Decisions on Policy, Technical and Licensing Framework for Use of the Public Safety Broadband Spectrum in the Bands 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz (D Block) and 763-768 MHz and 793-798 MHz (PSBB Block)

SMSE-014-17
June 2017



1. Intent

1.  Since 2012, Canada's first responders and other stakeholders have been working towards the goal of a reliable, modern nationwide interoperable public safety broadband network (PSBN), which offers the potential to allow first responders to benefit from up‑to‑date telecommunications products and services to keep Canadians and themselves safe.

2.  The enabling of public safety community with modern technologies and new capabilities takes enormous effort and is affected by several factors such as the availability of spectrum, expertise in deployment and operation of a high‑speed wireless network, and the evolution in technology and standards that can support advanced public safety applications.

3.  In addition to the consultation, discussions have been held with: municipal, provincial, territorial and federal public safety representatives and stakeholders (such as police, fire and paramedic services); emergency management organizations; potential federal end‑users;Footnote 1 equipment vendors; integrators; commercial network operators; academics; and officials from the United States (U.S.). As a result of ISED's ongoing review and analysis since the consultation, one message had emerged—the potential benefits of enabling public safety community with modern technologies and new capabilities are significant. In light of this, in Budget 2015, the Government of Canada (GoC) committed funds "to take initial steps to establish a PSBN" and, in addition to public safety broadband (PSBB) Block, committed D Block of the 700 MHz spectrum for public safety broadband use in Canada.

4.  Through the release of this document, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) announces the decisions resulting from the work and discussions held to date as well as the consultation process undertaken in Canada Gazette Notice SMSE-007-12, Consultation on a Policy, Technical and Licensing Framework for Use of the Public Safety Broadband Spectrum in the Bands 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz (D Block) and 763-768 MHz and 793-798 MHz (PSBB Block), hereinafter referred to as "the consultation."


2. Policy objectives

5.  The Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, 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. This responsibility includes developing national policies and goals for spectrum utilization and ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

6.  In developing a policy, technical and licensing framework, ISED takes into consideration the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC). The SPFC's objective for the spectrum program is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum. As well, one of its enabling guidelines stipulates that spectrum should be made available to support Canadian sovereignty, security and public safety needs.

7.  ISED's objective for the decisions outlined in this document is to make spectrum available in order to enable public safety communities access to modern technologies and new capabilities, while allowing the efficient use of the spectrum for the benefit of all Canadians.


3. Background

8.  ISED designated a 5+5 MHz block of spectrum in the 700 MHz band, known as the PSBB Block, for public safety broadband use in SMSE-002-12, Policy and Technical Framework: Mobile Broadband Services (MBS) – 700 MHz Band, Broadband Radio Service (BRS) – 2500 MHz Band, hereinafter referred to as the "previous consultation" published on March 14, 2012. A second 5+5 MHz block of spectrum, known as the D Block, has also been discussed as potential spectrum for public safety use. As the PSBB Block and the D Block are adjacent to one another in the 700 MHz band, they can be combined to form a paired 10+10 MHz block of spectrum (hereinafter referred to as the "700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum") (see figure 1).

Figure 1 — Canadian band plan for the upper 700 MHz band indicating public safety broadband spectrum

Figure 1—Canadian band plan for the upper 700 MHz band indicating public safety broadband spectrum (the long description is located below the image)
Description of figure 1

This chart shows the general band plan for the Upper 700 MHz band, i.e. the band 746-806 MHz. The Upper 700 MHz band includes the paired commercial block C1 that consists of the 746-751 MHz and 777-782 MHz bands, the paired commercial block C2 that consists of the 751-756 MHz and 782-787 MHz bands, the paired PSBB Block that consists of the 763-768 MHz and 793-798 MHz bands, the paired D Block that consists of the 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz bands, and the paired NB/WB PS Block that consists of the 768-776 MHz and 798-806 MHz bands . The Upper 700 MHz band also includes two 1 MHz guardbands at 757-758 MHz and 787-788 MHz, and two 1 MHz blocks at 756-757 MHz and 776-777 MHz that are held in reserve for future consideration.

9.  On February 22, 2012, the United States federal government announced its decision to designate the 5+5 MHz D Block in the 700 MHz band for public safety broadband use adding to the previously designated PSBB Block. This provides the U.S. public safety community access to a paired block of 10+10 MHz to deploy its 700 MHz broadband network.

10.  As part of the 2015 Budget, the Government of Canada decided to allocate another 10 MHz [5+5 MHz] of 700 MHz spectrum [D Block] "…to enable the creation of a public safety broadband network…", and stated that the creation of a PSBN using 10+10 MHz spectrum is considered to be an essential step towards improving "...collaboration among public safety agencies to help save lives and keep our communities safe."Footnote 2

11.  This document sets out ISED's decisions, which are divided into three parts:

  • section 4 outlines the policy decision on the designation of use for the D Block
  • section 5 sets out decisions regarding the licensing of 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum, and
  • section 6 sets out the decisions related to use of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum

4. Designation of use of the D Block

12.  ISED initiated discussion for potential designation of the D Block for public safety broadband use or for commercial use with possible provisions for priority access for public safety systems. The public safety community has argued that the designation of a 10+10 MHz block of 700 MHz spectrum would be required to meet first responders' current and medium‑term demand for mobile data communications.

4.1 Discussion

13.  ISED notes that there is a general consensus in favour of designating the D Block to public safety use. ISED and Public Safety Canada also note that the evolution of technology and standards show that a 10+10 MHz block of 700 MHz spectrum will serve to meet the current and medium‑term needs of the public safety community for mobile data communications and that harmonizing with the U.S. band plan would enable economies of scale for equipment and cross‑border interoperability.

14.  ISED notes that the Canadian public safety community stated in the previous consultation that its requirements are different from those of commercial service providers as public safety communication has a greater need in terms of high reliability and coverage deep into buildings and underground. In addition, the public safety community has argued that 10+10 MHz spectrum would be required in order to meet the growing demand and medium‑term needs for mobile data communications. Thus, ISED considers that designating a 10+10 MHz block of 700 MHz spectrum is an essential step towards improving collaboration among public safety agencies to help save lives and keep our communities safe.

15.  Given the general consensus, alongside the work completed by ISED and Public Safety Canada (PS), the Government of Canada announced in Budget 2015 its intention that D Block be used for public safety. Since then, the work conducted by ISED has further shown that the evolution of technology and standards support the decision to designate the D Block for public safety broadband use, providing the Canadian public safety community access to a paired block of 10+10 MHz spectrum that would be needed to meet the growing demand and medium‑term needs for mobile data communications.

4.2 Decision concerning the designation of use of the D Block

D-1

Spectrum in the band 758-763 MHz and 788-793 MHz (D Block) is designated for public safety broadband use.


5. Licensing of 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum

16.  ISED could either assign licences directly to one or more eligible public safety network entities (PSNEs), whose role is to represent public safety users; or to assign licences, via auction, to an entity with obligations to serve the public safety community.

5.1 Discussion

17.  The option in which the license is acquired via an auction would entail specific obligations to serve the public safety community. These obligations could include rigorous requirements that would need to be met by any carrier interested in the spectrum. These requirements could affect many aspects of the carrier service delivery operations, notably: quality of service, reliability, coverage, etc. These stringent requirements coupled with uncertainty in public safety user commitment to subscribe to services might create investment conditions that are above the acceptance threshold of service operators. ISED notes that establishing clear and flexible requirements while maintaining a viable business case will be complex. It will also be challenging to apply evolving requirements to conditions of licence in a timely manner.

18.  The public safety community has noted that interoperability is important to ensure coordinated and timely responses to incidents and emergencies and argued that the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum should be assigned rather than auctioned. In light of these comments, ISED considers that an auction would not be the most practical and timely approach to making spectrum available for a public safety broadband use.

19.  ISED noted that although there have been discussions in the Federal, Provincial, Territorial Interoperability Working Group (the FPT IWGFootnote 3) with respect to single and multiple PSNE licensing structures, ISED considers that discussions would need to include all interested parties, including members of the FPT IWG, service providers and manufacturers. Accordingly, ISED considers it premature to decide on whether to issue a single licence or multiple licences to one or more PSNEs at this time. ISED will consider all recommendations pertaining to the licensing of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum, and will assign licence(s) provided that the licensee(s) selection process followed by PSNE(s) is fair and transparent.

5.2 Decisions related to the licensing of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum

For the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum:

D-2

The spectrum in these bands will not be auctioned.

D-3

Spectrum licences will be issued either directly to a single PSNE or multiple PSNEs, to be determined at a future date.


6. Use of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum

20.  Feedback was solicited on the proposal to allow for commercial usage of unused capacity and, if supported, to consider restrictions and limitations on such use, mechanisms to ensure priorityFootnote 4 and pre‑emptionFootnote 5 for public safety users, and whether commercial services should be offered directly to the public or sold wholesale to a commercial service provider or partner.

21.  Feedback was also solicited as to whether there was a need to mandate technical measures (e.g. the use of a specific technology and/or standard) to address the radio interoperability requirements for the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum.Footnote 6

6.1 Discussion

22.  There has been little support for the option of allowing licensee(s) of 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum to offer service directly to the public and mixed views on allowing the licensee(s) to enter into agreements to allow surplus capacity to be used by commercial users. However, ISED considers that permitting commercial usage of excess capacity from public safety spectrum could support timely and affordable means to achieve public safety broadband requirements.

23.  In addition, deploying, maintaining and operating a broadband wireless network require significant infrastructure, resources and technological expertise that many commercial network operators already possess. Allowing a PSNE licensee to partner with commercial service providers would enable economies of scale and avoid unnecessary tower and cell site proliferation through infrastructure sharing.

24.  Accordingly, ISED considers that permitting commercial usage of excess capacity would provide the means to make effective use of spectrum. However, ISED considers that commercial use of unused capacity must be subject to the condition that priority and pre‑emption mechanisms are provided to public safety users.

25.  With respect to which users are entitled to priority and pre‑emption, ISED considers that, at a minimum, police, fire and emergency medical service agencies would be included. However, through priority and pre‑emption functions of standards‑based broadband communications networks, there is an opportunity to offer services to a larger number of public safety users, such as utilities, transit, and health organizations, an option rarely seen with narrow‑band network deployments using land mobile radio systems. ISED considers that multi‑stakeholder discussions among all interested parties, including the FPT IWG, service providers and manufacturers, must still occur to develop recommendations related to the extent of priority and pre‑emption, and commercial usage of unused public safety capacity.

26.  With respect to the issue of mandating technical standards, ISED considers that interoperability and the sharing standards‑based technology is important to ensure inter‑agency communications across Canada. While some interested parties consider that ISED should mandate deployment of Long Term Evolution (LTE) wireless technology along with other technical requirements, ISED considers that a technology neutral approach that ensures national and cross‑border interoperability and ensures priority and pre‑emption capability for public safety services would provide flexibility to a licensee(s) to accommodate different technological solutions now and in the future.

27.  ISED encourages continuing discussions with the FPT IWG, service providers and manufacturers in order to attain recommendations with respect to the sharing of unused capacity of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum with commercial users, priority and pre-emption criteria, and technical requirements to ensure nationwide interoperability, etc. These discussions could also take place through stakeholder consultations, the RABCFootnote 7 and/or other appropriate vehicles.

28.  The consultation indicated that after the decisions under consideration were made, there would be further consultation on matters such eligibility and conditions of licence. It is ISED's intent to remain responsive to the suggestions coming out of the stakeholder discussions that will follow this decision so that a licensing model that best supports both ISED's spectrum management objectives and the objectives of the public safety community.

6.2 Decisions related to the use of the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum

For the public safety spectrum:

D-4

Commercial use of unused capacity will be allowed provided that public safety users will have priority and pre‑emptive rights over any form of commercial usage.

D-5

ISED will not mandate specific technology, though any technology employed on the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum must ensure national and cross‑border interoperability and ensure priority and pre‑emption capability for public safety services and must be consistent with the interoperability solution "sharing standards‑based systems."


7. Next steps

29.  With the release of this decision, ISED considers that discussions and activities among stakeholders, including, but not limited to, members of the FPT IWG, RABC, service providers and manufacturers, will gain further momentum to establish recommendations based on a consolidated view related to issues such as:

  • technical requirements to ensure nationwide interoperability
  • priority and pre‑emption criteria for accessing the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum
  • single and multiple PSNE licensing structures and
  • permitting commercial usage of excess capacity

30.  ISED will initiate a further consultation on the licensing framework for the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum that will include, but not be limited to:

  1. criteria to determine eligibility and other licence application requirements and
  2. licence conditions

ISED notes that there is currently no associated licence fee for the 700 MHz public safety broadband spectrum licenses. However, a separate consultation will be launched to determine the licence fees that would apply to public safety broadband spectrum licences spectrum licences.


8. Obtaining copies

31.  All spectrum‑related documents referred to in this paper are available on the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website.

32.  For further information concerning the process outlined in this paper or related matters, contact:

Director, Mobile Services Engineering
Engineering, Planning and Standards Branch
Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario  K1A 0H5

Telephone: 613-998-3874
Fax: 613-952-5108
Email: ic.spectrumengineering-genieduspectre.ic@canada.ca

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