Decisions on the Licensing Framework for Non-Geostationary Satellite Orbit (NGSO) Systems and Clarification of Application Procedures for All Satellite Licence Applications

June 2017


1. Intent

Through the release of this document, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (the “Department”) announces changes to the licensing rules for non-geostationary satellite orbit (NGSO) systems and to the procedures for re-assigning spectrum when satellite spectrum authorizations have been returned or revoked, resulting from the consultation process SMSE-009-17, Consultations on the Licensing Framework for Non-Geostationary Orbit (NGSO) Satellites and Clarification of Application Procedures for All Satellite Licence Applications.

2. Mandate

The Minister, 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 goals and national policies for spectrum resource use and ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

3. Legislation

The Minister is provided the general powers for spectrum management in Canada pursuant to section 5 of the Radiocommunication Act and sections 4 and 5 of the Department of Industry Act. The Governor in Council may make regulations with respect to spectrum management pursuant to section 6 of the Radiocommunciation Act, which have been prescribed under the Radiocommunication Regulations.

4. Policy objectives

In fulfilling its spectrum management mandate, the Department’s policy objective is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource. In licensing satellites, the Department is also guided by the objective of ensuring that Canadian satellite users (e.g. broadcasters, government institutions and telecommunications firms) have access to the satellite capacity that they need to carry out their respective functions, and to ensure that services are available throughout Canada, including the North. These objectives are furthered through the imposition of licensing rules and conditions, including those related to national coverage and the availability of sufficient capacity for Canadian use.

5. Background

In January 2014, the Department introduced new licensing rules for satellites. This included revisions to the existing procedures for first come, first served (FCFS) licensing, the application of FCFS licensing to fixed- and broadcasting-satellite services (FSS and BSS), and the introduction of spectrum licences to authorize FSS and BSS satellite frequencies. This updated framework was followed in April 2016 with the implementation of a new spectrum licence fee for FSS/BSS spectrum. The purpose of these changes was to establish a modern, attractive licensing regime that is comparable to those in similar countries. The consultation that led to these changes was undertaken before the re-emergence of large NGSO constellations for fixed-satellite services. Although the existing licensing rules apply to NGSO systems, they were not developed for the types of commercial “mega” constellations that are now being proposed and developed.

On June 15, 2016, the Department imposed a moratorium on the licensing of commercial NGSO systems to allow for a review of the current framework. The review examined whether the Department’s licensing rules and obligations, as applied to NGSO systems, are appropriate and whether Canadian coverage and capacity needs will be met by Canadian-licensed systems.

A public consultation was launched on March 23, 2017. Following extensions to the comment and reply comment periods, the consultation concluded on May 11, 2017. Comments and/or reply comments were received from 13 parties:

  • The Boeing Company (Boeing)
  • the “Coalition” (Ciel Satellite LP, Meridian Global Connection Inc. (Meridian Global), Northpoint Spectrum Development Inc. (Northpoint), Parscom Management, and WorldVu Satellites Limited/OneWeb)
  • GHGSat
  • Kepler Communications Inc. (Kepler)
  • Meridian Global/Northpoint
  • Microsat Systems Canada Inc. (MSCI)
  • NorthStar
  • O3b Networks (O3b)
  • OneWeb
  • Planet Labs Inc. (Planet)
  • SpaceX
  • Telesat Canada (Telesat)
  • ViaSat Inc. (ViaSat)

In its analysis of the comments, and when making decisions on the licensing rules, the Department has considered the policy objectives mentioned above, as well as the enabling guidelines of the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada.

6. Discussion and decision

6.1 Limit on the number of licences per band

The consultation sought views on: whether to impose a limit on the number of licences issued per frequency band for commercial systems; what an appropriate limit would be; and whether to exclude systems whose purpose is data gathering and that transmit to a small number of fixed earth stations and non-commercial systems from such a limit.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from Boeing, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar, SpaceX, and Telesat. All except MSCI were opposed or strongly opposed to the imposition of a limit on the number of licences issued per frequency band. They argued that imposing a limit would have the effect of stifling innovation; that market-based approaches and standard international coordination practices should be relied upon to allow NGSO operators to determine whether and how multiple systems will deploy and operate; and that the Department’s focus should be on maximizing interoperability and spectral efficiency. A number of respondents also pointed out that no other licensing jurisdiction imposes a limit on the number of licences it issues.

Given the clear consensus from respondents, that no other administration imposes such a limit, and that imposing a limit was not a formal departmental proposal, the Department will continue to issue licences to all NGSO systems that meet the licensing criteria.

In expressing their view that coordination should be relied upon to allow operators to determine how systems will deploy and operate, Telesat in particular proposed that international coordination rules be applied to domestic coordination, and that subsequent licensees should not interfere with previously licensed systems. Comments on coordination will be addressed in the section dealing with measures to address coordination disputes.

The Department will not impose a limit on the number of licences issued per frequency band for any NGSO systems.

6.2 Changes to Canadian direction and control requirements

The consultation proposed to require primary telemetry, tele-command and control (TT&C) facilities and network operations centres (NOCs) to be located in Canada, and that a description and planned location of the facilities be included in licence applications.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, Telesat, and Planet. Views were mixed, with the Coalition, GHGSat, MSCI and Planet opposed to the proposals. The Coalition argued that there is no need to differentiate between geostationary orbit (GSO) satellites and NGSO systems, and that the location of TT&C and NOC facilities should not matter as long as the licensee maintains operational control over its network. They further argued that these requirements would act as a disincentive to doing business in Canada, particularly given Canada’s high fees for earth station licensing. GHGSat argued that regulation should be minimized in principle, and that licensees should have maximum flexibility in their network design. Planet’s position was that the requirement to locate facilities within Canada was less relevant for coordination and limiting interference than other means, such as sharing ephemeris data.

Both Kepler and Telesat expressed qualified support for the proposals in their initial comments, with Kepler seeking clarification on whether licensees could still lease or contract for the use of facilities and whether the requirements would also apply to foreign-licensed systems. Telesat cautioned the Department not to be overly prescriptive because the ground segment is dependent on the system’s overall architecture and because global systems may require geographically dispersed facilities. In their reply comments, both companies reflected the consensus that this requirement should not be imposed.

With respect to the proposal to include a description of TT&C and NOC facilities in licence applications, and to include the development of these facilities in conditions of licence as part of the implementation milestones, Kepler, MSCI and Telesat were supportive in the comment round. Telesat proposed that the confirmation of the final locations for the facilities be required prior to launch, and that the Department allow for flexible deployment/construction of the facilities to reflect the fact that not all facilities may need to be in place with the first launches. In their reply comments, Kepler added that if the Department did impose this requirement, that the Canadian facility should not be required by the launch of the first satellites. ViaSat did not submit a view, but observed that no other jurisdiction has this requirement.

The Department notes that it is only recently, and under specific circumstances, that the licensing rules were changed to allow primary TT&C facilities for GSO satellites to be located outside of Canada. This followed decades of experience with GSO and “traditional” NGSO satellites. A clear, well-established domestic and international regulatory framework also contributed to the Department’s decision to relax this requirement.

The same conditions do not yet exist for an NGSO environment where large, or “mega” NGSO systems are deployed to provide ubiquitous connectivity. In order to ensure that the Minister’s ability to exercise his authority for the orderly development of the spectrum resource, the Department will implement its proposals.

The Department is of the view that, for Canadian-licensed systems, the requirement to have the TT&C and NOC facilities located in Canada does not present an undue hardship on licensees. However, the need to update the earth station licensing framework and fee structure is recognized as a long-standing issue. The Department plans to consult on the framework and fees in 2018, which may address some of the industry’s concerns.

Primary telemetry, telecommand and control facilities and network operations centres must be located within Canadian territory.

A description and planned location of these facilities must be included in licence applications.

The final location of these facilities must be confirmed by Milestone 1, with construction completed by the launch of the first satellites (Milestone 3), as defined in CPC 2-6-02, Licensing of Space Stations.

6.3 Canadian coverage

The consultation proposed that all commercial NGSO FSS/BSS systems must cover 100% of Canadian territory on a 24/7 basis and that the determination of this coverage would be based on the unique combination of altitude, inclination angle and required angle of arrival of signals for the requested frequency bands. Additionally, the Department proposed that no waivers would be granted from this requirement unless an applicant is already operating an NGSO constellation that provides coverage to 100% of the Canadian territory.

The Department further proposed that a sufficient number of gateways must be located in Canada, that a description of those facilities be included in licence applications, and that the completion of the gateway stations be included as a condition of licence as part of the implementation milestones.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from Boeing, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar, O3b, Planet, SpaceX, Telesat, and ViaSat. On the issue of 24/7 coverage of 100% of Canadian territory for FSS/BSS systems, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, Planet and SpaceX were opposed. Arguments included that: the requirement was not appropriate for all types of FSS/BSS systems (e.g. not for “store and forward” systems); the requirement would prevent the deployment of some niche services and/or innovative systems; the requirement was not reasonable based on Canada’s large land mass and low population; and that the Department should either adopt a less stringent minimum requirement or focus on encouraging maximum coverage and requiring “best efforts” rather than establishing a hard requirement. NorthStar opposed the requirement being applied to the earth exploration satellite service (EESS), which is not being proposed.

The Coalition argued that a coverage requirement was unnecessary because market forces and planned GSO deployments would be sufficient to address Canadian needs. The Coalition further argued that all Canadian coverage requirements should be dropped, including those for GSO networks.

In their reply comments, both GHGSat and Kepler stated that if a coverage requirement were imposed, it should not apply to all systems. GHGSat specified that the requirement should only apply to systems using the frequency bands identified in RP-008 – Policy Framework for Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) and Broadcasting-Satellite Service (BSS). Similarly, in its reply comments, the Coalition added that no coverage requirements should be imposed on foreign-licensed systems seeking market access to Canada.

MSCI supported the coverage requirement, while Telesat offered qualified support, stating that the requirement as proposed (based on signal coverage) is too rigid and does not reflect modern satellite capabilities such as steerable beams and the use of inter-satellite links. Telesat proposed that the requirement should be that the constellation will have the capability to provide service to any point in Canada on an uninterrupted basis. The Coalition raised similar issues in its comments and stated that arbitrary service requirements and measurement criteria would inhibit the innovative use of new technologies and limit operators’ flexibility to compete and meet customer needs.

In the reply comment round, although neither O3b nor ViaSat expressed a position, they observed that no other jurisdiction imposes this requirement.

The Department does not consider that future availability of GSO coverage, from either Canadian or foreign-licensed satellites, as an acceptable alternative to NGSO coverage of Canada. NGSOs, particularly those in polar, low-Earth orbit (LEO), offer a qualitative difference from GSO in terms of lower latency and greater northern coverage.

One of the Department’s key policy objectives in licensing satellites is to ensure that capacity is available to meet the needs of Canadian users, which was reflected in the introduction of coverage requirements in the FCFS licensing rules implemented in 2014. The Department remains committed to this objective.

However, the Department acknowledges that the coverage requirement is linked to the policy framework for telecommunications and broadcasting services. The Department, therefore, modifies its original proposal such that the requirement only applies to commercial NGSO BSS systems and commercial NGSO FSS systems that are designed for the provision of real-time services to end users.

For further clarification, the intent of the coverage requirement is to ensure that a proposed constellation is capable of providing uninterrupted (24/7) service anywhere within Canadian territory. Because this is an application assessment criterion, technical parameters must be defined to enable the Department to assess whether the system, as designed, will meet the requirement.

CPC-2-6-02 establishes the technical parameters that the Department uses to assess whether a proposed system will meet the requirement, at the time of application. Licensees have flexibility in how the system is ultimately deployed and how coverage will be provided subject to conditions of licence (including obtaining approval from the Department for any design changes that fall within the overall parameters of the licence).

The Department will implement a modified proposal to limit the scope of the coverage requirement to systems designed for BSS and certain types of FSS only.

All Canadian-licensed commercial NGSO BSS systems and commercial NGSO FSS systems designed for the provision of real-time services to end users must be capable of providing uninterrupted (24/7) service anywhere within Canadian territory.

The Department proposed to not grant any waivers from this coverage requirement unless the applicant is already operating a constellation that provides coverage to 100% of Canadian territory. Comments and/or reply comments were received from Kepler, MSCI and Telesat.

The Coalition provided no further comment on the waiver proposal, as it opposed the coverage requirement itself. Kepler was strongly opposed, arguing that the requirement itself, as well as limiting the availability of waivers, would lead to a reduction in competition and could prevent niche Canadian systems from being developed. MSCI and Telesat supported the proposal provided that the nature of the requirement was changed to reflect the capability of providing service.

Because the coverage requirement only applies to commercial NGSO BSS systems and commercial NGSO FSS systems designed for the provision of real-time service, other types of systems not subject to the requirement will not require a waiver to be licensed.

No waivers will be granted from the coverage requirement unless the applicant is already operating a commercial NGSO constellation that provides uninterrupted (24/7) service throughout Canadian territory.

The Department also proposed to require a sufficient number of gateways to be located in Canada to enable services throughout 100% of Canadian territory, to require information on gateway facilities to be provided in licence applications, and to include the completion of gateways in the implementation milestones as conditions of licence.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, Kepler, MSCI and Telesat. The Coalition and Kepler both opposed the proposal. Telesat was initially supportive, but reflected in their reply comments the consensus that no requirements for ground infrastructure should be imposed.

The Department notes that the gateway proposal is an additional measure towards helping to ensure that sufficient capacity is available to meet Canadian needs, and as such is linked to the coverage requirement. The Department therefore modifies its original proposal to limit it to those systems that are subject to that requirement. The proposal is further modified to a single gateway, regardless of system design or orbital parameters.

A description and planned location of the gateway facilities must be included in licence applications.

The final location of these facilities must be confirmed by Milestone 1, with construction of the Canadian gateway completed by the launch of the first satellites (Milestone 3), as defined in CPC 2-6-02.

NGSO licensees whose systems are subject to the coverage requirement must establish at least one gateway in Canada.

6.4 Canadian capacity

The Department proposed capacity reservation requirements for NGSO satellites, specifically that: LEO satellite licensees be required to reserve all of the capacity when the satellite(s) are over Canada for Canadian use for the life of the licence; and MEO/HEO satellite licensees be required to reserve capacity for Canadian use that is equal to the proportion of the Canadian territory covered vis-à-vis the entire territory covered by the satellite until the launch of the first satellite.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from Boeing, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, Planet, Telesat and ViaSat. All but MSCI opposed the proposal, with ViaSat not offering a position, but observing that no other jurisdiction imposes such a requirement.

Several respondents offered proposals should the Department decide to proceed with the requirement. GHGSat proposed that it be applied to systems operating only in those bands listed in RP-008. The Coalition and Telesat suggested that any requirement be the same regardless of type of orbit, and apply only until launch. Telesat also proposed that any requirement be defined on a system level and not on the basis of individual satellites.

Several respondents also commented generally that the Department’s regulatory regime should be minimally burdensome and allow NGSO satellite operators maximum flexibility in how to design, launch and operate their systems.

The Department notes that NGSO constellations are fundamentally different in many ways from GSO satellites. In particular, they offer much greater deployment flexibility and the ability to scale up and add capacity as demand increases.

With the modifications to the wording of the coverage requirement, it is the Department’s position that a specific capacity reservation requirement for NGSO is not necessary. However, the intent of the coverage requirement is that licensed systems must be able to, not just physically cover Canadian territory, but also be able to offer services to Canadians. This means having capacity available, or the ability to add capacity within a reasonable timeframe, for Canadian customers.

The Department will therefore impose a condition of licence related to the maintenance of Canadian coverage and the ability to meet Canadian capacity needs, but will not dictate a specific amount of capacity or mechanism to meet this condition. How licensees choose to design and deploy their system to comply with this requirement is best left to their business plans and the Canadian market.

The Department recognizes that even with deployment flexibility, there may be limits to the size and capacity of a given NGSO system (imposed by licensing, the ITU filing, coordination agreements or operational considerations). However, the policy objective of ensuring that satellite capacity is available to meet Canadian users’ needs is a key focus for the Department, and NGSO systems offer great potential, particularly for remote and Northern regions of Canada.

The Department will monitor the development of global NGSO systems as well as the response of the Canadian market, and may re-visit this condition of licence over the next few years.

The Department will impose a condition of licence related to the maintenance of Canadian coverage and the ability to meet Canadian capacity needs, but will not dictate a specific amount of capacity or mechanism to meet this condition.

6.5 Removal of coexistence as an assessment criterion

The consultation proposed that the Department no longer assess coexistence with authorized and approved Canadian NGSO systems as part of the licence application process. This proposal was based on problems with its implementation, including: the lack of publicly available information for applicants needing to conduct an analysis, the fact that system designs can evolve post licensing; and the absence of established regulatory triggers (other than frequency overlap) for coordination between NGSO systems.

 Comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, Telesat, Boeing, Planet and NorthStar. GHGSat and MSCI were opposed, with GHGSat suggesting that the requirement be maintained for those systems operating in those bands that are not included in Radio Systems Policy (RP)-008 – Policy Framework for Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) and Broadcasting-Satellite Service (BSS) (i.e. non-FSS/BSS bands). MSCI’s concern was that larger constellations could render smaller systems inoperable. GHGSat was also concerned about the use of non-FSS/BSS bands by large commercial FSS operators, and the potential difficulties small operators could face in coordination negotiations.

Of those who were supportive or who offered qualified support, the Coalition highlighted that no other administration has this requirement, that it does not make sense in the modern and evolving satellite market, and that the ITU coordination process could be used between Canadian operators and between Canadian operators and foreign operators seeking Canadian market access. Kepler proposed that, as part of the licence application process, the Department require applicants to describe how they will operate without causing interference and include coordination as part of the implementation milestones. Boeing proposed that conditions of licence be applied that require licensees to share with other NGSO operators authorized by Canada and to coordinate with those operators, while NorthStar expressed concern that the use of inter-satellite links (ISL) could exacerbate coordination issues.

Telesat’s support for the removal of coexistence was dependent on the use of ITU coordination procedures for domestic coordination, and the suggestion that in the event that a coordination agreement cannot be reached, “the operator with the lower ITU date priority would be required to avoid harmful interference to a network with a higher priority and gain no protection from interference from such a network.” Comments on coordination will be addressed in the section dealing with measures to address coordination disputes.

The Department maintains the view that assessing coexistence as part of the application assessment process is unworkable, and that the concerns raised by GHGSat and MSCI can be addressed through standard coordination and licensing practices, where the use of bands in a manner that is not compliant with spectrum allocation policies may be authorized on a non-standard basis.

The Department will implement its proposal to remove coexistence as an assessment criterion. The Department will only conduct this type of analysis for GSO systems seeking a waiver from minimal orbital separation rules, or where no orbital separation rule exists.

The Department will no longer assess coexistence with authorized and approved Canadian NGSO systems as part of the licence application process.

6.6 Clarification of implementation milestones

The Department proposed a modification to the implementation milestones for large constellations, and to define large constellations as those with 30 or more satellites. Comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, Meridian Global/Northpoint, NorthStar, O3b, Space X, Telesat, and WorldVu/OneWeb and on these proposals.

GHGSat, Kepler and Telesat all expressed qualified support for the revised milestones, with proposed modifications. Kepler proposed that the Department align its milestones with those the FCC will implement following the completion of its Notice of Proposed Rule-MakingFootnote 1 Kepler proposed a “soft limit” of 75% deployment and “hard limit” of 30% deployment at Year 6, with completion by Year 9. They also proposed to include that a minimum number of satellites need to provide service, based on the type of system proposed. Telesat also suggested a hybrid milestone, with 33% of the constellation and viable commercial service at Year 6, with no further milestones.

SpaceX argued that a “one-size-fits-all” milestone regime may not be appropriate, and that a flexible regime that ensures the licensed assets are put to use but where full deployment is led by market forces would be more appropriate. O3b supported the proposed milestones.

OneWeb and Meridian Global/Northpoint submitted supplemental comments on this issue from those they submitted through the Coalition. OneWeb was strongly opposed to the proposal on the basis that it would constitute an extension to the implementation milestones for existing licensees. OneWeb proposed that the consequences for missing a milestone should be softened instead, whereby the authorization would be reduced to the number of satellites in operation at the time of the final milestone. Meridian Global/Northpoint expressed qualified support for the proposed milestones, but suggested there be flexibility in their enforcement based on unforeseen events.

The Coalition took no position on the proposed milestones, but did state that they should be as clear as possible and include details on how they must be fulfilled, what proof must be provided, and that the Department should clarify how it will assess compliance.

On the question of defining large constellations as those with 30 or more satellites, views were mixed. GHGSat initially proposed a hybrid definition that would include an overall mass of 50 kg or more. Kepler and NorthStar suggested that the Department differentiate between different types of systems. MSCI and SpaceX suggested that the milestone be based not on number of satellites, but on a minimum threshold of services or coverage.

The Coalition and Telesat opposed the definition, with Telesat proposing that the revised milestones apply to all NGSO systems, regardless of size or service and the Coalition suggesting that they apply to commercial systems only. GHGSat, in their reply comments, argued that milestones should be no more onerous for small systems than for large ones.

The purpose of implementation milestones is to ensure that the authorized spectrum is developed within a reasonable timeframe and to minimize the submission of frivolous applications. Unlike in the United States, Canada’s satellite licensing framework does not include the imposition of a surety bond, under which there are financial implications for licensees who miss their milestones. The Department will therefore continue to maintain interim deployment milestones.

When FCFS licensing was introduced, the aim was to establish an objective, predictable and timely licensing process. The Department appreciates the intent behind the suggestions of including minimum service provision and/or minimum coverage in the milestones. Establishing a milestone regime that includes these aspects, however, would require case-by-case determination of whether milestones have been met. Further, terms such as “viable commercial service” and “minimum coverage” could be difficult to define as objective measures even when established on a case-by-case basis.

The establishment of standard milestones was based on the typical development and construction cycle for GSO satellites and “traditional” NGSO commercial systems. Feedback received during the first three years under the FCFS licensing regime from the academic, government and science fields have led the Department to conclude that the standard milestones may not be appropriate for these types of projects. As a result, implementation milestones for non-commercial satellite systems will be established on a case-by-case basis, based on the individual system.

For commercial systems, the Department will establish a single set of standard milestones for all systems, regardless of constellation size, and will issue the following clarifications and description of consequences for missing milestones.

Back-up and in-orbit spare satellites are not included as part of the calculation for the one-third Year 6 milestone or the final Year 9 milestone. If the licensee has not deployed one-third of the constellation, but is providing a commercial service, the license will not be revoked. It will, however, be revised to reflect the number of satellites in operation and the service area covered.

At Year 9, if the full constellation has not been deployed, the licence will be revised to reflect the number of satellites in operation and the service area covered. If the licensee wishes to expand its constellation after the final milestone, licensees can apply to modify their licence subject to section 5.2 of CPC 2-6-02.

Many comments were received relating to allowing maximum flexibility in design and implementation for new and innovative NGSO systems, and to better defining the milestone requirements.

In light of these comments, and to reflect the longer implementation period of nine years for commercial NGSO systems, the Department has decided to also modify the interim milestones as follows. The Department has found that the milestone related to the contract for construction, as currently defined, may not reflect the realities of smaller, newer satellite operators, nor the development cycle for many of the new, innovative technologies being contemplated for NGSO systems.

The first milestone for commercial NGSO systems will therefore be set at Year 3, and will require a signed contract with a manufacturer to begin the construction process. If the contract does not include construction of the full constellation, an additional milestone will be imposed at Year 4. Finally, the milestone associated with the launch contract will be moved from Year 4 to Year 5.

The implementation milestones for all commercial NGSO constellations will be modified as follows:

  • Year 3 – Submission of a signed contract with a manufacturer to begin the construction process and confirmation of location of all ground facilities (TT&C, NOC and gateways);
  • Year 4 – Submission of a signed contract with a manufacturer for the construction of the full constellation;
  • Year 5 – Submission of a signed launch contract;
  • Year 6 – One-third of the authorized constellation must be deployed; and,
  • Year 9 – Full constellation must be deployed

If the licensee does not deploy one-third of the constellation by Year 6, but is providing commercial services, the licence will not be revoked. The licence will be amended to reflect the characteristics of the constellation at Year 6.

If the licensee does not deploy the full constellation by Year 9, but is providing commercial services, the licence will not be revoked. The licence will be amended to reflect the characteristics of the constellation at Year 9.

6.7 Measures to address coordination disputes

The Department sought views on two possible mechanisms that could be implemented in the event of unsuccessful domestic coordination: the imposition of spectrum sharing during in-line interference events and the mandated use of a third-party dispute resolution process. Comments and/or reply comments were received from Boeing, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar, O3b, OneWeb/WorldVu and Telesat.

On the issue of mandatory spectrum sharing during in-line interference events, Boeing, the Coalition, Kepler, NorthStar and O3b either supported, or offered qualified support for the measure. The Coalition suggested that the Department pre-define the criteria for in-line events. Kepler suggested that preference should be given to those systems capable of sharing and that those that could not share should be required to cease emissions. Kepler also suggested measures that should be included in commercial contracts to accommodate sharing. NorthStar proposed that interference to gateways should be treated differently than interference to customer terminals.

GHGSat opposed the measure, while Telesat was strongly opposed, arguing that it is impractical and would make it impossible to determine the amount of capacity that could be provided to customers, which would depend on the number of existing and future constellations that would deploy. Telesat further proposed that the Department should rely on international coordination rules to resolve domestic coordination disputes. MSCI also opposed the measure arguing for frequency sharing, with preference given to newer systems with more advanced technology that can deliver higher data rates/MHz.

With respect to what an appropriate angle would be to define an in-line event, Boeing, the Coalition, Kepler, OneWeb, and Telesat submitted comments and/or reply comments. Kepler suggested that the Department adopt whatever angle the FCC adopts following its NPRM, while Boeing supported the 10 degree angle. The Coalition suggested that the Department consult further before establishing an angle. OneWeb was opposed to the use of an in-line avoidance angle as a trigger for spectrum sharing, suggesting that a Delta T/T or I/N value could be used.

On the issue of the mandated use of third-party dispute resolution, comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar, O3b and Telesat. Kepler was supportive if the Department imposed a cap on associated costs. MSCI, NorthStar and Telesat were opposed. MSCI felt that market forces and commercial arrangements were sufficient, while NorthStar and Telesat argued that the Department has the technical expertise and public policy mandate to be the final arbiter of disputes. SpaceX reserved comment, but suggested that the Department consult further.

The Department will not pursue mandated third-party dispute resolution, given there was very limited support, and will defer a decision on mandatory spectrum sharing during in-line events. As several respondents noted, spectrum sharing during in-line events is a key topic in the FCC’s ongoing NPRM process, and a decision by the FCC will be a factor in shaping this issue for all operators seeking market access in the United States.

The Department will also continue to work through the ITU process to further clarify coordination practices for NGSO/NGSO coordination. The Department will monitor developments in the United States and at the ITU and will revisit this issue over the coming year.

In the interim, the Department will continue to apply the ITU’s general coordination practices to domestic coordination. It is important to clarify what this will mean in practice. In international coordination, “date priority” is a key aspect of coordination, but is not the only one. Operators are expected to coordinate in good faith, and to accommodate later systems to the extent possible in order to reflect the principles of equitable access and efficient use of spectrum. Multiple other factors are also considered, including the stage of design/deployment of the systems in question, whether a deployed system has been notified or not, and whether its operation is in compliance with the notified characteristics.

In domestic coordination, Canada also considers the order of authorization, granting earlier licensees a similar status to those with an earlier ITU date priority in international coordination. However, an earlier date of regulatory precedence (“date priority”) does not preclude licensees from having to accommodate later systems.

The Department will not require mandated third-party dispute resolution in cases of domestic coordination disputes, and will defer a decision on mandating spectrum sharing during in-line interference events until the FCC decision is known and further progress is made at the ITU in the area of NGSO/NGSO coordination. The Department will continue to apply standard coordination practices.

6.8 Coordination requirements for foreign-licensed systems seeking approval to operate in Canada

The Department proposed to continue its policy of approving the use of foreign-licensed NGSO systems in Canada if coordination has been completed with Canadian networks, without requiring coordination with other foreign systems to be completed. Comments and/or reply comments were received from Boeing, the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar, O3b, Planet, SpaceX, Telesat and ViaSat.

GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, NorthStar and Planet supported the proposal, while the Coalition offered qualified support, proposing that foreign-licensed systems only be required to coordinate with Canadian networks that have a higher ITU regulatory (“priority”) date and that the Department should impose a deadline on Canadian operators to complete coordination. ViaSat also supported the proposal if the Department imposed a time limit to complete coordination.

Boeing, O3b and SpaceX opposed the requirement, arguing that foreign-licensed operators be allowed to operate, with SpaceX suggesting that this be on a no interference, no protection basis until coordination with Canadian networks is complete. All three suggested that coordination with Canadian networks be a condition of the approval to operate in Canada. Boeing further suggested that the Department adopt a regime for FSS that is similar to the one in place for mobile-satellite services service provider (MSS), whereby the Department issues spectrum licences that include communications with a foreign-licensed satellite(s).

Telesat was opposed to the proposal, arguing that an NGSO service that does not fully meet the coverage and service obligations for Canada could, because of interference concerns, preclude a Canadian system (that would have provided full coverage) from deploying in the same band. They further argued that requiring Canadian licensees to comply with coverage and other obligations, “while permitting foreign-licensed operators to selectively serve only the more lucrative Canadian markets without such restrictions” would put Canadian licensees at a considerable disadvantage. Telesat argued that foreign-licensed operators should have similar requirements as Canadian-licensed systems.

This was opposed by the Coalition and others in their reply comments. Within the global satellite market, the Department must maintain an appropriate balance between support for the domestic satellite industry and facilitating the availability of services for Canadians. The Department’s policy of requiring foreign-licensed operators to coordinate with Canadian networks prior to granting market access, and requiring coordination to continue on an ongoing basis, will ensure that Canadian licensees are not blocked from the Canadian market. Further, the Department’s revised coverage requirement should provide Canadian operators with sufficient flexibility to allow them to pursue global business.

The Department will continue with its current practice of requiring foreign-licensed systems to coordinate with Canadian networks prior to granting approval to operate in Canada. For clarification, the requirement is that foreign operators must complete coordination with Canadian networks that have a higher order of ITU regulatory precedence (“date priority”). Foreign-licensed operators also have an ongoing obligation to continue to coordinate with Canadian networks as part of their approval to operate in Canada.

No additional measures will be introduced to govern the coordination discussions that are undertaken as part of a market access request. The Department’s view is that existing international coordination procedures are sufficient and should be relied upon to resolve disputes, if any.

The Department will continue to require foreign-licensed NGSO systems that are seeking approval to serve the Canadian market, or to operate in Canada, to complete coordination with those Canadian networks that have a higher order of regulatory precedence (“date priority”). The completion of coordination with other foreign systems will not be required. Coordination will be an ongoing condition of the approval to operate in Canada.

6.9 Changes to procedures affecting revoked or returned authorizations

The Department proposed to modify its existing procedures to not accept applications for spectrum that has been returned to the Department (either through withdrawal of an approval in principle, revocation of a licence, or voluntary return by a licensee). The Department further proposed that it publish a notice on its website indicating that spectrum has been returned, and to begin receiving applications for that spectrum 30 calendar days after the notice has been published.

Comments and/or reply comments were received from the Coalition, GHGSat, Kepler, MSCI, Telesat and NorthStar, all of whom supported the proposal in principle. The Coalition proposed a waiting period of 90 calendar days and suggested that the Department also include the date and time that applications would be received with the publication of the notice of returned spectrum.

The Department will implement its proposal, with a revised waiting period of 60 calendar days.

Spectrum that is returned to the Department will not be immediately available for re-assignment. The Department will publish a notice on its Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website, which will include the date and time when applications will be received for that spectrum. The Department will begin to receive applications 60 calendar days after the notice has been published.

7. Lifting the moratorium

The moratorium on commercial NGSO satellite applications will be lifted at 08:00 ET on June 26, 2017. Applications will be treated in the order in which they are received in the satellite authorization email box.

An information session on the revised procedures will be held on June 12, 2017. Information on the time and location of this session will be published on the Department’s website with this paper. For further information, an email can be sent to ic.satelliteauthorization-autorisationsatellite.ic@canada.ca.

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