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Proposed Spectrum Utilization Policy, Technical and Licensing Requirements for Wireless Broadband Services (WBS) in the Band 3650–3700 MHz

7. Licensing Approach

In October 2004, the Department requested comments on whether to make the band 3650-3700 MHz available for licence-exempt applications. Comments back supported general harmonization with the U.S. and concerns were expressed about possible harmful interference caused by licence-exempt devices to licensed systems.

When deciding on the most appropriate type of radio authorization for the Wireless Broadband Services in the band 3650-3700 MHz, the Department seeks to facilitate the deployment of new applications by providing the maximum flexibility practical and by minimizing regulatory intervention.

In Canada, there are two types of radio authorizations that could lend themselves to the licensing of systems in the band 3650-3700 MHz — radio licences and spectrum licences.

Both licence types are provided for under the Radiocommunication Act. The Act further stipulates the Minister of Industry may fix the terms and conditions as well as the services which may be provided by the licence holder.

A radio licence is an authorization for the installation and operation of radio apparatus and is issued on a site-specific basis whereas a spectrum licence provides for the use of spectrum over a defined geographical area.

Radio licensing is still used for the majority of the licences issued. However using radio licensing for this band has drawbacks. One of the most significant is that since licences are issued for each apparatus, each additional apparatus would require the submission of a radio station application to the Department in order to receive the authorization.

Benefits of spectrum licensing include reduction of administrative burden as licensees are authorized by geographic area and frequency or frequency block, rather than authority for the installation and operation of an individual radio apparatus. Spectrum licensees are responsible for ensuring that their radiocommunication networks are properly planned and coordinated prior to operation, including approval of antennas and their supporting structures and other conditions of licence applicable to all licensees, which are outlined in Appendix A.

In formulating this proposal, the Department anticipates that licensees will be deploying a wide variety of systems and will want to deploy and adjust their systems to meet their individual and changing needs. A spectrum licence gives greater autonomy to licensees to deploy and configure their networks while still requiring them to undertake appropriate studies and coordination measures with other users in their proximity and to respect all other conditions of licence. Similar obligations would be required for radio licences, without the additional flexibility.

The Department is of the view that the issuance of spectrum licences, as described above, would be the appropriate licensing mechanism for this service. Comments are invited on this proposal.

7.1 Service Areas

The Department is of the view that Wireless Broadband Services would be amenable to licensing on a regional/local basis and proposes that Tier 4 service areas be used for this band (see Appendix B). Additional information and descriptions of the service areas for competitive licensing used by the Department can be found on the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website at:

Each eligible applicant would be granted access to the full block covering a Tier 4 service area. Individual site-licences would not be required; however, licensees could be required to provide technical information to be entered into a database. Details regarding the information and the format and process for inputting into the database are outlined in Client Procedures Circular 2-1-23, Licensing Procedure for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services (CPC-2-1-23).

Comments are sought on the proposal to use Tier 4 service areas for the licensing of the bands 3650-3700 MHz.

The Department invites alternative proposals on service areas, including rationale, where a Tier 4 service area is not suitable.

7.2 Spectrum Structure and Licensing Options

In Canada, the structure for the band 3650-3700 MHz could be established as a single 50 MHz block or two, 25 MHz blocks. The FCC has proposed licensing the 3650-3700 as a single block of 50 MHz.

The use of a single 50 MHz spectrum block will allow for more bandwidth-intensive applications and potentially simpler implementation. The use of two 25 MHz spectrum blocks has the potential to simplify sharing between operators and could allow for different rules in different parts of this spectrum. The Department has outlined various licensing options below.

There are a number of licensing mechanisms that are available to the Minister to assign frequencies. The first-come, first-served approach is used in instances where there is sufficient spectrum to meet the anticipated demand in a given frequency band.

In situations where there is, or is likely to be, more demand for radio frequency spectrum than the supply of spectrum available for use in a given frequency band, the Department would initiate a competitive licensing process.

Based on the above considerations, the Department proposes the following licensing scenarios.

7.2.1 Exclusive Spectrum Licence

Similar to the band 3475-3650 MHz, exclusive spectrum licences would be made available for each geographic area. This approach minimizes the potential for interference between systems, but also limits the number of potential licensees.

As the demand for spectrum would likely exceed the supply, exclusive licensing would likely require an auction process. If an auction process is used, it would be preceded by a further consultation to establish the details of the process. Licence fees would be set by the auction process.

7.2.2 Non-exclusive Spectrum Licence

In this scenario, non-exclusive licences would be issued to multiple licensees for the same spectrum in the same geographic area on an FCFS basis. It is proposed that all licensees would have equal access to the spectrum and no priority be given based on the date of licensing.

Given the uncertainty with respect to the number of licensees who would ultimately be operating under this scenario, there could be the potential for significant interference between WBS systems. As a result, under this option, the Department proposes that technical interference mitigation measures, such as contention-based protocols (see Section 7.3 below), be implemented.

If licences are issued on an FCFS basis, the Department would establish an annual licence fee as discussed in Section 8.1.

7.2.3 Exclusive Urban and Non-exclusive Rural Spectrum Licences

Industry Canada recognizes that the potential for excessive congestion and interference is more likely in densely populated urban areas. In this scenario, the Department would issue non-exclusive spectrum licences in rural areas and exclusive spectrum licences in urban areas. The Department would most likely initiate a competitive licensing process for the exclusive spectrum in urban areas and an FCFS process for the non-exclusive rural spectrum. An urban/rural split could apply to all 50 MHz, or only to a single 25 MHz block of spectrum.

The same issues raised under scenarios outlined in 7.2.1 and 7.2.2 continue to apply (i.e. interference, coordination and the requirement for contention-based protocols for non-exclusive spectrum), with the additional requirement to establish criteria to define rural and urban.

The table below illustrates the two basic licensing options. Comments are invited on these and the third urban/rural scenario.

Table 1 - Spectrum Licensing Options

Table 1 - Spectrum Licensing Options
Option Contention-based protocols required? (Section 7.3) Licensing Process Tier
Exclusive No Competitive To be determined
Non-exclusive Yes First-come, first-served 4

Comments are invited on the proposed options for exclusive and/or non-exclusive licensing and any other options not outlined in the table, with supporting rationale. Any option could be applied to all or part of the spectrum. In the case of urban/rural service areas, the Department seeks the rationale and criteria for defining urban and rural.

It should be noted that the licensing process and requirement for contention-based protocols will be determined based on the option selected.

7.3 Contention-based Protocols

The Department believes that if non-exclusive licences are issued, it will be necessary to employ mitigating measures to reduce interference between systems. Licensees may be required to enter station locations into a public database to provide contact information and facilitate coordination between the licensees. However, the use of such a database by itself is unlikely to provide sufficient protection to licensees.

Hence, it is proposed that non-exclusive licensees operating in the band 3650-3700 MHz be required to use radio equipment that makes use of a contention-based protocol in order to limit their potential to cause or be affected by interference.

The current FCC definition for a contention-based protocol is:

A protocol that allows multiple users to share the same spectrum by defining the events that must occur when two or more transmitters attempt to simultaneously access the same channel and establishing rules by which a transmitter provides reasonable opportunities for other transmitters to operate. Such a protocol may consist of procedures for initiating new transmissions, procedures for determining the state of the channel (available or unavailable), and procedures for managing retransmissions in the event of a busy channel.

Comments are invited on whether the Department should adopt the FCC definition, noting that it is subject of a Petition for Reconsideration in the United States.

Examples of protocols used in existing radio systems that the Department would consider as meeting the requirements of a contention-based system include the Carrier-Sense Multiple-Access with Collision Detection (CSMA/CD) protocol used in Wi-Fi gear or any other form of Dynamic Frequency Selection (DFS) or listen-before-talk approach. Notwithstanding these examples, the Department would accept other protocols that are consistent with the final definition adopted for contention-based protocols.

Comments are invited on the proposed definition as well as the Departmentâs proposal to require the use of contention-based protocols for non-exclusively licensed spectrum in the band 3650-3700 MHz. Alternative proposals are welcome and should include details as to how these proposals address the potential for interference between non-exclusive licensees.

The Department invites comments on the requirement to enter station and contact information into a publicly accessible database.

8. Licence Term

Traditionally, FCFS authorizations are issued for one-year terms. Licences assigned through a competitive process have most often been issued for ten-year terms.

The Department proposes that licences for spectrum in the band 3650-3700 MHz be issued for a ten-year term with licence fees payable by March 31st of each year.

Comments are invited on the proposed licence term.

8.1 Licence Fees

The following discussion applies only to a non-exclusive licensing regime. If exclusive licensing is used, it is anticipated that an auction process will be initiated and fees established by the auction results.

A decision to issue spectrum licences would preclude using radio licence fees already fixed in regulation. Spectrum licensing minimizes the administrative burden for both licensees and the Department, and attracts a fee for the spectrum and geography authorized irrespective of the degree of deployment established. This encourages the expansion of networks by ensuring that the licensee may add additional sites to the network without incurring additional licence fees.

Similar to one of the proposals for this band, the licensing approach outlined in the Spectrum Utilization Policy, Technical and Licensing Requirements for Broadband Public Safety in the Band 4940-4990 MHz (SP 4940 MHz, Gazette Notice DGTP-005-06) envisages non-exclusive access to the full 50 MHz of spectrum. Non-exclusive licensing is anticipated to be feasible given the advanced equipment expected to be used in this band. Licensees will be required to share and coordinate with any number of operators.

In developing the proposed fee for the band 4940-4990 MHz, the Department considered existing fees in both CanadaFootnote 2 and other countries (i.e. the U.S., UK and Australia). Also, over the past few years, the Department made spectrum licences available through an auction process for the bands 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz. The total amount of all bids was over $68 million which is equal to approximately $1.6 million per year for national, exclusive use of 50 MHz of spectrum. Auction results established a market-based fee for this spectrum and are considered a good indicator of the value of comparable radio frequency bands. However, consideration must be made for the requirement to share with an unknown number of licensees.

Therefore the Department proposes to use the same fee as that described in SP 4940 MHz, which is $0.0042 per 50 MHz per population subject to a minimum fee of $250. The minimum fee reflects an estimate of actual costs for processing and maintenance. Appendix B shows the proposed fee for each Tier 4 service area.

The Department is proposing a fee in an effort to ensure that the appropriate rent is collected, which ensures the spectrum is used efficiently.

Annual fees would be payable to the Department by March 31st of each year.

The Department requests comments on the proposed licence fee of $0.0042 per 50 MHz per population.

8.2 Eligibility

By opening this spectrum to as wide a range of potential licensees as possible, the Department believes it will encourage new entry and investment as well as entrepreneurial efforts to develop new technologies and services. This approach will promote economic opportunity and competition.

The Department proposes that eligibility not be restricted. However, for those who intend to operate as radiocommunication carriers, applicants must be able to demonstrate that they meet the eligibility criteria for radiocommunication carriers as set out in subsections 9 and 10 of the Radiocommunication Regulations. For more information, refer to Client Procedures Circular 2-0-15, Canadian Ownership and Control (CPC-2-0-15), as amended from time to time (

The Department requests comments on the proposal for open eligibility.

8.3 Spectrum Aggregation Limit

During the auctions of the 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz spectrum, the Department established a spectrum aggregation limit to safeguard against anti-competitive behaviour and increase the opportunity for Canadians to have an expanded choice of new and innovative wireless services through a number of service providers. In scenarios where exclusive spectrum is desired and a competitive process is adopted, the Department is considering whether or not it should impose any limit on in-band or out-of-band spectrum aggregation on licensees in the band 3650-3700 MHz.

The Department invites comments on whether it should impose in-band or out-of band spectrum aggregation limits on licensees in the event a competitive process is adopted, and the rationale for such limits.

8.4 Departmental Service Standards

Industry Canada currently has established service standards for certain licensing processes. In general, where service standards exist, analysis and domestic coordination are required by the Department prior to issuing a licence. Where international coordination is required, the service standard is significantly increased. If non-exclusive spectrum licences for WBS systems in the band 3650-3700 MHz are issued as proposed, the Department proposes using the existing microwave application service standard of four weeks from receipt of a complete application.

Please provide comments on whether this service standard is appropriate.

9. Technical Considerations

Detailed technical specifications for WBS systems in the band 3650-3700 MHz will be contained in a Radio Standards Specification (RSS) and/or Standard Radio Systems Plan (SRSP) to be developed in consultation with the Radio Advisory Board of Canada. It is proposed that these standards will include the following provisions:

  • fixed stations and base stations will be permitted a peak e.i.r.p. of 25 watts/25 MHz of bandwidth;
  • mobile stations (including those operating in mobile-to-mobile mode) will only be permitted to transmit if they have first received and decoded an enabling signal transmitted by a base station;
  • mobile stations will be permitted a peak e.i.r.p. of 1 watt/25 MHz of bandwidth;
  • stations will be permitted to use any antenna that respects the e.i.r.p. limits specified. For systems using smart antennas with multiple beams, the total power in a given direction must respect the above e.i.r.p. limits, however the aggregate power in all directions for systems using smart antennas will be permitted to exceed the single-beam e.i.r.p. limits by up to 8 dB; and
  • any emission outside of the authorized band, in a measurement bandwidth of 1 MHz, must be attenuated by at least 43 + 10 log(P) dB below the transmitter power level P, where P is measured in watts.

These proposed technical requirements are harmonized with current U.S. rules. However, as noted in Section 3, the U.S. rules are subject to several Petitions for Reconsideration which are currently before the FCC.

The Department invites comment on the proposed technical rules. In particular, will the proposed out-of-band emission limits provide sufficient protection to services operating in adjacent spectrum, including FSS earth stations operating in the conventional C-band (3700-4200 MHz)? How would this compare to the potential impact of in-band WBS emissions below 3700 MHz on FSS receivers?

10. International Coordination

Canada currently does not have an agreement with the U.S. government for the sharing of the band 3650-3700 MHz along the border regions. However, licensees will be subject to any future agreements between Canada and the U.S. regarding use of these systems in the border regions.

Issued under the authority
of the Radiocommunication Act

space to insert signature
Leonard St-Aubin
A/Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch


  1. back to footnote reference 2 Existing annual licence fees for exclusive spectrum licences in Canada are: Multipoint Communications System (MCS) - $0.008 per household per 6 MHz of spectrum; Local Multipoint Communications System (LMCS) - $0.50 per household per 500 MHz; and PCS/Cellular -$0.03512361 per MHz per population.

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