Spectrum Utilization Policy and Consultation on a Framework to Auction Spectrum in the Bands 849–851 MHz and 894–896 MHz or Air-Ground Services

November 2008



The following paper is divided into two parts. Part A outlines decisions resulting from the 2006 consultation process published in Canada Gazette Notice DGTP-011-06, Consultation on Air-to-Ground Services in the Bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz, and announces changes to Industry Canada's policy on the use of air-ground spectrum in these bands and the band plan.

Part B of this document proposes an auction licensing process for Air-Ground Services in the bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz, and provides an opportunity for interested parties to comment on this process, as well as technical and operational considerations and licence conditions.


In October 2006, Industry Canada released a consultation paper through Canada Gazette Notice DGTP-011-06 (hereafter referenced as "the consultation") proposing policy and regulatory changes for the above-mentioned frequency bands in order to permit the provision of new enhanced Air-Ground Footnote 1 Services, taking into account the benefits of regional harmonization.

In its consultation, the Department noted that its technical requirements were established in Telecommunications Regulation Circular 81. Footnote 2 It was further noted that the frequency sharing conditions in border areas with the United States were established in a cross-border sharing arrangement (TRAA) Footnote 3 between Industry Canada and the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The Department received only one response to the consultation. The comments generally supported the proposed policy modifications, including band plan and technical requirements.

Part A: Allocation, Designation and Utilization of the Various Bands to be Licensed

Having received no submissions suggesting substantial change to its proposed policy modifications, Industry Canada hereby announces its decision to adopt all of the policy changes proposed in the above-mentioned consultation.

1. Allocation and Band Plan

As per footnote 5.318 to the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations, the bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz are allocated to the aeronautical mobile service on a primary basis, for public correspondence with aircraft.

The current band plan was designed to support analog modulation and the transfer of data using modems operating at low speeds, which was the technology available in the late 1980s. The band plan design included a precise channelling plan with communication and control channels, as well as guard bands. Although the total amount of spectrum available in the bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz can support new digital technologies to provide broadband services, the current band plan designation focuses on the provision of telephony services through interconnection to the terrestrial public switched telephone network.

More recent band planning has moved away from a technically prescriptive approach. Instead, only minimum technical requirements necessary for the adequate management of interference between allocated bands are prescribed. This has provided the flexibility needed by service providers when choosing equipment and planning their networks. In considering the future of this spectrum, Industry Canada is of the view that there is a need to accommodate new technologies for applications requiring high data rates such as Internet access.

The Department reaffirms the current allocation of the band pair 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz to the aeronautical mobile service for public correspondence with aircraft, in accordance with footnote 5.318 to the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations.

Furthermore, the designation of this spectrum is being expanded to include air-ground radiocommunication applications such as voice telephony, broadband Internet and data transmission.

The use of a regionally harmonized band plan in Canada and the United States has historically proven to be advantageous for airline travellers, permitting them to place aircraft telephone calls over the North American continent.

The Department notes that the United States has modified its band plan to enable the provision of broadband services. This plan includes a wider 1.5 + 1.5 MHz block pair and a narrower 0.5 + 0.5 MHz block pair as follows:

Figure 1 — Industry Canada's mission and mandate

Diagram of band plan (the long description is located below the image)

Both block pairs are expected to accommodate an array of spectrally efficient digital technologies. The adoption of such a band plan in Canada supports the provision of enhanced services, fosters interoperability and continues to yield the benefits of regional harmonization.

The Department is adopting a new band plan based on the allocation of two block pairs: 849-850.5/894-895.5 MHz and 850.5-851/895.5-896 MHz. In accordance with the allocation footnote, the use of the band 849-851 MHz is limited to transmissions from aeronautical stations (ground stations) and the use of the band 894-896 MHz is limited to transmissions from aircraft stations (airborne stations).

2. Block Licences

The proposed new band plan provides for two block pairs. Given the new focus on broadband services and the network design needs, it is appropriate to make the spectrum available as one licence per block pair on a national basis.

Block Licences
Spectrum Block Block Size Spectrum Licence
849-850.5 + 894-895.5 3 MHz A
850.5-851 + 895.5-896 1 MHz B

The Department is making available two national licences, one for 3 MHz (849-850.5/894-895.5 MHz ) and one for 1 MHz (850.5-851/895.5-896 MHz).

3. Spectrum Aggregation Limit

Comments received indicated that Industry Canada should reserve its determination as to whether a spectrum aggregation restriction should be adopted in Canada until after the Department has sought expressions of interest for each of the block pairs.

However, the Department believes that interest in the air-ground market will be limited in scope and size, relative to the United States, and that alternatives exist (e.g. satellite), such that the application of an aggregation limit is not warranted in this case.

The Department will not apply spectrum aggregation restrictions.

4. Transition Plan

In Canada Gazette Notice DGTP-011-06 of October 20, 2006, Consultation on Air-to-Ground Services in the Bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz, the Department proposed a transition plan whereby the incumbent air-to-ground licensee would be directed to terminate transmissions in the bands 849-850.5 MHz and 894-895.5 MHz by June 30, 2008. As part of this transition period, the Department also proposed to award a licence to the incumbent air-to-ground licensee for the sole purpose of continuing to provide service to existing customers in the bands 850.5-851 MHz and 895.5-896 MHz during the transition. The existing air-to-ground incumbent indicated that no interim measures or transition processes were needed, as the service had been discontinued and the licences were subsequently cancelled. At the time of licensing the analog air-to-ground systems in 1990, a transition policy was developed to deal with the fixed systems that were in the band.

The Department notes that there are still some fixed systems in the band, located mostly in rural areas. The transition policy provisions will continue to apply to these fixed systems, and the Department will treat any remaining fixed systems as non-standard in accordance with the provisions of SP-Gen - General Information Related to Spectrum Utilization and Radio Systems Policies. These fixed systems would not be displaced unless they prevent the deployment of new air-to-ground systems. The locations of these fixed licences can be found in Annex A.

The Department will continue to consider the fixed systems in this band as non-standard. The displacement provisions in SP Gen - General Information Related to Spectrum Utilization and Radio Systems Policies continue to apply.

5. International Coordination

Licensees must respect the ITU's Radio Regulations pertaining to the bands 849-851 MHz and 894-896 MHz, and abide by any future agreements established with other countries.

In the current layout of base stations, the ground station locations and channel block assignments are predetermined in order to promote interoperability and to manage interference. These locations and assignments were consistent with a cross-border arrangement between the FCC and Industry Canada, which allowed equitable access to the spectrum by both countries. This arrangement ultimately enabled service providers in Canada and the United States to set up networks to provide service with interoperable equipment.

Industry Canada has held discussions with the FCC to update the existing arrangement, with a view to enabling efficient spectrum use of the band, while ensuring equitable access to spectrum in border areas. It is expected that coordination will be carried out by licensees, and licensees will be encouraged to enter into agreements that can facilitate coordination and the reasonable, timely development of their respective systems in the border area. Further details regarding the technical and operational requirements of this new draft of Arrangement N can be found at http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf08966.html. The draft Arrangement is not binding on the Agencies and is subject to review and possible modification prior to being formally adopted. Consequently, licensees are advised that all stations deployed under the draft Arrangement are subject to compliance with the final provisions, as formally adopted between Canada and the United States.

6. Technical Consideration

6.1 Maximum ERP

In examining the technical and operational limits for this paired band, and in the context of the provision of new broadband services to aircraft using new spectrum-efficient technologies, the Department recognizes that revised power limits may be desirable.

Industry Canada notes that the United States has modified its technical requirements. The Department consulted on regional harmonization and, in order to foster interoperability of systems to create a North American seamless network, the Department suggested adopting technical requirements that are similar to those of the United States. Increased transmitter power to 500 W ERP was proposed for ground stations and reduced transmitter power to 12 W ERP was proposed for airborne stations. It should be noted that a change in technical requirements will require updating or revoking TRC-81.

In keeping with its intention to foster regional harmonization and interoperability, the Department therefore adopts maximum transmitter power limits for ground stations within 420 km of the Canada-United States border of 500 W ERP; and for airborne stations, a maximum of 12 W ERP.

The Department will establish these technical limits for systems in this paired band in a Standard Radio System Plan (SRSP).

6.2 Further Considerations

Under the Radiocommunication Act, certification of radio apparatus may be required. If the Department decides that this certification is needed, details will be provided at a later date in a Radio Standards Specification document, which will be developed in consultation with the industry.

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