of a system, as it will affect the type of equipment and antenna that can be deployed in the area.

These congestion area definitions are based on percentages of channels available in 90% or more of the possible directions. The Department is seeking comments on the following:

Are the above definitions still practical in determining what areas are congested (i.e. when technical requirements should be relaxed or tightened)? If not, please explain and provide proposals on alternative definitions and/or measures.
Although a relaxation of antenna pattern is most commonly requested through the application of the GDP guideline, other policy and technical requirements may also be eased. Should the Department specify technical requirements and policies to be relaxed when the GDP guideline is applied in uncongested areas? Please explain and provide proposals on the specific minimum technical requirements that should be relaxed.
Currently, the GDP guideline is applied to specific frequency bands. Are there other bands that would benefit from the application of the guideline? Please provide proposals.

Interested parties are invited to provide any other comments that may be relevant to congestion levels.

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