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Archived — Consultation Paper on Using a Portion of the Band 14.5–15.35 GHz for Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) Systems

December 2008
Spectrum Management and Telecommunications


1. Intent

As announced in Canada Gazette Notice DGTP-004-08, Industry Canada is releasing this consultation paper to seek comments on proposed changes to Industry Canada's 15 GHz spectrum utilization policy in order to accommodate Tactical Common Data Link (TCDL) systems in a portion of the band 14.5-15.35 GHz. Comments are requested concerning these proposed policy changes.

2. Background

The band 14.5-15.35 GHz is allocated to the fixed service on a primary basis and to the mobile service on a secondary basis for the exclusive use of the Government of Canada. The use of the band is currently shared by the fixed service and by the Government of Canada under a coordination agreement for areas near bases of the Canadian Forces in Canada.

The band 14.5-15.35 GHz is currently being used by wireless service providers to provide data services, including cellular backhaul. The Department of National Defence (DND) has historically used the band for training purposes in Canada and required protection only around specific Canadian Forces Bases. This band is also used for a number of other DND systems, including tactical radio-relay systems and existing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV).

In the October 16, 2007 Speech from the Throne, the government identified strengthening Canada's sovereignty and strengthening the security of Canadians as two of its priorities. To address these priorities, it is the intent of DND to increase the use of aerial surveillance, specifically, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. ISR operations are supported by TCDL equipment, which transmits a variety of digital information, including voice, video and data to and from airborne platforms such as long range patrol aircraft, fighter aircraft, helicopters and UAVs.

Long range patrol aircraft are used to support naval vessels, perform search and rescue missions and execute sovereignty, counter-drug, fisheries and pollution patrols. The primary missions of fighter aircraft include air defence and active control of unwanted activities in domestic and international airspace. Helicopters are used for sustaining the naval fleet and ground forces, as well as providing search and rescue support. UAVs provide ISR capabilities on various scales, from long range surveillance of coastal and northern areas to specialized observation of emergency situations related to security or natural disasters.

A significant amount of spectrum is required by these platforms to ensure effective aerial surveillance for the protection of Canada, cooperation in the defence of North America and successful participation in missions abroad. The data link from the airborne platform will carry high bandwidth digital information from sensors such as high quality radar imaging, infrared, real-time video, as well as command and control information.

DND has identified a critical requirement for exclusive Government of Canada spectrum in the bands 14.66-14.82 GHz (air-to-ground link) and 15.135-15.295 GHz (ground-to-air link) to support ISR operations.

TCDL equipment is based on a NATO standardFootnote 1 and is used by all NATO members. The United States, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia and most NATO countries, with the exception of Canada, have already reserved all or parts of the band 14.5-15.35 GHz for government and military use. NATO standards identify this frequency band for airborne tactical data links and interoperability between NATO members as an essential operational requirement. In the United States, Congress has gone so far as to require the use of TCDL as the data link technology for all future UAV purchases.

The critical aerial surveillance role provided using this equipment requires periodic 24/7 operation, including in and around urban centres during emergencies or certain events (e.g., Vancouver 2010 Olympics). However, TCDL equipment is technically incompatible with commercial fixed terrestrial systems. Accordingly, Industry Canada is now consulting the affected stakeholders on the best way forward to address DND's requirement and minimize the impact on fixed incumbents.

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3. Recent Developments

DND has approached the Department, requesting that exclusive nationwide spectrum be made available for ISR operations. Industry Canada and DND have carried out extensive work over the past year to define the spectrum requirements to fulfill DND's mandate with minimal impact on current fixed service incumbents. The bands 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz have been identified to achieve this goal.

Bands in the range of 14500 MHz to 15350 MHz

A spectrum advisory bulletin (SAB-001-08) has been issued announcing a temporary moratorium on licensing in the bands 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz while the Department is assessing possible amendments to these bands.

4. Spectrum Utilization

The Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations allocates the band 14.5-15.35 GHz to the fixed service on a primary basis and to the mobile service on a secondary basis, for the exclusive use of the Government of Canada under footnote C5. The band is also allocated to the space research (passive) and earth exploration-satellite (passive) services on a secondary basis under international footnote 5.339.

The Canadian Table of Frequency AllocationsFootnote 2 currently shows:

14.5-15.35 GHz


Mobile C5


Industry Canada proposes to subdivide the band and add a new Canadian footnote CX to modify the designations and ensure that DND TCDL operations are protected as follows:

CX The use of the bands 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz is designated for Government-exclusive aeronautical mobile applications in the mobile service and has priority over the fixed service.

14.5-15.35 GHz


Mobile C5



Mobile MOBILE C5

5.339 CX


Mobile C5



Mobile MOBILE C5

5.339 CX


Mobile C5


The Department seeks comments on the proposed changes to the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations to accommodate DND's requirements for TCDL operation.

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5. Fixed Service Incumbents

After extensive review of both the impact on incumbents and DND's ISR requirements, approximately half the band (160 + 160 MHz) has been identified as optimal for re-allocation to exclusive Government of Canada use. This re-allocation would affect approximately 810 links nationally of which approximately 600 links are located between Windsor and Québec City.

5.1 Transition Policy Provisions

The transition provisions proposed below are intended to facilitate the implementation of TCDL operation in Canada through the orderly displacement of fixed station assignments. The proposed provisions would provide a reasonable notification period for the displacement of fixed assignments and link the fixed station displacement to TCDL implementation. The following provisions are proposed for the bands 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz:

  1. Once the TCDL licences have been awarded, Industry Canada will be in a position, on behalf of the licensee(s), to issue formal notifications to the incumbent licensees for the displacement of affected fixed frequency assignments. TCDL operators will ensure that such displacements are required to meet service implementation.
  2. Following the issuance of the TCDL licences, existing fixed stations affected by the implementation of the TCDL systems will be afforded a minimum notification period of five years.
  3. Five years after the date served in the notification, fixed station operators will no longer be protected but may continue to operate on a no-protection basis.
  4. Beginning ten years after the date served in the notification, fixed station operators must not interfere with TCDL operations and may remain in operation only if they are able to demonstrate that they will not adversely affect TCDL operations.
  5. Earlier displacement than the formal notification date may be achieved through mutually acceptable arrangements between the TCDL operators and the affected fixed operator(s).
  6. Industry Canada will retain oversight of the displacement process and will assist, where appropriate, affected fixed licensees in identifying new replacement frequency assignments.
  7. Industry Canada is concerned about the possibility of premature displacement. TCDL licensees have a responsibility to advise the Department of any delays or changes in their implementation plans, particularly where they affect the displacement of fixed service licensees. The Department may postpone some displacements where there are expected delays in deployment.
  8. Industry Canada will monitor the effectiveness of the spectrum policy provisions related to the displacement of fixed systems. In the long term, changes to these provisions and/or licence conditions may be made to ensure that the continued availability of spectrum for TCDL systems is accomplished in the most efficient manner.

The incumbents and associated station data can be found on the Spectrum Direct website at in the Radio Frequency Search section.

The Department seeks comments on the proposed transition policy for affected fixed service incumbents in the bands 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz.

5.2 Remaining Fixed Service Spectrum

The remaining 530 MHz of spectrum, of which 100 MHz is designated for TV-pickup, will continue to be available for line-of-sight Low, Medium and High Capacity systems in the fixed service. The channelling plan is identified in the current SRSP-314.5Footnote 3.

It is proposed that 5 and 10 MHz channels be added for any remaining fixed service spectrum in the ranges 14.5-14.66 GHz and 14.975-15.135 GHz, and that 20 and 40 MHz channels be added for any remaining fixed service spectrum in the range 14.82-14.875 GHz and 15.295-15.35 GHz. In other words, all channel sizes from 5 through 40 MHz should be allowed through the remaining fixed service spectrum.

This channelling plan will allow the maximum possible use to be made of the remaining fixed service spectrum.

Comments are sought on the proposed fixed service channelling plan.

6. International Coordination

Although international agreements between Canada and the United States concerning the 15 GHz spectrum for TCDL applications have not yet been established, licensees may be subject to such agreements in the future. Until such time as agreements with the United States become effective, Industry Canada proposes to apply the same technical restrictions at the border that are used for operation between service areas, i.e. operations must not cause harmful interference across the border. The Department will also seek continued protection of fixed systems in Canada from transmitters operating in the United States.

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7. Technical Characteristics of TCDL

The TCDL airborne system is designed for compact, lightweight applications on piloted aircraft and UAVs. The data rates, modulation techniques and transmission frequencies are fully interoperable with other ground and shipborne TCDL systems. The systems use a variety of waveforms and data rates up to 274 Mbps. The antenna may be omni-directional or directional.

The amount of spectrum proposed for TCDL (160 MHz uplink and 160 MHz downlink) will allow for two or more platforms in a given geographical area.

The transmit power of the TCDL unit will vary by platform. The Department will establish out-of-band limits for aeronautical mobile applications to protect fixed systems operating in adjacent spectrum.

8. TCDL Licensing Process

DND's requirements regarding use of the 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz frequency bands preclude the use of a market-based licensing mechanism to determine the appropriate fees.

As per section 5(1)(a)(i.) of the Radiocommunication Act, the Minister of Industry may issue radio licences in respect of radio apparatus. Consequently, the Department has deemed that the interest of Canadians would be best met through the issuance of radio licences to DND, in accordance with the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations.

With respect to licence fees, fixed station licences issued to DND permitting operation in the 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz frequency bands will be charged as prescribed in section 63 of the Radiocommunication Regulations.

Aircraft and other mobile station licences issued to DND permitting operation in the 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz frequency bands will be charged as prescribed in section 60(6) of the Radiocommunication Regulations.

Industry Canada seeks comments on its proposal to issue radio licences to the Department of National Defence in order to permit exclusive operation in the 14.66-14.82 GHz and 15.135-15.295 GHz frequency bands.

December 22, 2008

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Leonard St-Aubin
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch


  1. back to footnote reference 1 NATO Standardisation Agreement (STANAG) 7085
  2. back to footnote reference 2 Canadian Table of Frequency AllocationskHz to 275 GHz (2005 Edition) updated February 2007.
  3. back to footnote reference 3 Standard Radio System Plan 314.5, Technical Requirements for Fixed Line-of-sight Radio Systems Operating in the Band 14.5 -15.35 GHz.
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