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Backgrounder — Personal Communications Services


Personal Communications Services at 2 GHz


Personal Communications Services promise access to wide range of Information Highway networks for all Canadians and will be an important component of the Government's Jobs and Growth agenda.

What is PCS?

PCS stands for Personal Communications Services, a new family of advanced digital telecommunications services. They are built around the concept of a small, low-cost, personal, and fully portable wireless handset that will extend the benefits of wireless communications to a larger segment of the market, and make a host of sophisticated new services possible for the first time.

PCS will make use of the latest technology. Their all-digital nature will make PCS handsets a major personal on-ramp to the Information Highway; provide unprecedented protection from eavesdropping; maximum ability to interact with other networks and services; and huge potential for innovative new communications services, such as remote control of household appliances and systems.

They will also usher in the era of the personal telephone number – in which everyone may ultimately have his or her own portable number, at which one will ultimately be accessible anywhere in the world.

PCS in Canada is compatible to the United States. This will make it more user-friendly and easier to use on both sides of the border.

Where and when will PCS be introduced?

The first PCS networks are expected to become operational and be commercially available in the major cities of Canada within the next two years. They will then gradually be extended across the country and into less densely populated areas.

Who are Personal Communications Services for?

In short, PCS is intended for everyone.

Today's conventional cellular phones are used predominantly by business (typically, sales) people, others with a very strong economic or practical need to stay in touch and those who must simply spend a lot of their time in a vehicle. Whereas these immensely popular cellular mobile telephone and data services are still comparatively expensive for the average person to use, PCS has been designed as a much lower-priced family of services that will bring all the benefits of mobility in telecommunications to the mass market user.

PCS will extend personal, portable and mobile communications to a far wider cross-section of the public. Consumers will benefit from additional choice in service providers, competition and economies of scale and scope. Digital networks will have the capacity to offer advanced services at reduced costs.

How will PCS change telephone service?

There is currently a global explosion in both wireless telecommunications technologies and demand for new services not fettered by the need to be connected by wires to fixed locations. In fact, wireless services which include cellular phones, message paging and the common cordless telephone in the family room are already, generally speaking, the fastest growing and most rapidly changing segment of the world telecommunications industry.

And the huge North American segment of that industry expects today's emerging PCS services will turn out to be their most significant growth area during the next decade.

With its vision of a low-cost, personal, multi-use terminal, able to put its user in touch with anyone, any time, anywhere PCS seems destined to have a revolutionary effect on both the telecommunications industry and the way we think about the telephone.

Telephone communications have until now been based on the use of unique numbers that are tied to particular locations, where a piece of terminal equipment, most commonly the domestic telephone handset, is physically tied to the wired network. When we dial these numbers, we are actually calling places not people in the hope or expectation the person we wish to reach will be there at the end of the wire. Statistics show that, for up to 80 per cent of the calls made to all homes and offices in North America, the person we want is not there, and what may be a near-endless game of telephone tag then ensues!

PCS promises to change that.

Instead of a shared fixture, physically tied to a particular place, our telephone will become truly personal. Each of us may carry one most, if not all, the time everywhere we go. Our telephone number will be personal as well, enabling newly intelligent digital networks to locate and ring us anywhere. Telephone tag will be minimized or eliminated and people will generally communicate in new ways, at different times and in some very different places.

How will PCS affect Canada's telecommunications industry?

Because of the PCS networks, and the small, light-weight devices we will use to access them, will all be based on digital technology, they will make possible a host of new, advanced telecommunications services many of them simply not imaginable nor possible today.

The advent of PCS in Canada is in accordance with the federal government's Information Highway strategy of encouraging the entry of new players as service providers, and the pursuit of strong, fair and sustainable competition in the provision of all telecommunications services.

This policy, and the emergence of expected strong consumer demand for PCS and other cellular-like wireless services, is expected to lead to increased efficiency, growth and innovation in the Canadian telecommunications industry. This, in turn, will generate both new jobs for Canadians at home and increased sales of Canadian telecommunications hardware, software and services in world export markets.

Several Canadian companies are already world leaders in wireless telecommunications and closely related technologies.

What were the Government's objectives for PCS?

As part of the Information Highway strategy, the Government outlined its objectives in Industry Canada's document of — Policy and Call for Applications: Wireless Personal Communications Services in the 2 GHz range (Implementing PCS in Canada).

This policy aims to facilitate the timely and orderly implementation within Canada of PCS and to further the following detailed objectives: 

  1. Stimulation of additional choice in provision of cellular-like' mobile radio/telephone services, and support of new technologies and facilities of high security and low cost which could compete with existing local wireline services.
  2. Provision of additional and innovative personal communications services at 2 GHz. Not just replication of services already available to consumers below 1 GHz.
  3. Facilitation of national, North American and world-wide service offerings to enable both Canadian equipment suppliers and consumers to benefit from the availability of larger markets and the opportunity to make use of wide-scale roaming capabilities throughout most of North America and perhaps the world.
  4. Stimulation of competitive and comprehensive service offerings, provided through utilization of both existing and new facilities, through among other measures non-discriminatory access by third parties to networks, thereby also promoting value-added services and content.
  5. Support of service provision to the greatest possible number of Canadians, and
  6. Promotion of jobs and investment in Canada, through support of domestic research and development activities and the concomitant development of expertise for international trade and investment opportunities.

How will PCS relate to Canada's Information Highway?

With their promise of competitive pricing, highly personal and multi-use access to Canada's web of interconnected wireline and wireless telecommunications networks, and the many new services this infrastructure will deliver, PCS systems will be a major and vital component of the country's Information Highway.

(The Information Highway is the metaphorical name given to our rapidly emerging, seamless web of high-speed networks, capable of carrying voice, text, data, graphics and video services to and from all Canadians.)

The federal government believes the Information Highway will be a critical component of a revitalized national economy. It will constitute an indispensable strategic key to new jobs and economic prosperity for Canadians in global markets in which success or failure is increasingly coming to be determined by the superior creation, movement and application of information.

Because of this, PCS operators have been licensed, and their services will soon be introduced, in accordance with established broad public policy objectives for the Information Highway. The government has repeatedly stated, as fundamental objectives, that: 

  • the Information Highway must help create jobs, through innovation and investment;
  • it should help reinforce Canadian sovereignty and cultural identity; and
  • universal access to the Information Highway should be available at reasonable cost for all Canada's citizens.

The government believes PCS and other Information Highway services can best contribute to these objectives if there is an increasingly strong and central role for competition in the provision of all products, facilities and services. It sees the Information Highway evolving not as a brand new facility, but rather as an interconnected, interoperable network of networks. In other words, a user of one network should be able to interact with and send or get information easily to or from all the others.

Privacy protection and network security are further important concerns underpinning all areas of planning, building and operating Canada's Information Highway.

The Government of Canada expects that, one way or another, the advent of PCS in Canada will be a major step forward in the realization of virtually all of the above objectives and principles of Canadian communications policy.

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