Archived — SPFC — A Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (Archived Version 2002 Edition)

June 2002

Table of Contents

Radiocommunication Act

Notice No. DGTP-004-02 — Revision to the 1992 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada


The intent of the present Gazette Notice is to announce the release of a revision to the 1992 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (Framework) which reflects current policies and practices. In addition, Industry Canada is initiating a process, with public consultation, that will lead to the development over the next few years of a renewed Framework that will be more responsive to the evolving communications environment in the longer term. 


The Framework contains a set of Core Objectives and Policy Guidelines that provides the fundamental basis for the Department's spectrum policy and management program. The Department's experience in applying the objectives and policy guidelines of the 1992 Framework has been positive. However, there have been significant changes since the issuance of the Framework in 1992. New types of radio communication systems have emerged which necessitate changes in both spectrum policy and management. Also, there have been fundamental changes in the telecommunications industry with the advent of the Internet age and increased competition and convergence in the delivery of telecommunication and broadcasting services. In response to these changes, the Department has introduced new approaches and policies over the past few years for the effective management of spectrum. Some examples of these initiatives include: market-based licensing, spectrum licences and the broader utilization of frequency allocations. In order to keep pace with current developments, the Department is issuing a revision updating the 1992 Framework.


A revision updating the 1992 Framework is issued based on the modifications previously made to specific aspects of the Department's spectrum policy and management program. As these particular modifications to the spectrum policy and management program have been made following the normal process of public consultation, the Department is of the view that it is unnecessary to solicit general public comment on this updated Framework. Nevertheless, the Department will consider any public comment on the completeness of the updated Framework in a future revision or amendment. Looking towards the future, the Department anticipates a number of profound changes in the delivery of telecommunications, broadcasting and new media. It is anticipated that there will be an increased reliance on commercial factors in establishing radiocommunications policy and procedures that will facilitate the most appropriate use of the radio spectrum. Common digital infrastructures will increasingly cater to the convergence of multi-service delivery. As well, there will likely be a greater role for radiocommunications in national security. In view of this situation, the Department believes that it is timely to commence a process of public discussion that will lead ultimately to a revamped Framework. In order to initiate the public discussion on the development of this renewed Framework, the following Section includes a number of broad questions for consideration.

Invitation to Provide Ongoing Comments Towards the Development of a Renewed Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada

As discussed above, the Department is inviting public comment to contribute towards the development of a renewed Framework that will be responsive to Canadian radiocommunication needs for the longer term. The development of this renewed Framework is anticipated to take two years or so and include several phases. The Department now invites preliminary views, as to the issues that should be addressed in this consultation, and their potential resolution. To initiate discussion, several questions are offered for consideration. However, commentators are invited to address any matters within the scope of the development of this renewed Framework.

  1. What are the changes needed to the Framework's Core Objectives to better reflect the changing environment of spectrum users, the telecommunications and broadcasting industries, and evolving radiocommunications services?
  2. Which policy principles of spectrum use and management should be changed to be more responsive to the needs of priority services and to commercial services in an open marketplace?
  3. How can greater flexibility in the use of spectrum be introduced to let market forces seek the best commercial applications?  What steps are necessary to ensure that the spectrum would be utilized and not hoarded?

The Department welcomes comment on an ongoing basis from interested parties on these and any other issues relevant to the development of the renewed Framework. In order to be fully considered, initial comments should be sent to by September 30, 2002, or preferably earlier. Comments will be posted, as received, on the Department's Web site.

Availability of Documentation

This Notice and the revised Framework are available electronically as follows:

World Wide Web (WWW)
Spectrum Management and Telecommunications

or can be obtained in hard copy, for a fee, from DLS, St. Joseph Print Group, 45 Sacré-Coeur Boulevard, Hull, Quebec K1A 0S7, 1-888-562-5561 (Canada toll-free telephone), 1-800-565-7757 (Canada toll-free facsimile), 1-819-779-4335 (World-wide telephone), 1-819-779-2833 (World-wide facsimile).

May 24, 2002

Michael Helm
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch

Jan Skora
Director General
Radiocommunications and
Broadcasting Regulatory Branch

R.W. McCaughern
Director General
Spectrum Engineering Branch

1. Introduction

1.1 Intent

The intent of the present document announced in Gazette Notice DGTP-004-02 is to update the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (Framework), issued in 1992, to reflect current policies and practices.

The modifications to the 1992 Framework incorporate changes made since 1992 to certain spectrum policies and practices which have been the subject of extensive public scrutiny - the use of auctions in radio licensing, for one example. Industry Canada will consider any public comments on the completeness of the updating of the 1992 Framework, in a future revision or amendment.

1.2 Background

The Framework was issued  in September 1992 following two stages of public consultation. The considerable effort that was put into the development of the Framework by the Department and those commenting resulted in the current written set of objectives and policy guidelines that has served Canada well since that time. The Department's experience in applying the objectives and policy guidelines of the 1992 Framework has been positive and it is our belief that industry has been aided by the public availability of this material consolidated in one document. 

However, there has been a tremendous amount of change in telecommunications since the issuance of the Framework in 1992. During the intervening time, the world has moved into the Internet age with an increasing emphasis on the personal portability of telecommunication devices. The availability of new technologies and products has had a significant impact on the applications of radio and consequently on the use of the radio spectrum. As an example, there has been much more demand for mobile wireless devices, whereas the widespread deployment of fibre has replaced the general use of microwave radio for longer haul telecommunication links.

Furthermore, there have been some fundamental changes in government regulation of telecommunications in Canada and the world as a whole.  In accordance with the World Trade Organization (WTO) multilateral agreement on basic telecommunications services of February 1997, Canada opened its market to competition from foreign entities in the fixed satellite and mobile satellite services as well as international telecommunications services.

Since 1992, changes to government policy and regulatory decisions by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) have led to a larger degree of competition in the delivery of all segments of telecommunications services. This has resulted in the use of radio systems to provide services in direct competition to wireline services, a situation that was discouraged previously. The Government has also adopted a convergence policy enabling the telephone and cable companies to enter each other's core markets thus fostering competition, network interconnection and service innovation. Convergence is blurring the distinctions among the categories of services provided to consumers.

In order to respond to these changes of government policy direction, and some of the changes in the telecommunications industry since 1992, the Department has adopted a number of changes in spectrum policy and management.  One specific example is the Department's adoption of the option of using auctions as a means of determining who should be selected among multiple competing applicants for radio licences where there is not sufficient spectrum to meet projected demand.

Consequently, the Department believes that it is timely to issue a revision to the 1992 Framework by updating it to reflect the current use of the radio spectrum as well as the current state of government policy and regulation.  Many of the modifications to the Framework indicated in this document are the result of incorporating already adopted changes in the spectrum policy and management area.

1.3 Structure and Scope of this Document

For the convenience of the reader, the present document retains the structure of the 1992 Framework.  The first three chapters provide an overview of the radio frequency spectrum, the basis in legislation and spectrum policy and the changing environment in radiocommunications.  Chapter 4 presents a discussion of the Core Objectives of the Framework. Chapter 5 includes a discussion of the Policy Guidelines of the Framework.

Certain of the Core Objectives and Policy Guidelines of the 1992 Framework are revised. The Department is of the view that the majority of the Core Objectives and Policy Guidelines of the 1992 Framework are presently valid, with minor updating in some cases. In other instances, the modifications to the Core Objectives and Policy Guidelines of the 1992 Framework incorporate changes to departmental policy made since 1992, following the normal process of public consultation.

2. The Radio Frequency Spectrum

2.1 The Spectrum Resource

Canada depends upon the radio frequency spectrum to maintain its sovereignty and security, and to safeguard individual citizens. The radio spectrum also supports a wide range of business, personal, industrial, scientific, medical, research, and cultural activities, private and public.

The radio spectrum influences the daily lives of every Canadian. In Canada, because of immense distances and sparse population, radio services provide essential links connecting people to one another.

The spectrum resource supports a multibillion dollar industry. An increasing proportion of Canadians uses cellular radio and personal communication services. Satellite and microwave radio relay systems extend the reach of backbone fibre optic systems and in some cases provide the public with access to competing delivery of services. Capital investments in radar, radionavigation and other radio systems are also significant. The telecommunications industry's impact on the Canadian economy goes beyond the revenues and employment generated by the industry itself. Telecommunications, including wireless services, provides a critical infrastructure for knowledge-based and other economic sectors, which has an enormous "enabling" impact on the rest of the economy.

The radio frequency spectrum is a finite resource. With the rapid evolution and application of new radio technologies, the spectrum is becoming an increasingly congested and limited resource, particularly in light of increasing and competing demands for new services.

2.2 Spectrum Policy and Management

Government Mandate — The Minister of Industry, through the Department of Industry Act, the Radiocommunication Act and with due regard to the Telecommunications Act, is responsible for developing national policies and goals for spectrum resource use, facilitating efficient development of radiocommunication in the public interest, ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum and fostering the orderly development and operation of communications in domestic and international spheres.

The broad mission for the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications Program of Industry Canada has been defined as being one of:

"facilitating the development and use of world-class communications infrastructure, technologies and services for the express purpose of enhancing Canada's competitiveness, economic growth and the quality of life of all Canadians"


  • ensuring flexible and efficient use of the radio frequency spectrum as a strategic national resource;
  • supporting timely and equitable access to high-quality and affordable communication systems and services, and;
  • promoting industrial development by facilitating exports, innovation and investment in Canada's communication infrastructure.

Spectrum Policy — Canada is keenly aware of the international dimension of its economic and social activities. As the radio frequency spectrum is a common global resource with no national boundaries, spectrum policy and management can only meaningfully take place through bilateral agreements and cooperation with neighbouring countries and multilateral organizations such as the Inter-American Telecommunications Commission (CITEL) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

Each country has a degree of flexibility to decide on particular radio service allocations to meet its domestic needs, among the services allocated internationally by the ITU. Consideration is given to mitigating interference with neighbouring countries.  The Department reviews and reallocates specific frequency bands to services on a periodic basis normally following an ITU World Radiocommunication Conference in order to satisfy domestic communications requirements.  These domestic allocations are published in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations.

Within the Canadian communications environment, use of the radio frequency spectrum is contingent on a balanced set of spectrum and licensing policies, radio regulations, radio system standards, rules, procedures and practices designed to maximize the economical usage of the spectrum while minimizing the impact of one use on another.

The Department, in order to develop these policies, standards etc., engages in an extensive public consultation process to enable a full review and discussion of proposed modifications.

3. The Changing Environment

3.1 The Challenges

The original Framework published in 1992 discussed the challenges of spectrum management such as rapid advances in technology and increasing globalization. The Department's assessment is that the function of spectrum management has largely met these challenges over the intervening period. Nevertheless, this has required some adaptation of spectrum management practices to take account of the impact of change and in many cases this change is ongoing.

One aspect affecting spectrum policy is the convergence of the telecommunications and broadcasting industries and their delivery of services. The Department released a Convergence Policy in 1996 that set the conditions for the entry of telecommunication entities into broadcasting and for the broadcasting and cable entities to enter the telecommunications markets. This policy also fostered competition, network interconnection and service innovation. Spectrum has been made available to support this policy thus enabling the deployment of new radio systems and facilitating competition, innovation and the delivery of services to all regions of Canada. 

Another aspect is the increasing globalization of the economy and, in particular, trade.  In accordance with the WTO multilateral agreement on basic telecommunications of February 1997, Canada opened several areas of telecommunications to competition with foreign entities. These factors require that domestic decisions on spectrum allocations, frequency plans and standards need to have more of a global perspective rather than the domestic or sub-regional view of previous years. This also encourages the harmonization of regulatory standards and equipment approval processes with those of other countries. This trend is expected to continue.

Technology continues to evolve. Since the publication of the original Framework, we have seen the replacement of the use of radio relay by fibre optical links for large capacity inter-city communication systems. However, the use of radio is increasing in many other applications such as personal and satellite communications as well as local network distribution.

By far the greatest change since the inception of the 1992 Framework has been the widespread use of the Internet. Although it may be difficult to predict the diversity of Internet-based applications delivered by radio during this decade, they will likely be many. It is important that this and future revisions of the Framework are thorough and flexible in their application, to ensure that the principles and guidelines provide the appropriate base to accommodate future change.

3.2 Need For a Revision to the Framework

The Department believes that the 1992 Framework continues to be a useful policy document to provide the Department's basis for spectrum policy and management. However, the great change in telecommunications since 1992, as well as the changes in the Department's spectrum policy and management practices, warrants issuing a revision, updating the Framework where necessary.

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