List of Acronyms
- Australian Communications and Media Authority
- Aeronautical Mobile Telemetry
- Ancillary Terrestrial Component
- Advanced Television Systems Committee
- Advanced Wireless Service
- Broadband Auxiliary Service
- Broadband Radio Service
- Compound Annual Growth Rate
- Cable TV Relay Service
- Code Division Multiple Access
- European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administrations
- Dynamic Frequency Selection
- Dedicated Short-Range Communications
- Digital Television
- Electronic Communications Committee
- Enhanced Data for GSM Evolution
- Earth Exploration Satellite Service
- Electronic News Gathering
- Evolution Data Optimized
- Federal Communications Commission
- Frequency Division Duplex
- Fixed Service
- Fixed Wireless Access
- Global Packet Radio Service
- Global System for Mobile Communications
- High-Density Fixed Service
- High-Density Fixed Satellite Service
- Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers
- International Mobile Telecommunications
- Internet Protocol
- Industrial, Scientific and Medical
- Intelligent Transport Systems
- International Telecommunication Union
- Radiocommunication Sector of International Telecommunication Union
- Local Multipoint Communication Systems
- Local Multipoint Distribution System
- Low-Power Apparatus
- Long-Term Evolution
- Mobile Broadband Services
- Multipoint Communication Systems
- Multipoint Distribution Service
- North American Mobile Satellite System
- Mobile Satellite Service
- Mobile Satellite Venture
- Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
- National Telecommunications and Information Administration
- National Television Systems Committee
- President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology
- Personal Communications Service
- Public Switched Telephone Network
- Radio Advisory Board of Canada
- Radio Local Area Network
- Remote Rural Broadband Service
- Satellite Digital Audio Radio Service
- Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada
- Studio Transmitter Link
- Time Division Duplex
- Tracking and Data Relay Satellite
- Tracking Telemetry and Command
- Television White Spaces
- Ultra-High Frequency
- Very High Capacity Microwave
- Wireless Broadband Service
- Wireless Communication Services
- World Radio Conference
Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook
Message from the Minister of Industry
With uncertainty continuing to weigh on the global economy, Canada has an opportunity to lead in creating a world‑class, competitive digital economy that attracts investment, creates jobs and builds a sustainable and prosperous society.
To achieve this vision, we need a modern communications infrastructure that makes efficient use of wireless technology. All wireless services rely on the availability of radio frequency spectrum — a finite resource used by a wide range of sectors across the Canadian economy.
As Minister of Industry, it is my responsibility to ensure that spectrum is managed fairly, and to the maximum benefit of all Canadians.
Mindful of the rapid growth in the use of mobile broadband services, our Government recognizes that sufficient and appropriate spectrum resources must be available to Canada’s wireless providers to ensure that Canadians continue to reap the benefits of technology as we strive to become one of the top digital economies in the world.
With this publication, the Government of Canada is opening a new dialogue with spectrum users, licence holders and other stakeholders. This document makes mention of consultations that will be held before we free up spectrum — we hope you will add your voice on how best to use this precious public resource.
The Honourable Christian Paradis
Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture)
The purpose of the Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook is to provide stakeholders with an overview of Industry Canada’s overall approach and planned activities to ensure appropriate spectrum resources are available to meet the demand for commercial mobile services over the next five years.
The rapid growth of commercial mobile services presents significant economic and social benefits for Canada. This growth is also increasing the amount of spectrum required to deliver these services in Canada. Various projections estimate that Canada will require at least 473 MHz and as much as 820 MHz of spectrum to be allocated to commercial mobile services by 2017. Based on these projections, Industry Canada has set an objective of allocating a total of 750 MHz of spectrum to commercial mobile services by the end of 2017.
Taking into account the already-announced auctions, Canada currently has plans in place to have a total of 528 MHz of spectrum available for commercial mobile services. This means that an additional 222 MHz of spectrum will have to be allocated to commercial mobile services over the next five years in order to meet this objective.
Taking into account action being taken by countries around the globe to identify additional spectrum for mobile, Industry Canada has identified 300-415 MHz of additional spectrum in the following bands that could potentially be allocated to commercial mobile services by 2017:
Industry Canada will have separate and comprehensive consultations with industry stakeholders before making any specific decisions with respect to these bands. It is also recognized that not all of these spectrum bands will be available by 2017, and that the timing of specific decisions will be subject to international developments.
The rapid growth in commercial mobile services is also increasing demand for spectrum to support wireless backhaul services. Overall, Industry Canada believes that the 24 GHz of backhaul spectrum available is sufficient to support the growing wireless sector until 2017, although efforts will need to be made to find sufficient spectrum in mid-range frequency bands (11-23 GHz).
Wi-Fi is playing an increasingly important role in the wireless networks by offloading data traffic from cellular networks onto wired networks. It is estimated that by 2015, Wi-Fi networks will carry half of all Internet traffic. As a result, Industry Canada is taking steps to provide additional spectrum for licence-exempt equipment. Canada recently announced a decision to allow the use of TV white spaces, and is joining other countries in examining the potential of making additional spectrum available in the 5 GHz range for use by licence-exempt equipment.
Beyond 2017, mobile data traffic will undoubtedly continue to grow, likely resulting in additional spectrum requirements. It is conceivable that at least 1000 MHz of mobile broadband spectrum will be required by the start of the next decade. As a result, Industry Canada will continue to monitor developments, both in Canada and abroad, and will update this plan accordingly.
The radio frequency spectrum is a unique, finite resource that is used in a broad range of applications. It is an integral component of Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure, and provides access to a range of private, commercial, consumer, defence, national security, scientific and public safety applications.
The Minister of Industry is responsible for managing the use of spectrum in Canada, in accordance with the provisions of the Radiocommunication Act. Footnote 1 As set out in the 2007 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada, Footnote 2 Canada’s overall objective is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from spectrum use. Industry Canada is responsible for the allocation and assignment of spectrum resources to various services and applications, as well as the licensing of specific frequencies through radio or spectrum licences.
One of the principal challenges in managing spectrum is the fact that it is a limited resource that must support a continually growing and increasingly sophisticated range of applications. As a result, Industry Canada must continually monitor trends in spectrum usage and re-evaluate current spectrum allocations and assignments.
The biggest challenge for spectrum managers around the globe today is the rapid growth in demand for commercial mobile services. Commercial mobile services provide the general public with telephony, and increasingly, data and video applications. Growing consumer demand for greater geographic coverage, faster data rates and more sophisticated applications is driving a rapid increase in the spectrum requirements for commercial mobile services, as well as affecting the spectrum requirements for backhaul and for licence-exempt devices that use Wi-Fi technology for Internet access.
The purpose of the Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook is to provide stakeholders with an overview of Industry Canada’s overall approach and planned activities in order to ensure additional spectrum resources are available to help meet demand for commercial mobile services over the next five years. Part 2 provides an overview of Industry Canada’s policy approach, based on the 2007 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada. Part 3 provides a review of expected future demand for spectrum to support commercial mobile services. Part 4 provides an assessment of potential spectrum bands that could be allocated and assigned to commercial mobile services and associated services over the next five years.
The Outlook is intended to reflect Industry Canada’s current direction and efforts to provide spectrum for commercial mobile services. As such, it may be updated from time to time in order to reflect changing priorities, significant technological changes or international developments. The Outlook will be updated following the auction of spectrum in the 700 MHz and 2500 MHz bands as well as after the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference is held.
The observations and conclusions expressed in the Outlook are based on the current situation in Canada and abroad, and are therefore subject to change. Stakeholders are welcome to provide feedback and comment on an ongoing basis; however, the Outlook is not intended to be a substitute for separate, comprehensive consultations with stakeholders on specific spectrum management issues. For a complete list of recent and ongoing public consultations, please refer to the Industry Canada website.Footnote 3
Industry Canada maintains a number of official policy documents that provide guidance on the administration and implementation of the Radiocommunication Act.Footnote 4 Chief among these is the 2007 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC), which articulates the overall objective and underlying principles that the Minister of Industry relies upon in exercising his authorities under the Act.Footnote 5 The overall objective of the spectrum management program is "to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource." The Framework also sets out the following enabling guidelines for achieving this policy objective and for directing Industry Canada’s spectrum management activities:
- Market forces should be relied upon to the maximum extent feasible.
- Notwithstanding (a), spectrum should be made available for a range of services that are in the public interest.
- Spectrum should be made available to support Canadian sovereignty, security and public safety needs.
- Regulatory measures, where required, should be minimally intrusive, efficient and effective.
- Regulation should be open, transparent and reasoned, and developed through public consultation, where appropriate.
- Spectrum management practices, including licensing methods, should minimize administrative burden and be responsive to changing technology and marketplace demands.
- Canada’s spectrum resource interests should be actively advanced and defended internationally.
- Spectrum policy and management should support the efficient functioning of markets by:
- permitting the flexible use of spectrum to the extent possible;
- harmonizing spectrum use with international allocations and standards, except where Canadian interests warrant a different determination;
- making spectrum available for use in a timely fashion;
- facilitating secondary markets for spectrum authorizations;
- clearly defining the obligations and privileges conveyed in spectrum authorizations;
- ensuring that appropriate interference protection measures are in place;
- reallocating spectrum where appropriate, while taking into account the impact on existing services; and
- applying enforcement that is timely, effective and commensurate with the risks posed by non-compliance.
Canada, like most other countries, participates in the global coordination and harmonization of spectrum management through the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). The Radiocommunication Sector of the ITU (ITU-R) serves to facilitate the equitable, efficient and economic use of spectrum among all radiocommunication services. The ITU-R maintains the international Radio Regulations, which define the allocation of spectrum bands to various types of services on the basis of the International Table of Frequency Allocations. Additionally, the ITU-R specifies technical standards to be observed by radio stations, as well as procedures for international coordination, in order to ensure technical compatibility of radio systems between countries. The Radio Regulations are reviewed and amended at the ITU’s World Radiocommunication Conferences (WRCs), which are typically held every three to four years. The last WRC was held in 2012, and the next conference is scheduled for 2015.
Canada strongly supports the global harmonization and coordination of radio frequency allocations and technical standards through the ITU. Global harmonization and coordination contributes to greater certainty for radio equipment manufacturers, who can design and manufacture devices to meet the requirements of global-scale markets, rather than multiple devices to meet the divergent requirements of different jurisdictions. Larger markets lead to larger technology ecosystems, which result in greater economies of scale and more affordable equipment. The Canadian market alone is simply not large enough to attract manufacturers to build equipment for unique Canadian band plans. Consequently, Industry Canada will continue to use the ITU to promote international harmonization, particularly as spectrum managers from around the world work to identify spectrum that could be reallocated to meet the requirements of commercial mobile services at the next WRC in 2015.
Given Canada’s proximity to the United States, spectrum coordination within North America is most critical. Canada has entered into a number of treaties and arrangements with the United States to allow certain radiocommunication equipment that has been duly authorized in one country to operate in the other, thereby avoiding cross-border interference. Among other things, these arrangements for the Coordination and Use of Radio FrequenciesFootnote 6 specify:
- Frequency bands for which new radio systems must be coordinated between the two countries;
- Geographic areas (near the border) where coordination must occur for certain frequencies;
- Notification and consultation procedures that must be followed between regulatory agencies for the two countries concerning new frequency assignments; and
- Common specifications for use of radio systems in various frequency bands, including antenna height limits, maximum radiated power, etc.
For these reasons, it is critical that Industry Canada monitor and influence, to the extent possible, the spectrum management decisions in other major markets, particularly the United States.
The Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations establishes the frequency allocations available for radio services in Canada for frequencies between 9 kHz and 275 GHz. For the purpose of spectrum allocations, radio services are identified as primary and secondary services. Primary services have priority use of the frequencies allocated to them and have a right to claim protection from harmful interferences originating from other co-primary services through frequency coordination, as well as from secondary services at all times. Secondary services may also be permitted to use a particular band, but are prohibited from causing harmful interference to primary services.
The Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations is generally, though not entirely, consistent with the International Table of Frequency Allocations maintained by the ITU. Canada is committed to harmonizing spectrum use with international allocations and standards, except where Canadian interests warrant a different determination. In some cases, the Canadian Table reflects only a subset of services allocated in the International Table, reflecting the most desirable services in Canada.
In June 2011, Industry Canada published Radio Spectrum Inventory: A 2010 Snapshot — Canada,Footnote 7 which provides an overview of current spectrum allocations and assignments, within the range of 52 MHz to 38 GHz, among 12 different groups of services and applications: commercial mobile, fixed systems (backhaul and fixed wireless access), land mobile, amateur service, public safety, broadcasting, satellite services, space science services, aeronautical services and applications, marine mobile service, radiodetermination and licence-exempt devices. The report provides historical trends in assigned spectrum, an analysis of current spectrum usage and a comparison with spectrum use in the United States. Furthermore, the report provides a basis for ongoing evaluation of current spectrum allocations as the department aims to balance the spectrum needs of existing services with those of new or growing services.
Spectrum is a limited resource, and the "usable" spectrum range (given current technologies) is completely allocated to existing services. As a result, and within the policy context set-out above, Canada must rely on a combination of demand-side and supply-side measures in order to meet the spectrum needs of new or growing services.
Network Investments and Technological Developments to Improve Efficiency
On the demand-side, licensees must use existing spectrum allocations more efficiently in order to provide improved service without requiring additional spectrum resources. Greater spectrum use efficiency can be achieved by optimizing infrastructure deployment (for example, increasing network density in order to increase frequency reuse) or by adopting innovative technologies (such as 4G wireless mobile broadband technologies).
Industry Canada has an important role to play in facilitating spectrum use efficiency, notably through the identification of contiguous and larger bandwidth allocations, through the market-based pricing of spectrum resources, through supporting innovative research and development into new techniques to improve spectrum efficiency and by supporting competition in the wireless sector. However, primary responsibility to improve spectrum use efficiency rests with licensees themselves, especially in their ability to make appropriate and continual investments in network infrastructure and to utilize new technologies that improve the efficiency of spectrum use.
Canadian commercial mobile service providers have improved spectrum use efficiency by investing over $13 billion in their wireless networks between 2003 and 2010 (Figure 1). This amount does not include the $4.25 billion spent to acquire new commercial mobile spectrum in the 2008 AWS auction, nor investments that were made to expand wireline infrastructure. Instead, these investments have gone toward expanding network coverage and density (for example, by adding additional cell sites) as well as toward upgrading technology and network applications (for example, the deployment of 4G technologies). As well, major gains in spectral efficiency have been achieved as providers move from older technologies, such as Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), to newer ones, such as High Speed Packet Access (HSPA) and Long Term Evolution (LTE) (Table 1).
In order to meet future demands for spectrum, key determinants include continued capital investment as well as the development of additional technological and business innovations designed to significantly increase spectrum use efficiency. It is therefore critical that Canada’s wireless providers be encouraged to actively pursue innovations such as dynamic spectrum sharing and cognitive radio, small cell networks, smart antennas and others that have the potential to improve spectrum use efficiency.
While the private sector must lead the way in making better, more efficient use of spectrum, Industry Canada recognizes that efficiency improvements alone cannot meet the growing demand for commercial mobile services, and that in order to meet the objective of the SPFC, it has an obligation to manage the supply of spectrum by reallocating limited spectrum resources between radio services. Such reallocation decisions need to consider not only the requirements of commercial mobile services, but also those of associated services, such as fixed systems that provide backhaul capacity or licence-exempt devices, which allow for the offloading of traffic from commercial mobile networks.
When determining the need for spectrum reallocations, Industry Canada will be guided by the SPFC and will endeavour to make decisions in a timely and transparent manner after consultation with stakeholders. In addition to considering stakeholders’ views, Industry Canada’s approach to determine whether and how to reallocate spectrum is based on two main considerations. The first consideration is the expected additional demand for spectrum presented by the new or growing service, taking into account the potential to increase spectrum use efficiency through the application of best available technologies. The second consideration is an assessment of candidate bands, based on a combination of the following three factors:
- the current use of the band in Canada;
- projected technological developments and the expected availability of equipment able to use the reallocated bands in order to deliver the new or growing service (often referred to as a "technology ecosystem"); and
- international trends and whether the new use of the band is compatible with Canada’s international obligations (also known as international frequency coordination).
The next part of the Outlook (Part 3, "Demand for Spectrum to Support Commercial Mobile Services") provides a summary of Industry Canada’s current analysis of the future expected demand for spectrum in the mobile communications category, given existing trends in network investments and technological improvements to improve efficiency. Part 3 also includes a summary of the impacts that growing commercial mobile services are expected to have on the spectrum requirements for backhaul services and for licence-exempt devices, which are used to offload mobile traffic onto wired networks.
Based on this analysis of the expected future demand for spectrum from these services and applications, Part 4 of the Outlook ("Additional Spectrum to Support Commercial Mobile Services") details Industry Canada’s current assessment of candidate bands that could be reallocated to meet future requirements.
Note: This does not include investments to acquire spectrum licences in 2008.
Source: Based on CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, various years.
|Mobile Generation Technology||Efficiency (Bits/S/Hz)|
|2G-GSM — GPRS||0.085|
Source: RedMobile - Study of Future Demand for Radio Spectrum in Canada, 2011-2015.
The Growth of Commercial Mobile Services
Commercial mobile services provide wide-area ubiquitous radiocommunication services to the general public. These services consist of mobile access to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) and mobile access to the Internet. These services have evolved significantly over the last 30 years, from the simple first generation mobile voice telephony in the 1980s to complex 4G technology supporting voice and data transmissions in the high-mobility environment of today. Over this period, consumers have increasingly demanded extended coverage, faster data transmission rates, and more advanced, data-intensive mobile applications (such as video-on-demand). In response, service providers deployed ubiquitous, high-capacity radio networks based on state-of-the-art technologies.
Since 2000, the number of subscriptions for commercial mobile services in Canada has more than tripled, increasing by an average of 1.5 million per year over the last decade (Figure 2). In fact, the total number of wireless subscriptions in 2008 surpassed wireline subscriptions, which have remained stable over the same period.
The increase in mobile subscriptions has been accompanied by the adoption of more sophisticated mobile devices, such as smart phones and tablets, which provide access to the Internet. Canadians are among the most ardent adopters of these types of devices. ComScore estimated that in 2011, forty-five percent of mobile subscribers in Canada owned a smart phone.Footnote 9 This places Canada third among reported markets in smart phone adoption, and ahead of the United States, where smart phone owners represent forty-two percent of total U.S. mobile subscribers.
The adoption of these devices significantly increases data traffic on mobile networks, as users access a diverse array of data-intensive content and applications (Figure 3). Ericsson estimates that mobile Internet traffic worldwide surpassed mobile voice traffic in 2009.Footnote 10 This trend is reflected in the revenues of Canadian providers of commercial mobile services, which have remained relatively stable for voice services since 2008, but have grown significantly for data services (Figure 4).
These two trends — increasing mobile subscriptions and increasing demand for data‑intensive content and applications — are expected to continue into the foreseeable future. The CRTC estimates that the number of mobile Internet subscriptions in Canada will increase from 3.8 million in 2011 to around 14 million in 2015 — a compounded annual growth rate of over twenty-nine percent.Footnote 11 In fact, the Cisco Visual Networking Index estimates that by the end of 2013, the number of mobile‑connected devices will exceed the world's population, and that by 2017, video content will represent sixty‑six percent of total mobile traffic.Footnote 12
As a result, traffic over Canada’s commercial mobile networks is expected to increase fifteen‑fold between 2011 and 2017, from eight petabytes per month in 2011 to 122 petabytes per month in 2017 (Figure 5).Footnote 13 To provide perspective, it is estimated that all of the information in every university research library in the United States would amount to just 2 petabytes of information.
Forecasts of Future Spectrum Demand for Commercial Mobile Services
In 2012, Industry Canada released a study, prepared by RedMobile Consul ting, which provides a forecast of the future demand for spectrum to support commercial mobile services in the 2011-2015 time frame.Footnote 14 The views expressed in this study are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department or those of the Government of Canada. The RedMobile study concluded that commercial mobile services in Canada will require 375 to 500 MHz of spectrum by 2015. Extrapolating this forecast using a simple linear regression suggests that 475-650 MHz of spectrum will be required to support commercial mobile services by 2017 (Figure 6). Given that there will be 528 MHz of spectrum available for commercial mobile services (once the upcoming 700 MHz and 2500 MHz auctions are completed), meeting the demand at the upper range of the estimate will require an approximate twenty-five percent increase in available spectrum.
The RedMobile study looked at three possible scenarios, which differed in their assumptions regarding three key factors: projected traffic growth, investment and network densification, and spectrum use efficiency.
The business-as-usual (BAU) scenario assumes no major changes in current patterns of traffic growth, network densification or efficiency. Traffic is forecast to double every year, site counts of each operator are expected to continue growing at between five to ten percent per year, and spectrum use efficiency is forecast to increase to 1.078 Bits/Sec/Hertz.Footnote 15 Total spectrum requirements in the BAU scenario were forecast to be 375 MHz and 473 MHz in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
A wire-free-world (WFW) scenario was also examined, where traffic growth was assumed to be twice as fast as the BAU scenario, and investment and efficiency improvements were modelled in response. Total spectrum requirements in this scenario were forecast to be 460 MHz and 594 MHz in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
Finally, a low-investment (LI) scenario was examined. Traffic growth was forecast to be the same as the BAU scenario, but this scenario showed lower investment in networks and devices. Total spectrum requirements in this scenario were forecast to be 500 MHz and 649 MHz in 2015 and 2017, respectively.
Since the RedMobile report was prepared, actual Canadian mobile data traffic in 2011 has become available. Based on this data, as well as the exponential traffic growth estimates provided by Cisco,Footnote 16 Industry Canada has prepared an alternate forecast of future spectrum demand (see Annex A for a full description of Industry Canada’s alternate forecast). This forecast assumes similar increases in network investments observed over the past few years and concludes that between 650 and 820 MHz of spectrum will be required by 2017 (Figure 6). The range of these estimates is a function of the degree to which technologies, such as Wi-Fi, are deployed to offload data traffic from mobile wireless networks.
Comparison to Other Forecasts of Future Demand
In October 2010, the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a study which provided a technical analysis to validate the need for additional spectrum to support commercial mobile services. The FCC analysis concluded that the demand for spectrum will reach 822 MHz by 2014.Footnote 17 This amounts to a fifty percent increase from currently available levels in the United States (547 MHz).
Similarly, in May 2011, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released Towards 2020 — Future spectrum requirements for mobile broadband.Footnote 18 The ACMA report forecasts that the demand for mobile spectrum in Australia will reach 760 MHz by 2014, 932 MHz by 2015 and 1,081 MHz by 2020.
Considering these estimates from other countries, the estimates for Canadian mobile spectrum requirements appear somewhat conservative, particularly those cited in the RedMobile study.
Estimates of future spectrum required to support commercial mobile services are extremely sensitive to changes in underlying assumptions of future traffic growth, network investments and efficiency improvements. Complicating future projections is the fact that these variables are not independent; they interact with each other in response to market forces. For example, a scarcity of spectrum to support commercial mobile services could encourage greater network investments to increase efficiency, which could put upward pressure on consumer prices. Increased prices, in turn, could change consumer behaviour, leading to slower traffic growth and a corresponding decrease in spectrum demand. Conversely, more spectrum could also lead to healthier levels of competition and/or reduced network deployment costs, thereby reducing consumer prices and having the reverse effect — greater traffic growth and an increased demand for spectrum.
While a precise estimate on future spectrum demands may be difficult to identify, the overall direction is clear: given current trends, additional spectrum will need to be allocated to commercial mobile services to support future requirements. As a result, Industry Canada has set an objective of allocating a total of 750 MHz of spectrum to commercial mobile services by 2017. This objective recognizes that the wireless sector must remain innovative and find ways to increase spectrum use efficiency, while at the same time acknowledging that Canada must increase the overall supply of spectrum for these services.
Sources: Based on data from CWTA website and on CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, various years.
Source : Cisco VNI Mobile Traffic Forecast.
Note: Total wireless industry revenues ($19 billion in 2011) also include revenues from sales of terminals, paging and other sources.
Source: Based on CRTC Communications Monitoring Report, various years.
Note: One Petabyte is equal to 1,024 terabytes.
Source: Cisco, VNI Global Mobile Traffic Forecast.
Source: RedMobile Consulting, Industry Canada.
Demand for Backhaul Services
The growing demand for commercial mobile services has significant consequences for backhaul services — the transmission of aggregate communication signals between cell sites and the core networks. There are multiple technical solutions for providing backhaul, including wireline (e.g., fibre optics and copper) as well as wireless radio and satellite, all of which require the allocation of appropriate spectrum resources.
Each type of backhaul solution has different advantages with regard to technical performance, cost and speed of deployment. In Canada, service providers favour a mix of fibre and wireless backhaul, reflecting the country’s varied geography, distances between population centres and the number of rural and remote communities. Major telecommunications and cable providers have built extensive fibre networks in populated areas and along major highway corridors. In these circumstances, fibre is the best option as it supplies virtually unlimited capacity and can, in certain instances, be more economical than multiple wireless radio relay systems when the costs of towers, radio equipment and antennas are factored in.
However, over the past few years, there has been a considerable increase in requests for backhaul licences. Wireless backhaul allows for fast deployment, which is an important factor in rapidly growing and expanding wireless networks. It is also more cost-effective in providing service to low-density suburban, rural and remote communities. The increase in wireless backhaul is a result of new entrants into Canada’s wireless market who are seeking to quickly build their own networks, as well as the efforts of incumbents to upgrade and expand their own networks.
Different spectrum frequencies are used to deliver different types of backhaul services:
Low frequencies (below 11 GHz) are used for long-haul links (20 km or more) due to their ability to propagate very far. There are roughly 3 GHz of backhaul spectrum available in low frequencies. These frequencies have traditionally been used to support Canada-wide multi-link networks, most of which are currently in place or are being decommissioned in favour of fibre. However, while limited demand is expected in a portion of this range, these frequencies will continue to be employed along certain corridors to reach areas where other backhaul options may be cost‑prohibitive.
Mid-range frequency bands (11-23 GHz) are used for medium-haul links (between 8 and 20 km) and have larger channel widths. Of all backhaul spectrum, this frequency range is the most heavily used in Canada. There are roughly 3 GHz of backhaul spectrum available to support more than 20,000 frequency assignments. In particular, from 1998 to 2010, the 11 GHz and 18 GHz bands have experienced a six-hundred percent and eight-hundred percent increase in frequency assignments, respectively. Some areas of Canada are experiencing congestion. In recent years, 570 MHz of this spectrum was the subject of reallocation and re-designation in order to support the implementation of other services, including DTH satellite broadcasting and national defence aeronautical radios. Based on the above, backhaul demand in mid-range frequencies appears to be growing. The evidence of congestion further suggests that additional spectrum may be needed to address the demand.
High frequency bands (above 23 GHz) are generally used for short-haul links (less than 8 km) and have very large capacities. This spectrum is ideally suited to address the backhaul needs of small cell sites used in dense urban areas. Recognizing the need for additional backhaul capacity in this frequency range to support the latest technologies used in commercial mobile deployments, Industry Canada has made available roughly 15 GHzFootnote 19 of backhaul spectrum in the 25 GHz, 27 GHz, 70 GHz, 80 GHz and 90 GHz bands in order to support the deployment of broadband applications. This large increase in short-haul spectrum availability is expected to address the demand for short-haul, high-capacity links both in and around urban areas.
Forecasts of Future Spectrum Demand for Backhaul
The study prepared by RedMobile concluded that demand for backhaul spectrum in frequencies below 38 GHz will grow from 878 MHz in 2010 to between 2603 MHz and 3394 MHz by 2015,Footnote 20 depending on the modelling scenario (business-as-usual, wire-free-world or low-investment). Extrapolating this forecast using a linear regression suggests that a total of 3438-4435 MHz of backhaul spectrum will be required by 2017 (Figure 7). This projection assumes the continued offloading of traffic from wireless to fibre, and that the proportion of network traffic carried over fibre will increase over the period of 2010‑15. Over the same period, the volume of traffic carried over wireless backhaul links is assumed to increase with the rapid growth in fixed and mobile broadband traffic.
International Forecasts of Future Backhaul Demand
In 2011, a consortium of Aegis Systems Ltd., Ovum Consulting and dB Spectrum Services Ltd. provided the UK regulator, Ofcom, with a report that outlined the drivers of wireless backhaul demand.Footnote 21 The study indicated that although there is sufficient spectrum to meet anticipated needs in the frequency bands above 20 GHz, additional spectrum might be required in the lower and medium frequency bands (3 GHz to 20 GHz frequency range).
Similarly, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has identified continued pressure within lower frequency bands (1.5-8 GHz), while sufficient spectrum exists to accommodate demand in the higher frequency bands.Footnote 22
In 2011, the United States’ FCC made additional spectrum available for backhaul use in bands below 13 GHz, and provided additional flexibility to facilitate the use of backhaul in rural areas with the release of its Wireless Backhaul Report and Order(R&O).Footnote 23
With a total of roughly 24 GHz of spectrum available in Canada for backhaul in all frequency ranges, there should be sufficient spectrum overall to accommodate expected demand to 2017. However, in mid-range frequency bands (11-23 GHz), finding sufficient spectrum for increasingly large data rates and throughput to cover longer distances remains a challenge. This is consistent with the backhaul challenges identified in other countries.
More spectrally efficient equipment and the ability to offload traffic onto fibre networks can address some of the growing backhaul requirements of the wireless industry. Industry Canada believes that technological advances provide opportunities to increase flexibility and to promote increased spectrum efficiency across all backhaul frequency bands.
Industry Canada plans to address these issues — including any future reallocation or repurposing of spectrum bands for backhaul — through stakeholder consultations. These consultations were launched on ,Footnote 24 to consider the requirements in each of the three frequency ranges and to address updated policies and technical requirements for increased efficiency and flexibility, as well as the utilization of all backhaul spectrum.