Report On the National Antenna Tower Policy Review
Section D — The Six Policy Questions
Question 5. How and to what extent can tower sharing be utilized in order to reduce the total number of towers?
While Policy Question 5 addresses issues related to the sharing of antenna towers, the reply will discuss and make recommendations related to a fuller range of facility sharing, including the sharing of (a) antenna supporting structures, (b) antenna sites, and (c) networks (through interoperability and companion arrangements). It is submitted that each of these types of facility sharing can lead to a net reduction in infrastructure costs for the radio system user and, as a public benefit, a net reduction in the number of antenna towers (or other supporting structures) that must be established. Where appropriate, facility sharing issues related to particular categories of radio service will be discussed within this section.
The three types of facility sharing noted above will each be defined and the particular implications for sharing discussed in turn.
A. Sharing of Supporting Structures
This is the practice of mounting radio transmitting and/or receiving antennas on existing structures. These existing structures may be radiocommunication-related, such as antenna towers or antenna masts or poles, or they may be entirely unrelated to radiocommunication purposes, such as electrical utility poles, (high-tension) electrical transmission line towers, water towers, church steeples, flag poles and the sides of buildings.
As a starting point, it should be noted that Industry Canada's Client Procedures Circular,Footnote 268 which addresses the policy obligations for the proponents of all significant radio installations, states that Industry Canada expects that certain antenna supporting structures will be shared:
If all service providers were to act independently to establish separate antenna structures, the potential would exist for justifiable concern that the number of such structures within an area would be excessive. To avoid such a situation, Industry Canada expects applicants and antenna structure owners, along with industry associations, to work cooperatively in reaching agreements which allow for and encourage the sharing of antenna structures so as to minimize their number.Footnote 269
It is interesting to note that Industry Canada's client circular directs this expectation (to work cooperatively in reaching sharing agreements) to the providers of "spectrum-based telecommunication services." It is difficult to determine which service providers would be subject to this policy because this is not an established telecommunication or radio service designation in Canada. Contextually, it would appear that this policy is directed at spectrum users who may require significant antennas and supporting structures to offer telecommunication services to the public.
Within its broadcasting policies, Industry Canada has directed a similarly worded expectation to all categories of broadcasting undertakings. Rule 2.1 of the General Rules for all broadcasters states:
To avoid an excessive number of antenna structures in any given area, the Department expects applicants and antenna structure owners to work cooperatively in reaching agreements which allow for and encourage the sharing of antenna structures.Footnote 270
The Canadian Association of Broadcasters (CAB), within its written submission to this policy review, listed the following benefits of sharing supporting structures. The CAB stated that the sharing of antenna structures would:
- reduce the total number of towers required in the community;
- reduce the capital cost of the new installation;
- simplify aeronautical clearances;
- allow supporting infrastructure, such as buildings and emergency power generators, to be shared; and,
- allow the sharing of maintenance personnel and site operating costs.Footnote 271
Based upon submissions such as this and independent research performed during the data-collection phase of this policy review the following recommendation is made to Industry Canada:
Recommendation 28: That Industry Canada implement new and more explicit policies designed to stimulate the sharing of antenna towers and other supporting structures for the mounting of radio antennas.Footnote 272
This recommendation is made with the understanding that there are many circumstances when sharing may not be advisable from a technical (engineering) perspective and that for non-technical reasons the sharing of supporting structures may not be appropriate for particular types of radio services or for aesthetic reasons.
First, there are a number of engineering challenges related to the sharing of supporting structures. If radio antennas are to share the same towers, masts and poles, the radio engineering issues would include concerns about the suitability of the existing site for signal service requirements, potential for interference problems between systems, structural loading limitations,Footnote 273 structural height and antenna spacing limitations and (although a remote possibility) the potential for co-located radio facilities to produce a combination of emissions that would exceed Safety Code 6Footnote 274 limits for human exposure to radiofrequency energy.
Where radio antennas are to be mounted on non-radio structures, such as water towers, utility poles or the sides of buildings, structural and other engineering concerns related to the attachment and weight (loading) limitations may be raised. For example, the location of radio antennas on (high-tension) electrical transmission line towers produces significant electrical safety concerns for those who must install and maintain the radio antennas.Footnote 275
Second, sharing support structures may not be possible or appropriate for reasons that are unrelated to the engineering challenges. As a starting point, if the site is leased for radiocommunication purposes, the lessor (landlord) may not allow co-siting or may permit it subject to unacceptably onerous terms and conditions.Footnote 276 Also, while the sharing of supporting structures is often done for aesthetic reasons, in some circumstances it can degrade the aesthetic appearance of an antenna site, or limit the deployment of aesthetic options such as the use of camouflaging techniques or the use of single-purpose structures (and antennas) that have a very modest visual profile.Footnote 277 Obviously, the sharing of supporting structures should not be encouraged in circumstances where it will result in a significant degradation of the aesthetic appearance of an antenna site. Aesthetic degradation may occur due to the addition of antenna elements or cabling, or because the supporting structure must be made tallerFootnote 278 or be reinforced physically in order to achieve the structural integrity necessary to meet the additional loading requirements. From an aesthetic perspective, the sharing of antenna supporting structures is an important siting option and policy objective, but it is not a panacea.
For many types of radio services or service users, it may be inappropriate to ask that they share supporting structures with other radio apparatus. Amateur radio operators typically install their antennas and supporting structures upon their own residential property and it would be unworkable to expect that they would do otherwise.Footnote 279 Government departments or agencies that must protect the security of their communications should not be pressured to co-site on the antenna supporting structures of commercial radio installations. For example, for reasons of national security the radiocommunication facilities owned and operated by the Department of National Defence (DND) should not be subject to co-location obligations.Footnote 280
During the consultations for this policy review information was provided to the effect that broadcasting undertakings in Canada, such as the CBC, tend to share their antenna supporting structures for FM and TV services with other radio users whenever such sharing is technically feasible and financially worthwhile.Footnote 281 Co-locating other types of radio services with AM broadcasting antennas occurs very infrequently for a number of reasons.Footnote 282 While broadcasting undertakings in Canada have historically shared their FM and TV supporting structures with other radio services, such as cellular and PCS service providers, these other services have not usually been able to reciprocate. The dedicated towers controlled by other radio service providers tend to be too short to achieve the coverage sought by broadcasters. Additionally, the supporting structures used for traditional rooftop installations do not extend to a sufficient height above the rooftop to permit an adequate separation between the radiating elements of a broadcasting antenna and the upper floors where people are living or working. Compliance with Safety Code 6 exposure limits requires more distance between residents and the antenna elements.
While broadcasters have not traditionally sought out the supporting structures controlled and used by other radio service providers increasingly this will change with Canada's move to digital broadcasting signals. The electromagnetic characteristics of digital radio and television signals and associated antennas are such that a number of smaller, lower powered and lower mounted antennas may be used to extend signal coverage. Consequently, broadcasters using digital signals increasingly will look to co-site upon existing supporting structures located within urban and suburban areas. Such sharing should be encouraged and facilitated.
Wireless carriers (cellular and PCS providers) are the only Industry Canada radio service category for which the sharing of antenna supporting structures has been referenced as a condition of licence.Footnote 283 Wireless carriers are expected to make their supporting structures available to other wireless service providers on a "non-discriminatory" basis and, to the extent that such is practicable, in a manner that permits a competitor to "use and pay for only those parts of the network infrastructure which they require."Footnote 284 Within the principal policy document circulated (in 1995) for the authorization of PCS systems, Industry Canada stated,
[A]pplicants are expected to respect Industry Canada's policy of encouraging shared use of advantageous antenna sites among telecommunications service providers, where it is practical and where appropriate commercial agreements can be reached.Footnote 285
Canada's experiences with the sharing of supporting structures and antenna sites by wireless carriers will be discussed together within the next subsection.
B. Site Sharing
This is the practice of locating radio transmitting and/or receiving antennas in very close proximity with other antennas or proximately to other infrastructure which society might regard as unsightly, or otherwise objectionable, such as electrical power line corridors, electrical sub-stations and smoke stacks. When radio antennas are co-located with other antennas (without sharing supporting structures) usually this occurs through the sharing of roof-top sites.
As noted above, radio antennas can be co-sited with other antennas and/or with other urban structures. Issues of co-siting must be considered within the context of antenna site selection. The selection of a site for most (fixed) radio antenna facilities involves radiocommunication and non-communication factors. For example, to ensure that a mobile phone or broadband network will function properly, the service provider must consider the overall signal coverage requirements, system usage patterns, surrounding topography and radio signal quality (e.g. potential for interference).Footnote 286
When terrestrial and rooftops antenna sites are shared, the radiocommunication challenges are much the same as when supporting structures are shared. As discussed within the previous subsection, a number of engineering issues complicate the establishment of FM or television broadcasting antennas at sites established for most other radio services. Additionally, the signals from AM antennas will be seriously disrupted if they operate in close proximity to urban infrastructures such as smoke stacks or electrical power substations.
Examples of the non-communication factors for the antenna site selection (for most commercial radio services) would include: the cost of acquisition and preparation of the proposed site, ease of accessibility to the site, existence of contractual conditions or restrictive covenants that may inhibit development of the proposed use, availability of electrical and other services at the site, aeronautical obstruction concerns, potential environmental impact of the installation, the planning adjustments requested by the local government, and the potential for opposition from local citizens to the proposed installation.
Generally, once an antenna site has been selected and the financial and transactional costs related to these non-communication factors have been incurred (for the first installation), these costs will be considerably less for subsequent installations established at that site. Thus, real efficiencies can be achieved for the antenna proponent when existing terrestrial rooftop sites are shared and the aesthetic benefits to the community can be substantial.Footnote 287
In consideration of the clear benefits and despite the inherent challenges of co-location activities,
Recommendation 29: That Industry Canada explore policy options to stimulate the co-location of the antennas at common terrestrial or rooftop sites and to increase the incidence of the co-location of antennas with other (urban) infrastructure which society might regard as unsightly, or otherwise objectionable.Footnote 288
This recommendation is made with the understanding that these two types of co-location will not be workable for all radio services (or radio users) and that the co-location of antennas with urban structures will not be appropriate in some circumstances.
One of the most critical determinants for increasing the extent of (antenna) site sharing is advanced (land-use) planning. Federal, provincial, regional and local officials with land-use planning functions must factor radiocommunication siting requirements into their long and short term planning decisions. When planning officials are both aware of and supportive of the radiocommunication requirements for particular radio service installations they can:
- designate suitable areas within their planning jurisdiction where radio antennas may be readily sited;Footnote 289
- work with those seeking to construct tall buildings to pre-plan their rooftop areas for antenna installations (and their associated cabling);
- inform antenna proponents of areas within their jurisdiction where citizens have a history of opposing developments of a similar nature; and
- create detailed guidance as to the particular siting accommodations they may favour or require (such as types of supporting structures favoured and visual screening requirements).
As an incentive for antenna proponents to work with planners to create detailed guidance, planning authorities should commit to a process that will fast-track the approval of siting applications that fit within the established planning policies. As an additional incentive, planning authorities should agree to restrict, or otherwise manage, residential and industrial development near a designated antenna area.Footnote 290
Recommendation 30: That land-use planners work with wireless network service providers to establish local planning policies that identify and designate local areas suitable for the siting of multiple antenna facilities and adopt planning policies (such as fast-track approvals) that provide incentives for service providers to locate there.
During the data collection phase of this policy review, land-use authorities expressed significant frustration with the current antenna authorization policies in Canada as they did not provide them with the knowledge, opportunity, or forum necessary to factor radiocommunication antenna siting requirements into their planning decisions. Some expressed the view that the consultation model for land-use authorities, set out within Industry Canada's CPC-2-0-03, was actually a disincentive to work with antenna proponents when asked to give approval to siting proposals.Footnote 291
Significantly, not all planning staff consulted felt excluded from the antenna authorization process. For example, it was apparent that the planning staff in Calgary and in Montréal had fairly good working relationships with Canada's cellular/PCS wireless carriers. The respective city officials were able to obtain network information from the carriers and secure siting-related accommodations from the carriers that tended to make antenna installations more compatible with the local land-use environment.Footnote 292 In both cities, staff felt that support from the District Office of Industry Canada was a key factor to securing good co-operation from the cellular/PCS carriers.
Within urban areas the rooftops of (relatively) tall buildings are obvious and sometimes critical antenna site choices for the establishment of many types of commercial radio services. Since many mobile radio services operate using radio frequencies that travel in a line-of-sight manner, only a small number of buildings located within a large city block may offer a location that will permit the antennas to be mounted above the surrounding skyscape and urban clutter. Aside from the radiocommunication advantages, there are a number of other reasons to site upon the roofs of buildings. Rooftop sitings tend to be much less expensive than those involving antenna towers or other supporting structures. Also, the tops of buildings can be made secure from intruders more easily and less expensively than is the case for most other siting situations. When requested, planning approval for rooftop siting tends to be less complicated and more quickly secured because land-use authorities and citizens often favour these sites over other choices.Footnote 293
Canadian radio regulatory policy may offer an additional inducement to site upon building tops. As discussed previously, CPC-2-0-03 permits Type 1 (non-broadcasting proponents only) and Type 2 antenna proponents to self designate whether their proposed antenna installation or modification will be "significant" or "insignificant" in nature. Some antenna proponents adopt the view that most rooftop activities involving antennas produce so little visual impact (when viewed from the ground) that they are "insignificant" in nature and, as such, no local consultation or notice is required under federal policy.Footnote 294
As a practical and legal matter, antenna proponents use leasing arrangements made with building owners or managers to secure rooftop space. They will lease space on roofs or, if such is available at a reasonable cost, will lease the entire rooftop. While such is rare in Canada, some building owners manage their own 'antenna farm' operation and will try to maximize revenues by leasing roof space, or mounting space upon a supporting structure to as many antenna proponents as possible.Footnote 295 As a general rule, the requesting antenna proponent must bear the costs associated with the radio-related and structural modifications necessary to ensure a compatible co-existence with the (pre)existing antenna installations.
In the U.S.A. and Mexico it is becoming increasingly common for third party antenna site providers to create multi-tenant antenna sites.Footnote 296 These independent companies take out long-term leases on particularly advantageous rooftops and purchase existing antenna tower sites in order to lease out space to as many radio antenna systems as prudent radio engineering,Footnote 297 the roof or antenna structure, and the local land-use authority will permit. Third party antenna site-providers are not common in Canada.
Tower and rooftop sharing by Cellular/PCS carriers in Canada
In an examination of the tower and rooftop sharing activities of the four principal wireless (cellular and PCS) carriers in Canada, it is important to look at the sharing activities between themselves, as competitors, and the extent to which they are sharing their antenna sites with other categories of radio services.
Generally speaking, when compared to other categories of radio services, it has been the establishment of cellular and PCS towers that has attracted the most negative attention from land-use authorities, community groups and local citizens. This phenomenon has been experienced within most developed nations. Due to the very nature of the physical configuration of a wireless network (typically honeycomb or cellular), the antennas and their supporting infrastructure must be extended out into the population of wireless phone users. Thus, antennas must be sited amongst or immediately next to users, including in residential areas. They must be established along highway (traffic) corridors and in rural recreational areas (cottage country).
Also, Canadian communities of relatively modest and small size have requested that enhanced digital cellular services be extended to them as one element of an economic and community development strategy.Footnote 298 The further that cellular and PCS network infrastructure extends out from traditional urban areas the more likely it is that the service provider will have to erect dedicated supporting structures upon which to mount the antennas. And, when the density of network users is low (and widely disbursed) the service provider will seek to establish fewer and relatively taller antennas in order to achieve the greatest coverage and the most efficient use of equipment.Footnote 299
In Canada, differing technologies and frequencies are being used by the major wireless carriers to provide cellular and PCS services.Footnote 300 These differences can and do affect the optimal location, height, antenna type and service coverage for their respective antenna installations. Each of these factors can place restrictions on the sharing of antenna supporting structures and sites with other wireless carriers.Footnote 301 Despite these engineering differences and restrictions, Canada's wireless carriers are offering very similar services to essentially the same configurations of urban and rural population. These two similarities will bring their network infrastructures into the same market areas and present co-siting opportunities for the carriers, especially if two or more carriers enter a new market together.
These similarities of services and markets were regarded by the federal government as key competitive drivers for the regulatory model created for cellular and PCS services. It was assumed that the carriers would enter each new market and roll out their physical infrastructure and services almost in tandem.
Before policy options that may increase tower and rooftop sharing are considered, it is important to examine the patterns and circumstances surrounding the roll out of wireless infrastructure in Canada.
In the most lucrative urban, suburban, and recreational area wireless markets in Canada the roll out of wireless services usually has occurred in tandem and with considerable flourish. For these lucrative wireless markets the carriers entered the service areas in tandem with analogue cellular in the 1980s and early 1990s and then returned together in the late 1990s to upgrade to digital cellular.Footnote 302 One might assume that having the carriers arrive together, and under considerable competitive pressure, might have empowered the local or regional governments involved to convene a common meeting with the cellular/PCS carriers in order to investigate the sharing of towers and rooftops. Unfortunately, such meetings rarely have taken place because the wireless carriers have regarded their antenna site deployment plans as strategic and confidential information. Even when filed with the local development office, land-use planning authorities have not been permitted to discuss a corporate antenna deployment plan in public or with another carrier. When the issue of sharing has been raised, the carriers have conferred with each other in private and then informed the planning authority as to whether any sites will be shared. If towers or roofs are not to be shared the local or regional officials merely have been told that sharing was not possible for 'technical reasons.' There has been no way to challenge such statements.
The patterns and circumstances that surround the roll out of cellular and PCS infrastructure in modest markets for wireless services should also be examined. Described geographically, these modest markets would include most of the country. Atlantic Canada, the northern regions of Quebec and Ontario (beyond the cottages), most of Prairies and the three territories offer modest to poor prospects for return on wireless investments.Footnote 303 In these areas the competitive edge is not present. The carriers do not usually arrive together to establish or upgrade services. In fact, the first-in or first to go-digital may substantially undermine the business case for investment by other providers. Most of the supporting structures used are dedicated towers that are often quite tall. As is the case in PEI, the initial cellular infrastructure and service has probably been established by the cellular branch of the (former) provincial phone company. In PEI the legacy towers from these initial cellular services are tall, single-purpose towers that likely will not support additional antennas.
In these modest wireless markets the location and height of the wireless antennas have been, for the most part, determined by radio engineering considerations. The nature and type of supporting structures have been decided using engineering and financial criteria. In other words, activities to minimize the aesthetic impact such as sensitive placement of the tower upon the site, the use of low (visual) profile supporting structures and screening some views of the tower or equipment building (with berms or vegetation) have played little or no role in siting decisions. In fact, due to the height of the typical tower in these areas they have (almost invariably) required aeronautical marking and lighting. It is accepted that making aesthetic adjustments to a wireless antenna tower installation will add to its costs.Footnote 304 If the business case for establishing wireless services was already weak, the increased costs of aesthetic accommodations may undermine the initiative altogether.
It is submitted that increasing the co-location activities of wireless carriers within non-urban areas of Canada may achieve a number of positive objectives. In addition to the general co-location benefits discussed previously, co-location of cellular and PCS antenna structures in non-urban areas may permit the pooling of ideas and resources so as to invest in sensitive siting techniques, camouflaging and screening technologies and landscaping techniques that might not be practical for a single-carrier installation. Also very important for non-urban areas, the number of aeronautical obstructions would be reduced.Footnote 305
Recommendation 31: That policy options be considered by Industry Canada to stimulate the co-location of cellular and PCS antenna facilities in non-urban areas of the country.
As noted previously within this report, the wireless carriers are the only category of radio service for which tower and site sharing are conditions of their radio authorization. In a letter sent by Industry Canada to new PCS licensees in 1996, the government regulator expressed disappointment about the poor progress that the providers of analogue cellular had in establishing commercial arrangements to share their supporting structures with each other:
You are expected to respect Industry Canada's policy of encouraging shared use of advantageous antenna sites among mobile telecommunications service providers. We note with some disappointment a lack of significant tangible progress by the cellular and PCS players in adopting measures that will result in greater sharing of antenna sites as a means to minimize any undesirable impact. Should the industry not show a greater willingness to voluntarily address the growing concerns of land-use authorities and the public we anticipate that further intervention may be required.Footnote 306
Over the previous five or six years officials from Industry Canada have met on a number of occasions with executives of the wireless carriers and with representatives of the national industry association, the Canadian Wireless Telecommunication Association (CWTA), to express frustration about the modest amount of, and uneven participation by some carriers in, co-location activities within the wireless industry.
For the purposes of this policy review, the assistance of the CWTA was sought in order to obtain current statistics on the nature and extent of tower and rooftop sharing activities within the wireless carrier sector. The statistics obtained establish that 68 percent of all PCS/cellular antenna sites in Canada are used by the particular holder of the antenna site alone (not shared). Of particular note is that 79.5 percent of PCS/cellular antenna tower structures in Canada are not shared with any other wireless competitors.Footnote 307 Also of note is that 68 percent of all of the rooftop antenna installations held by wireless carriers are not shared with any other radiocommunication service. The statistics provided through the CWTA were as follows:
Sharing of Towers, Rooftops and Other Structures by Wireless Carriers in Canada As of March 2004
Total number of cellular and PCS cell sites in Canada = 6783
- 60% of all cell sites are on dedicated towers
- 33% of all cell sites are on rooftops/buildings
- 7% of all cell sites are on other structures (e.g. water towers)
Evidence of sharing of cell sites
- 68% of all cellular and PCS cell sites are not shared
- 20.5% of all towers are shared with at least one wireless competitor
- 11% of all towers are shared with non-competitor(s)
- 30% or all rooftops/buildings are shared with at least one wireless competitor
- 2% of all rooftops/buildings are shared with non-competitor(s)
- 11% of other structures are shared with at least one wireless competitor
- 38% of other structures are shared with non-competitor(s)
Within its formal written submission to the National Antenna Tower Policy Review, representatives from the PCS provider, Microcell Telecommunications Inc. , expressed the view that contractual arrangements made within the wireless carrier sector were inhibiting tower and antenna site sharing in Canada. The Microcell submission stated:
While the incumbents all profess to be open to co-location agreements, the specific terms and agreements are at times heavily tilted away from what a truly competitive site co-location market would produce. For example, one-for-one swapping clauses or "site banking" requirements, which force one wireless operator to trade access to its own antenna sites in order to gain access to another operator's sites, are obviously discriminatory against new entrants – who by definition have fewer sites than an incumbent operator. These practices greatly restrict the true extent of sharing that could otherwise take place, and reduce the benefits Canadians would receive from more extensive and intelligent deployment of network infrastructure.
Another problem is the practice of operators signing exclusive leasing arrangements for certain site locations, that is to say rooftops or other locations and pre-existing structures. The historical practice of signing exclusive deals with landlords....cause[s] unnecessary proliferation of towers and other site structures...Footnote 308
These statements stimulated further enquiries for the purposes of this national policy review to learn more about these contractual arrangements. All four wireless carriers were asked about the content of their contractual agreements for sharing with their competitors and about the leasing arrangements made with landlords with regards to their antenna sites.
First, all four carriers have co-siting/sharing agreements with each of their respective wireless competitors. While the text for each agreement is quite similar, each contract can differ to a modest extent. The vast majority of the contractual clauses of these agreements address the many technical, practical, economic and legal implications of co-siting. If the interconnection of telecommunications facilities is part of the particular arrangement, it must be done in accordance with applicable CRTC interconnection tariff. All electrical work must meet the relevant Canadian Standards Association (CSA) requirements. The requesting party must pay for all site preparation and modification charges and pay a consultation fee for the hosting carrier's time and efforts. Typically, the hosting carrier will provide site heating and cooling, electrical utility connection and back-up power. As per the terms of these agreements, the host's engineering personnel are to be integrally involved with the installation and set-up of the new equipment. The requesting party will undertake to be responsible for the resolution of all interference problems associated with the co-location. Antenna mounting and equipment space is charged out per square metre and by antenna type, usually on monthly basis. Electrical power is charged out per fuse amp/per month and a monthly standby charge is levied for back-up power. In case of legal liability, the requesting carrier must agree to indemnify the hosting carrier for any damages or injuries which might occur. In that regard, the requesting carrier must agree to take out general commercial liability insurance sufficient to satisfy potential claims in the millions of dollars. The hosting carrier may terminate the agreement, upon (about) three months notice, should the space occupied by the requesting carrier be necessary for the hosting carrier's needs or should the ownership of the site be transferred.Footnote 309
Of critical importance to this policy review are the one-for-one accommodations and 'banking' protocols set out within these site-sharing agreements. The agreements are written on the premise that antenna site access will be traded on a one-for-one basis. Even with all of the duties and payments that must be undertaken by a requesting carrier, the provision of access to an existing tower or rooftop is regarded as though it provides a commercial advantage to the requestor. To ensure that this economic advantage does not get out of balance, these agreements provide for a banking protocol. Each accommodation to a wireless competitor, by permitting the competitor to co-locate on your site, is a credit. When an imbalance of accommodation credits in the bank reaches a particular number that bank is full and no additional sites are shared with the requesting carrier by the competitor until the requesting carrier has remedied the imbalance by sharing some of its antenna sites. All of the wireless carriers track every co-location accommodation made to each competitor. The agreements call for these banks to operate on a national basis.
While the various agreements signed between the major wireless carriers have created a rigid contractual structure for banking credits, the system currently is operating on a more informal basis. The threshold number of accommodation credits necessary to fill the bank (the imbalance point at which you refuse co-location requests with that company) is now a flexible number as between some carriers. Also, some of the carriers are operating the bank on a regional as opposed to a national basis. An imbalance of banking credits with a particular competitor in one region of the country does not affect co-location accommodations with that competitor in another region. These moves towards a more flexible banking system are not industry wide. One of the major carriers continues to insist that the banking system be operated in the manner set within the contractual agreements. Thus, this carrier will stop accommodating a competitor when that competitor's bank is full and their refusal to co-locate is nation-wide.
Microcell's assertion that the wireless carriers are negotiating exclusivity clauses into the private leasing arrangements they make with landlords for access to their rooftops and other useful siting structures requires some elaboration. From individual meetings with the carriers it was learned that all four wireless carriers will negotiate exclusivity clauses within their leasing agreements whenever the landlord will agree and so long as the exclusivity clause does not come at too high a price. The problem for the carriers is that many landlords recently have learned about the potential value of their properties for antenna site leases and they will refuse to sign exclusivity clauses, or exact a premium price for them. While the market place is now inhibiting the number of new exclusivity clauses, many of the sites secured in the 1980s and 1990s continue to be subject to exclusivity provisions. These are long-term leases with options to renew at the election of the carrier. Within major urban areas of Canada these legacy leasing arrangements apply to some of the most prime antenna siting locations. Also, exclusivity clauses continue to appear in non-urban contexts where landlords are experiencing antenna siting for the first time and may not realize the potential for leasing to many radio service providers.
When asked about these exclusivity leasing arrangements some of the carriers explained that they were necessary in order to ensure control over the sites for radiocommunication purposes. They stated that the exclusivity clause gave them control over newcomers and that these clauses are waived (for each newcomer) once suitable radio spectrum arrangements have been made to control for interference and to ensure that the exposure limits within Safety Code 6 will not be exceeded at the site. Other wireless carriers admitted that they secure exclusivity clauses whenever possible so that they can acquire co-location credits for the site banking scheme the carriers are operating.Footnote 310
It is a conclusion of this policy review that the site banking and site leasing arrangements being used in the cellular and PCS radiocommunication sector are inhibiting the sharing of existing tower, rooftop and other sites in Canada. These arrangements are inhibiting the sharing of sites between wireless competitors and the exclusivity clauses are also inhibiting the sharing of certain sites by wireless carriers with other categories of commercial radio service.Footnote 311 It is submitted that the statistics provided by the CWTA support these conclusions.
Exclusivity clauses are not the best means to provide for the resolution of the many technical issues that must be addressed when two or more radio services are sited on one rooftop or supporting structure. As between themselves, the wireless carriers already have detailed contractual protocols for the resolution and costing of such matters. During a consultation one major carrier complained that it has been waiting up to four years for a competitor to waive exclusivity clauses at a few locations and they could not explain the reason(s) for these delays.
The operation of the site banking system on a national basis is particularly problematic. When a rapid build-out of wireless infrastructure has occurred by one or two carriers in one region of the country the site co-locations secured in the build-out region have filled the siting bank with the carrier who operates the bank on a national basis. Consequently co-locations in another region of the country have been denied and towers have been constructed in circumstances where co-siting was possible from a technical perspective.Footnote 312 Even where the banking system is operating on a regional basis it is concerning that one likely result of this scheme is that towers will be constructed unnecessarily in rural areas because of co-location accommodations made in urban areas of the same region.Footnote 313
Recommendation 32: That Industry Canada examine the site banking and site acquisition arrangements being used within the cellular/PCS service sector to determine their impact upon co-location activities within the sector and as between this sector and other commercial radio service categories. If these arrangements are found to inhibit antenna site co-location activities, Industry Canada should explore policy options to reduce those activities and work with the wireless industry to find alternative means to protect the legitimate competitive interests of the cellular/PCS carriers.
Industry Canada should take advantage of every opportunity to convey a clear and consistent message to the cellular/PCS service providers that they are expected to make a serious commitment to increase their antenna site co-location activities. In this regard, it should be noted that on April 1, 2004 the department amended the cellular licences awarded in the 1980s and the incumbent PCS licences from the 1990s. These licences were converted to Spectrum Licences and fixed with the same enhanced privileges as the Spectrum Licences issued to the new PCS licensees who acquired their spectrum in the spectrum auctions held in 2001. Thus, all cellular/PCS providers now have the same type of spectrum licence with (relatively) common conditions of licence. The problem with this licensing change is that there appears to be no reference in the licensing policy document to an obligation to work co-operatively to increase antenna sharing between the new licensees. Clearly, this was a missed opportunity to reinforce this policy requirement. In the worst case, the conditions of licence may now be amended by this action so as to remove the obligation that existed previously.
C. Sharing Networks
This is the practice of using roaming and resale agreements to permit the customers of one of the contracting service providers to operate upon the network infrastructure of another contracting provider for a fee paid to the hosting provider. Usually the contracting service providers have overlapping service areas but each may not have built out its network infrastructure throughout its authorized service area. This type of facility sharing requires common, or at least compatible, operating standards and protocols. Often, telecommunications policies will specify the requirements for and limits to the creation of network sharing agreements between service providers.
The roaming and resale service arrangements within the wireless sector are relevant to this antenna study because these negotiated agreements can lead to a reduction in wireless network facilities in general, and radio antenna infrastructure in particular. At the point of writing this report Industry Canada is concluding a national consultation on a policy proposal to extend the current roaming and resale conditions of licence for PCS licensees to the year 2011.Footnote 314 The second policy under consideration would be to require that cellular licensees offer analogue cellular roaming and resale to PCS licensees who are not offering analogue cellular services. As the department considers its policy responses to these proposals it is important to consider the antenna tower implications of extending network roaming and resale rules.
The licensing policy for PCS (digital cellular) services, which was announced in 1994, required that future PCS licensees offer PCS resale throughout their service area to other PCS licensees in a non-discriminatory manner. The purpose of this requirement was to ensure that market forces would drive the roll out of these new advanced cellular networks. Generally, this policy has worked well. When in 1997 the CRTC reviewed the state of resale and roaming arrangements made by PCS and cellular services in Canada the Commission decided that it was in the public interest to permit the carriers to decide whether to offer resale and roaming to competitors on an unrestricted basis.Footnote 315
As an example of the potential benefits of the current resale and roaming policies, in October of 2001 Telus Mobility and members of the (now) Bell Wireless Alliance announced that they had entered into a reciprocal roaming and resale agreement to facilitate the sharing of their respective networks in small urban and rural areas of Canada.Footnote 316 By sharing their respective infrastructures it was estimated that each of the contracting parties would save 500 million dollars by avoiding a duplication of each others digital service footprint in certain non-urban areas of Canada.
Through this agreement, many areas of Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario gained a new service provider and some different services without experiencing a doubling of the network infrastructure, including antenna towers.Footnote 317 To the respective customers of each carrier the service offerings appear to be seamless. The branding of their home carrier appears regardless of which competitor's cell sites are being used to connect for service.
Recommendation 33: That Industry Canada consider the ways in which roaming and resale regulations and conditions may lead to a reduction in the total number of cell sites in small urban and rural areas whenever the department has such policies under examination.Footnote 318
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