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Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for the 3650-4200 MHz Band and Changes to the Frequency Allocation of the 3500-3650 MHz Band

SLPB-002-21
May 2021

Note 1 (effective June 8, 2021): In D27 and paragraph 253 the range has been corrected from 3700-3900 to 3700-3980 MHz.

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1. Intent

1. Through the release of this document, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (the Minister), announces decisions resulting from the consultation process undertaken in Canada Gazette Notice SLPB-002-20, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for the 3650-4200 MHz Band and Changes to the Frequency Allocation of the 3500-3650 MHz Band (the Consultation). The 3800 MHz band includes the frequency range 3650-4200 MHz.

2. Comments and/or reply comments on the Consultation were received from:

  • Advanced Interactive Canada Inc.
  • Association of Municipalities of Ontario
  • Aviation Industry and Associations comprised of: Boeing Company (Boeing), Airbus, Bombardier Aerospace, Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA), Canadian Business Aviation Association (CBAA), MHI RJ Aviation Group (MHIRJ), Collins Aerospace, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and Air Canada Pilots Association (ACPA)
  • British Columbia Broadband Association (BCBA)
  • BCE Inc. (Bell)
  • Bragg Communications Inc., carrying on business as Eastlink (Eastlink)
  • Canadian Association of Wireless Internet Service Providers (CanWISP)
  • Canadian Coast Guard
  • Canadian Communication Systems Alliance Inc. (CCSA)
  • Canadian Electricity Association (CEA)
  • CBC/Radio-Canada
  • Cogeco Communications Inc. (Cogeco)
  • Corus Entertainment Inc. (Corus)
  • Department of National Defence Frequency Spectrum Management (Department of National Defence)
  • Dynamic Spectrum Alliance Limited (DSA)
  • ECOTEL Inc. (Ecotel)
  • Ericsson Canada Inc. (Ericsson)
  • Eutelsat S.A. (Eutelsat)
  • Federated Wireless Inc. (Federated Wireless)
  • Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities
  • Galaxy Broadband Communications Inc.
  • Huawei Technologies Canada Co., Ltd. (Huawei)
  • Hunter Communications Canada Inc.
  • Inmarsat Solutions (Canada) Inc. (Inmarsat)
  • Intelsat US LLC (Intelsat)
  • Inuit Circumpolar Council (Canada)
  • Invest Ottawa & Bayview Yards
  • Iris Technologies Inc. and Ice Wireless Inc. (Iristel)
  • Kuhkenah Network (K‑Net)
  • MDA
  • Mobilexchange Limited (Mobilexchange)
  • MPVWifi
  • NAV CANADA
  • NCTA – The Internet & Television Association (NCTA)
  • Nokia
  • North American Broadcasters Association (NABA)
  • Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon
  • Pelmorex Weather Networks (Television) Inc.
  • Planetworks Consulting Corporation
  • PSBN Innovation Alliance
  • Qualcomm
  • Québecor Média inc. (Québecor)
  • Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC)
  • Railway Association of Canada
  • Redline Communications Group Inc
  • Regional Municipality of Durham
  • Rogers Communications Canada Inc. (Rogers)
  • Rural Municipalities of Alberta (RMA)
  • Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel)
  • SES S.A. (SES)
  • Shaw Communications Inc. (Shaw)
  • SpeedFI Inc.
  • SPYR Network
  • SSi Micro Ltd. (SSi)
  • TekSavvy Solutions Inc. (TekSavvy)
  • Telesat
  • TELUS Communications Inc. (TELUS)
  • Toronto Police Service
  • Total North Communications
  • Transport Canada Civil Aviation
  • ViacomCBS Inc.
  • Wireless Innovation Forum (WInnForum)
  • Xplornet Communications Inc. (Xplornet)

2. Legislative mandate

3. The Minister, through the Department of Industry Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations, with due regard to the objectives of the Telecommunications Act, is responsible for spectrum management in Canada. As such, the Minister is responsible for developing national policies for spectrum utilization and ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

3. Policy objectives

4. Wireless services are an important part of Canadians’ lives, whether they are accessing multi-media applications, conducting business while on the move, connecting with family and friends, or managing their finances. As wireless services become increasingly integrated into their lives, Canadians expect these services to be high quality, available in every region of the country, and competitively priced. Furthermore, connectivity becomes even more critical during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, a time when Canadians have relied even more on their wireless services to stay connected.

5. ISED is committed to the objective that all Canadian consumers, businesses, and public institutions have access to the latest wireless telecommunications services, at competitive prices. A robust wireless telecommunications industry drives the adoption and use of digital technologies and enhances the productivity of the Canadian economy.

6. Spectrum is a critical resource for wireless carriers. Additional spectrum for flexible use will enable providers to increase network capacity to meet the traffic demands of higher usage rates and support the provision of next-generation wireless technologies. The fifth generation of technology, known as 5G, is expected to dramatically change the telecommunications landscape. 5G technology will facilitate the delivery of high-quality and innovative services to Canadian consumers and businesses. The development and deployment of 5G technologies is essential to Canada becoming a global centre for innovation and will bring Canada to the forefront of digital development and adoption through the creation and strengthening of a world-class wireless infrastructure. Further, it presents a key opportunity to support competition and the provision of high quality, innovative, and competitively priced wireless services to Canadians.

7. Beyond improvements to mobile and fixed wireless networks, 5G is also expected to support the expansion of new wireless applications in vertical industries such as agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, public safety and transportation. With more spectrum available, Canadians will be able to embrace new applications and services in these vertical industries as they are developed. Testing and demonstrations of different use cases are already taking place domestically and internationally. Initial 5G deployments appear to be focused on capacity expansions for current 4G and fixed wireless access networks in the mid-band spectrum and backhaul applications; however, it is unclear at this time which business cases will drive ongoing investment in 5G networks, and which services and applications will deliver the greatest benefit to Canadians.

8. Around the world, spectrum regulators have released or are planning to release the 3800 MHz band, or portions thereof, for broadband wireless services. Repurposing this band to flexible use will not only support mobile services, such as smartphones and connected devices, but will also continue to support fixed wireless services. Promoting access to additional flexible use spectrum for mobile and fixed wireless services will enable telecommunication service providers (TSPs) and wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) to increase their network capacity to meet the traffic demands of increased data usage that is expected with 5G applications and services in both urban and rural areas of Canada.

9. In addition to the roles of mobile and fixed wireless services in the overall delivery of connectivity to Canadians, satellites continue to play a vital role in Canada's telecommunication and broadcasting infrastructure. They are currently the only means of reaching some communities in rural and remote areas, such as the North. ISED has observed an overall trend of satellite operations moving to higher frequencies to better accommodate the demands for data-intensive applications that require larger bandwidths (i.e. higher capacity Internet services and high-resolution images and video). Next-generation satellite technologies, such as high throughput satellites and low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite constellations, are expected to play an important role in supporting connectivity and bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas, with satellites offering coverage in the far North of Canada. While the satellite trend is to move to higher frequencies, due to existing infrastructure and the propagation characteristics of the 3800 MHz band, it continues to be used to distribute media and provide Internet connectivity. Consequently, the repurposing and release of the 3800 MHz spectrum will take into account the role of fixed satellite services (FSS) operations, especially in rural and remote areas that depend on satellite communications.

10. Canadian consumers benefit from the economies of scale that come when manufacturers produce equipment for many markets resulting in access to the latest devices at competitive prices for Canadians. By ensuring that the spectrum management policies adopted by ISED reflect global trends, emerging 5G standards and the equipment ecosystem that is expected to materialize in the coming years, Canada will continue to position itself to benefit from the next generation of smartphones and other advanced wireless devices.

11. In developing this decision, ISED was guided by the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC), which states that the objective of the spectrum program is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource. This objective and the enabling guidelines listed in the SPFC remain relevant for guiding ISED in delivering its spectrum management mandate. Furthermore, where the demand for spectrum is not expected to exceed the supply, ISED generally uses a non-competitive licensing process such as a first-come, first-served licensing process to award spectrum licences. In instances where the demand for spectrum is expected to exceed supply, a competitive licensing process, such as an auction, is generally used. The Framework for Spectrum Auctions in Canada describes the general approaches that ISED will use to auction spectrum licences.

12. In May 2019, the Government of Canada released Canada’s Digital Charter: Trust in a digital world (the Digital Charter). The Digital Charter lists universal access as the first of ten principles that will lay the foundation for a made-in-Canada digital approach, and guide policy thinking and actions towards establishing an innovative, people-centred and inclusive digital and data economy built on trust. Universal access is the principle that all Canadians will have an equal opportunity to participate in the digital world and have the necessary tools to do so, including access, connectivity, literacy and skills.

13. The Government of Canada is also committed to promoting the delivery of broadband services to rural and remote areas across the country. In 2019, High-Speed Access for All: Canada’s Connectivity Strategy was launched, and a national connectivity target was announced that aims to make speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload available to all Canadian homes and businesses. As part of this commitment, ISED is considering the need to support and encourage connectivity for rural and remote communities as it develops new policies and licensing processes for the 3800 MHz band.

14. The decisions set out in this document support the objectives of the Telecommunications Act, the SPFC, the Digital Charter and Canada’s Connectivity Strategy by positioning Canada at the leading edge of the digital economy through the release of the 3800 MHz band to support 5G technologies. Consequently, ISED’s policy objectives for the 3800 MHz band are to:

  • foster investment and the evolution of wireless networks by enabling the development of high-quality 5G networks and technology
  • support sustained competition in the provision of wireless services so that all consumers and businesses benefit from greater choice and competitive prices
  • facilitate the deployment and timely availability of services across the country, including in rural, remote, and Northern regions

4. Background and context

15. Different frequencies possess unique propagation characteristics and can be developed to offer applications and services that make use of these different characteristics and benefits. ISED considers that planning the release of spectrum in low-, mid- and high-frequency bands will be beneficial to the deployment of 5G technologies offering higher speeds, lower-latency and improved capacity and coverage.

16. In April 2019, ISED completed the auction for the 600 MHz band to support increased network capacity and the deployment of next-generation technologies using low-band spectrum. In June 2019, ISED published SLPB-003-19, Decision on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G, to begin the process to make this high-band spectrum, optimal for low-latency and high-bandwidth use, available for 5G services in the future. Furthermore, in March 2020, ISED published SLPB-001-20, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band, outlining the format and rules for the 3500 MHz auction, which will be held in June 2021. This auction will release 200 MHz of critical mid-band spectrum to support the deployment of 5G services and applications across Canada.

17. Through its Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022, ISED indicated that it would review the frequency ranges from 3400-4200 MHz to consider releasing them, or portions thereof, for commercial mobile and fixed use. ISED defined the 3800 MHz band as the frequency range of 3650-4200 MHz, also referred to as the C-band. The 3650-4200 MHz band is currently used for fixed point-to-point systems, wireless broadband service (WBS) and the FSS systems.

18. In June 2019, as part of the SLPB-001-19, Decision on Revisions to the 3500 MHz Band to Accommodate Flexible Use and Preliminary Decisions on Changes to the 3800 MHz Band, ISED also committed to review the WBS band (3650-3700 MHz) and the 3700-4200 MHz band through a future formal consultation, to release portions of the 3800 MHz band for flexible use through a future auction process. This spectrum, combined with the 3500 MHz spectrum being auctioned in June 2021, will provide operators with 530 MHz of mid-band spectrum to support the deployment of 5G and WBS across Canada.

19. In the Consultation published in August 2020, ISED consulted on two sets of proposals on how to repurpose the 3800 MHz band for flexible use. In general, the proposal developed by ISED sought comments on repurposing the 3650-4000 MHz band for flexible use with a 20 MHz guard band in 3980-4000 MHz, and 4000-4200 MHz for FSS with the exception of allowing continued FSS operations in the full 3700-4200 MHz band in satellite-dependent areas. ISED further proposed that the spectrum be repurposed by 2023 in most areas. ISED also proposed that an auction be used as the licensing mechanism for the 3650-4000 MHz spectrum, and indicated that such an auction would be expected to take place in 2023.

20. A second proposal was submitted by Telesat to ISED (annex H of the Consultation). Telesat proposed an accelerated spectrum clearing approach, which would include a privately held auction for 200 MHz of spectrum licences after a direct assignment of those licences to Telesat. Telesat submitted a revised proposal as part of its reply comment submission.

5. Accelerated spectrum clearing approach

21. ISED will address the accelerated spectrum clearing proposal submitted by Telesat first as it represents a departure from ISED’s typical repurposing approach, and the acceptance or rejection of which impacts the remainder of this decision.

22. Both the main ISED proposal (which is discussed in more detail in sections 7-10) and the Telesat proposal were based on certain common elements, including that:

  • there would be a fundamental re-allocation of a large portion of the 3800 MHz band, which would include the creation of a number of new flexible use licences
  • in order for the new flexible use licences to operate in the re-allocated portion of the band current users, which include satellite licensees, both licensed and licence exempt earth stations, WBS systems and other fixed users, would be required to obtain a different authorization in order to continue
  • the new flexible use licences would have a number of conditions of licence to be developed, including competitive measures

23. Telesat proposed to accelerate the transition of portions of the band for flexible use. In the Consultation, ISED sought comments on a variety of aspects, and potential impacts that this proposal would have on repurposing the 3800 MHz band. The original proposal submitted by Telesat suggested that ISED reallocate a total of 400 MHz of spectrum from 3700-4100 MHz, with 200 MHz (3700-3900 MHz) of flexible use licences issued directly to Telesat. In this proposal ISED would retain the other 200 MHz (3900-4100 MHz) and assign the licences through a standard ISED auction process at a later time.

24. The stakeholder comments summarized below, were in response to Telesat’s original proposal (annex H of the Consultation).

25. The relevant factors related to the main proposal are discussed in more detail below.

Summary of comments

26. While Bell fully supported Telesat’s proposal, TELUS and the PSBN Innovation Alliance only supported the elements of the proposal related to making more spectrum available within an earlier timeframe. Ericsson supported making an additional 100 MHz available in 4000-4100 MHz for mobile services. TELUS did note that it had serious concerns with this proposal, including the issue of spectrum fragmentation in the mid-band range as a result of the multiple processes, including this proposal. PSBN Innovation Alliance stated that its support for this proposal was contingent on obtaining some form of set-aside or priority for public safety from the additional spectrum that would be made available.

27. Mobilexchange, TekSavvy, the Toronto Police Service and Telesat also supported this proposal, as they believe this would be in the best interest of Canadians, enabling faster deployment of 5G services. TekSavvy agreed with this proposal mainly because it would enable the existing WBS incumbents to remain in the current allocation in 3650-3700 MHz band.

28. In the reply comments, and in its initial comments in the case of the Department of National Defence, multiple clients of Telesat submitted their support for this proposal. The Canadian Coast Guard, Federation of Northern Ontario Municipalities, Galaxy Broadband Communications, K-Net, NAV CANADA, Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon, Pelmorex Weather Networks (Television) Inc and Total North Communications submitted reply comments indicating that Telesat would provide financial support and guaranteed uninterrupted service during the transition period.

29. Rogers, Shaw, Xplornet, Cogeco, SaskTel, Québecor, Eastlink, SSi Micro, Iristel, Corus, Ecotel, NABA, CBC/Radio-Canada, CanWISP, BCBA and Hunter Communications Canada Inc., opposed the Telesat proposal. They had various reasons as to why they did not support this proposal, including concerns relating to entrusting a private company to assign this valuable public resource by way of a private sale. Rogers, Shaw, SaskTel, Québecor, Iristel, CanWISP, BCBA, and Corus indicated that a private sale would not be transparent and would have different objectives than an ISED led auction. Xplornet, SaskTel, Eastlink and Hunter Communications Canada Inc. also noted that Telesat’s proposal does not align with government objectives since its objective would be to maximize revenue, rather than conduct an efficient and transparent process to allocate spectrum. There were also concerns raised about the lack of transparency from a private sale, and the lack of provision for a separate consultation on conditions of licence, competitive measures, and other licensing details, as indicated by Eastlink, Cogeco and CanWISP. SaskTel and Eastlink stated that there is an expectation that ISED would hold an open public consultation on issues related to the conditions of licence, develop a mechanism to encourage pro-competitive measures, and other licensing details related to the spectrum licences in this band.

30. Eutelsat, SES and Intelsat raised concerns about the amount of spectrum (100 MHz) that would be available for FSS use after repurposing. They indicated that it would not be enough to continue providing current levels of service. While Intelsat and SES supported the part of Telesat’s proposal that would provide compensation to satellite service providers to cover the costs of the transition, they had concerns entrusting one provider (Telesat) with these responsibilities.

31. Boeing, Airbus, ALPA, CBAA, Bombardier Aerospace, MHIRJ, ACPA, Collins Aerospace, and the IATA provided a joint submission. In this aviation industry submission, they indicated their strong opposition to this proposal due to the lack of frequency separation between flexible use and radio altimeters that are used to assist in navigating aircraft. They indicated that a frequency separation of 100 MHz is insufficient to avoid interference from flexible use to radio altimeters.

32. Telesat’s revised proposal: In its reply comments, Telesat submitted a revised proposal to address some of the concerns raised by comments from other stakeholders. The main feature of Telesat’s revised proposal was that 4000-4200 MHz would remain for FSS use; Telesat would still retain 200 MHz (3700-3900 MHz); and ISED would retain 3650-3700 MHz and 3900-4000 MHz, which it could make available through a future auction or for shared use. This revised proposal would make the first 120 MHz available for new flexible use in urban areas by 2021 and the rest of the spectrum in all areas would be cleared by 2023.

33. In both of its proposals, Telesat did not propose to use any of the flexible use licences that it would be issued directly, but would rather hold a private auction to transfer the licences to winning bidders. Telesat proposed to keep the proceeds for its own use. Telesat also proposed that it would finance the “costs” of the transition for itself and assist other spectrum users in an accelerated transition. The major benefit to both the initial and revised Telesat proposals would be that the new flexible use licences would, through a transfer process from Telesat via a private auction, be made available to potential flexible use licensees faster.

34. As the revised proposal was submitted to ISED as part of its reply comments, the general public and interested stakeholders were unable to provide a public record of their positions on Telesat’s revised proposal.

Discussion

35. ISED is of the view that any decision regarding the future of the 3800 MHz band, like all spectrum bands, should reflect the best spectrum management practices. While the comments from stakeholders provided a variety of rationale, both in favour and against Telesat’s proposal, ISED has decided not to adopt the initial proposal, nor the revised proposal. ISED is of the view that Telesat’s proposals are not in accordance with ISED’s established policies and spectrum management practices, and the proposals would not ensure an outcome that assists in meeting the policy goal of maximizing the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource. Instead, the major components of this decision document are more closely based on ISED’s proposal. Some elements of the Telesat proposals are discussed in this section, while the main elements of the decision related to the band plan, licensing process, treatment of existing users and other issues are more fully discussed in other sections below. 

36. The Radiocommunication Act provides the Minister with the authority to manage and assign spectrum, including the authority for ISED to design and run competitive processes such as auctions. The Minister uses these powers in order to meet certain legislative and policy goals as noted above.

37. The SPFC outlines the overarching policy objective of the Spectrum Management Program, which seeks to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum resource. The SPFC also lists several enabling guidelines supporting this policy objective. The SPFC is premised upon the Minister exercising their authorities on spectrum management, while Telesat’s proposals would put a large portion of the spectrum management in this band in Telesat’s control.

38. It is also ISED’s long-standing policy, as set out in the FSAC, that an ISED auction will be used to assign spectrum licences where there is more demand than supply. Clearly there will be high demand for the flexible use licences, but Telesat’s proposal is based on a direct assignment of 200 MHz of spectrum licences in every licence area in Canada directly to Telesat with no licensing process, which is fundamentally in opposition to this basic policy.

39. Even if the conditions of licence or some other obligations require Telesat to then transfer the licences through a private auction, ISED notes that:

  • from ISED’s point of view, a private auction by Telesat is not an ISED process, rather it creates a series of proposed licence transfers
  • a private auction does not have the same guarantees of transparency as an ISED-led auction
  • a private auction has an incentive to maximize revenue for the party holding the auction in priority over other objectives of spectrum management set out in the SPFC and discussed in section 3
  • ISED has the power to respond to any changes in market and technical conditions with respect to the conduct of its auctions, for example by providing clarified auction rules and delaying processes in relation to changes in the market

40. ISED also notes that auctions conducted by ISED help to meet the goal that Canadians obtain a fair return for the use of this spectrum and that, at a minimum, the revenue received will be comparable to the returns currently being received for similar spectrum resources. Telesat’s proposal would ensure no return via auction revenues and that Telesat retains all auction revenues for its own purposes.

41. Telesat suggests that it can assist ISED by helping to facilitate the clearing of the spectrum and taking on the expense and risk of doing so. However, ISED has not required licensees or other parties to provide this assistance and/or service in the past nor does it foresee that it would request this type of service in the future.

42. Apart from the specific proposal put forward by Telesat for a private auction, this consultation process was not intended to consider broader questions relating to the next generation of satellite technology. Although ISED is not adopting Telesat’s specific proposal, this should not be read as a lack of support for Canadian LEO solutions. The Government of Canada is in discussion with Telesat about further support for its LEO project. As discussed in section 3, LEO satellites are expected to play an important role in supporting the government’s goals for connectivity and for bridging the digital divide between rural and urban areas as it is expected to  substantially increase capacity and offer speeds of 50/10 Mbps and above. In 2020 the Government of Canada signed an agreement with Telesat to secure high-speed Internet capacity over Canada through the company’s LEO satellite constellation. Under the agreement, the government has committed up to $600 million to secure capacity on Telesat’s LEO satellite constellation. This capacity will be made available to Internet service providers at a reduced rate in order to provide high-speed, reliable Internet access to the most challenging rural and remote communities in Canada. LEO satellite constellations can help to ensure that Canadian homes and businesses in even the most challenging northern and remote areas will have access to high-speed Internet and could also be used to support mobile wireless services in remote communities. As such, ISED continues to support the development of LEO in Canada.

Decision

D1
ISED will not be adopting the proposals submitted by Telesat (neither the original nor revised version). The main features of the technical and policy framework that will be adopted as part of this decision are discussed in the sections below.

6. Development of 5G ecosystems

43. As noted in the Consultation, spectrum regulators around the world have released or are planning to release portions of the 3800 MHz band for flexible use to support 5G technologies. Internationally, the 3800 MHz band has traditionally been used as a downlink (space-to-Earth) band for FSS, and for the terrestrial fixed service, with varying amounts of spectrum being made available for other uses in different countries.

44. In most cases, a licensing process is the first step in advancing the development and deployment of new technologies. Subsequent network deployment can occur a few years after the licences have been issued, with consumers making use of the network and services only once devices and handsets have been fully developed.

45. Globally harmonized spectrum allocations will result in a larger equipment ecosystem, leading to economies of scale, lower costs for deployment, and more rapid roll-out of new services. However, the reality is that not all countries will have fully aligned spectrum allocations at the same time, if ever. Regulators will decide which portions of spectrum will be made available at a national level, based on incumbent use as well as national priorities and strategies. In addition, regulators may impose differing technical rules such as in-band and out-of-band-emission (OOBE) power limits, which may limit equipment available in one country from being certified in another country.

46. In light of the above, ISED sought comments in the Consultation regarding: the maturity of 5G equipment ecosystem for the 3800 MHz band, the impact that differing technical rules in the 3800 MHz band between the United States (US). and the European Union (EU) would have on Canada’s ability to leverage economies of scale from the global 3800 MHz ecosystem, and linkages between the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz equipment ecosystems.

Summary of comments

47. Maturity of 5G equipment ecosystem for the 3800 MHz band: Bell, CanWISP, Ecotel, Ericsson, Federated Wireless, Huawei, Iristel, Québecor, RABC, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TekSavvy, Telesat, and TELUS noted that the equipment ecosystem under band class n78 (3300-3800 MHz) is currently more mature than n77 (3300-4200 MHz), which is mainly driven by the European and Asian markets. They further indicated that the maturity of the equipment ecosystem under band class n77 will follow the deployment of the 3800 MHz band (3700-4000 MHz) in the US market, as such, equipment in both band classes n77 and n78 will be mature by the time the 3800 MHz band is deployed in Canada.

48. The RABC indicated, which was supported by Bell, Ericsson, Huawei, Iristel, Nokia, Québecor, Regional of Municipality of Durham, Shaw and TekSavvy, that handling multiple technologies and band classes at the same time on the same base station is not a technical challenge for existing or future base stations operating in the 3800 MHz band. They further noted that this gives flexibility to service providers given that 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP)-based 5G New Radio (5G NR), band classes n77 and n78 can operate simultaneously in 3650-3800 MHz, while 3800-3980 MHz is covered by n77. They clarified, however, that current technology does not allow a single radio to operate across the entire n77 band class, nor the 3450-3980 MHz band. 

49. Bell and Rogers noted that although some radios are able to support Long-Term Evolution (LTE) (including band classes B42 and B43) and 5G at the same time through concurrent mode, which requires LTE and 5G each to operate over separate channels, the ability to operate LTE and 5G on the same channel through dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS) is not currently supported and will take time to develop.

50. Different technical standards and economies of scale: Bell, Cogeco, RABC and Rogers noted that current base station radios deployed for the 3500 MHz band aligns with EU standards and can operate up to 3800 MHz. They indicated that the cavity filters implemented in these radios cannot be re-tuned through software.

51. DSA, Federated Wireless, Iristel and Mobilexchange indicated that ISED should align as closely as possible to the technical rules adopted by the FCC in the US. Moreover, the Department of National Defence, Ecotel, Federated Wireless, Huawei, Nokia, Planetworks Consulting Corporation, Qualcomm, Québecor, RABC, Redline Communications Group Inc, Rogers, SaskTel and the Toronto Police Service supported having technical rules that are as closely harmonized as possible between Canada and the US in the 3700-4000 MHz range to benefit from economies of scale and availability of equipment in addition to facilitating cross-border coordination. Intelsat proposed that ISED adopt more stringent technical rules to protect FSS from flexible use operations. Eutelsat has indicated that the US rules would suffice for the Canadian and US spectrum environment.

52. Bell, RABC, Ericsson, Huawei, Nokia, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw and TELUS specified that for flexible use in the 3650-3700 MHz band, Canada should align with Europe, in particular with regards to OOBE limits.

53. Bell, RABC, Shaw, Ericsson, Huawei, Rogers and TELUS also recommended that, despite having rules for the 3500 MHz band built around European Electronic Communications Committee (ECC) requirements and for the 3800 MHz band based on the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) requirements, the two bands can and should be reconciled under one RSS for flexible use equipment in the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands. They indicated that this will ensure that migration is successful, and to that operators’ investments in both the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands are future-proofed.

54. Linkages between 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz ecosystems: Bell, RABC, Iristel, Québecor, RABC, BCBA, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, and TELUS indicated that there could be limitations to the instantaneous bandwidth (IBW) and operating bandwidth (OBW) that will prevent the use of a single radio to cover the entire 3300-4200 MHz range. As such, they stated that this could prevent a channel at the low end of the 3500 MHz band from being aggregated with a channel in 3800 MHz using the same radio. While TELUS and Rogers provided differing values of IBW, they both indicated that manufacturers are designing base station radios over wider frequency ranges that would be operable in both the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands, However, they stated that there is uncertainty as to when these products will be available and there would be trade-offs between the operating range, radio performance and cost. 

Discussion

55. ISED recognizes that there are a number of 5G NR devices of various form factors that operate in both band classes n78 and n77, which range from 3300-3800 MHz and 3300-4200 MHz, respectively. Although there are currently more devices for band class n78, the number of devices for band class n77 has steadily increased from previous years and is expected to increase further following the deployment of flexible use in 3700-4000 MHz in the US. As such, ISED is of the view that equipment for both band classes n77 and n78 will become mature by the time the 3800 MHz band is available for deployment in Canada.

56. While some existing early generation 5G radios and devices that support n78 will not support n77, ISED expects that in the next several years the ecosystem for both band classes will converge, in a similar way that the ecosystem for other commercial mobile bands have converged over time.

57. ISED recognizes that leveraging the EU-based 3500 MHz band ecosystem and the US-based 3800 MHz band ecosystem allows Canada to begin deploying both spectrum bands almost immediately after the ISED licensing process is completed. ISED also recognizes that OOBE limits are more stringent than the 3GPP requirements, which could hinder the full potential of 5G deployment in this band as it could prevent equipment that operates on wide channel bandwidths from being certified for use in Canada.

7. Changes to the spectrum utilization for the 3800 MHz band

58. This section discusses the changes to the spectrum utilization for the 3800 MHz band including flexible use in the 3800 MHz band, and changes to the frequency allocation in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocation (CTFA) in the 3500-4200 MHz range.

7.1 Flexible use in the 3800 MHz band

59. Through the Consultation, ISED sought comments on its proposal to adopt a flexible use licensing model in the 3650-4000 MHz band.

Summary of comments

60. Advanced Interactive Canada Inc., Bell, CanWISP, Cogeco, Eastlink, Ecotel, Ericsson, Eutelsat, Federated Wireless, Iristel, Mobilexchange, Planetworks Consulting Corporation, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Qualcomm, Québecor, Redline Communications Group Inc., Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, SSi, Teksavvy, Telesat, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet were supportive of ISED introducing mobile services in order to develop a flexible use licensing model similar to the 3500 MHz band for fixed and mobile services in the 3650-4000 MHz band. They further indicated that a flexible use licensing model would enable licensees to deploy the type of service that best fits their customers’ needs and would foster innovation and result in more efficient spectrum utilization.

61. Inmarsat did not oppose the development of a flexible use licensing model, provided ISED adopt appropriate measures to ensure continued access to the band for FSS. Corus, the Department of National Defence and the NABA did not specifically take a position on the issue, but raised the importance of protecting existing FSS and also noted challenges with mobile services and FSS coexisting in the same geographical location.

62. Rural municipalities of Alberta agreed that flexible use licensing in the 3650-4000 MHz band would allow licensees to be responsive to the services their customers demand. However, it cautioned against potential negative impacts to service for existing fixed customers, in cases where a licensee chooses to reallocate its spectrum to 5G service.

Discussion

63. Mid-band spectrum is important for next generation wireless services due to its favourable propagation and capacity characteristics. ISED recently implemented a flexible use licensing model for the 3500 MHz band allowing for the deployment of both fixed and mobile services. The capacity of flexible use networks in the 3500 MHz band could be further increased by making portions of spectrum within the 3650-4200 MHz band available for similar use. ISED is of the view that the 3650-4000 MHz band could allow for a similar flexible use licensing model, that could foster more efficient and intensive use of mid-band spectrum to facilitate and incentivize investment in next generation wireless services.

64. ISED recognizes that sufficient and appropriate spectrum resources should be available to ensure that Canadians continue to benefit from advancements in wireless technology. Internationally, it is recognized that access to additional spectrum is needed to meet the exponentially increasing demand for wireless services. As mentioned in the Consultation, several countries have been considering portions of 3650-4000 MHz for commercial mobile services and most recently, the US decided to introduce fixed and mobile services in the 3700-4000 MHz band. Given the demand for mid-band spectrum and the expected availability of a 5G equipment ecosystem, ISED is of the view that changes to the spectrum utilization of the 3800 MHz band provides opportunities to promote innovation and early adoption of 5G technologies under a flexible use licensing model.

65. In response to the concerns raised by stakeholders regarding the coexistence of FSS and mobile services in the band, ISED has clarified the protection requirements with respect to existing FSS in section 10 of this document.

66. Flexible use licensing would enable licensees to better align their services to the needs of their customers. This approach is intended to enable new technology and innovations to evolve, while supporting a variety of different needs and use cases, such as broadband for high-speed Internet in all areas of Canada including rural and remote, and support the growing demand for new 5G services. For the reasons stated above, ISED will allow flexible use in the 3650-4000 MHz band.

Decision

D2
ISED is adopting a flexible use licensing model for fixed and mobile services in the 3650-4000 MHz band, which will provide ISED with the ability to issue flexible use licences in this frequency range.

7.2 Introduction of mobile service and changes to the use of FSS in 3700-4000 MHz

67. ISED sought comments on its proposals to add a primary mobile service (except aeronautical mobile) allocation in 3700-4000 MHz to the CTFA. In addition, ISED sought comments on maintaining the primary FSS allocation in 3700-4000 MHz. ISED also sought comments on the proposal that existing FSS earth stations in satellite-dependent areas remain licensed in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band. Moreover, ISED sought comments on changes to the use of FSS in 3700-4000 MHz. Changes included limiting authorizations of new and transitioned FSS earth station licences to the 4000-4200 MHz band, as well as adding a new Canadian footnote, CZZ, to indicate that FSS earth station operations in the 3700-4000 MHz band would be on a no-protection basis as of the transition deadline, with the exception of satellite-dependent areas.

Summary of comments

68. Introduction of mobile service in 3700-4000 MHz: BCBA, Bell, CanWISP, Cogeco, Eastlink, Ecotel, Ericsson, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Iristel, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, RABC, Rogers, SaskTel, SES, Shaw, SSi, TekSavvy, Telesat, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet supported the proposal on the addition of mobile service except aeronautical mobile in 3700-4000 MHz band. CBC/Radio-Canada and Inmarsat had no objections to this proposal. Ericsson and TELUS indicated that they would like to see the mobile allocation extended. In particular, Ericsson stated that it would like to see the mobile service allocation in 3300-4200 MHz in the long-term, and TELUS proposed to extend the mobile allocation to 4200 MHz. Rogers supported both Ericsson and TELUS in adding mobile services to 4000-4200 MHz.

69. Changes to the use of FSS in 3700-4000 MHz: Bell, CanWISP, Cogeco, Ecotel, Ericsson, Iristel, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, SES, Shaw, TekSavvy, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet supported the proposal to limit authorizations of new FSS earth station licences to 4000-4200 MHz band. Corus, Eutelsat, NABA and Telesat supported limiting authorizations in urban areas but preferred that authorizations of new FSS earth stations in 3700-4200 MHz be allowed in satellite-dependent areas. CBC/Radio-Canada indicated that functionally, 4000-4200 MHz should be sufficient to ensure continuity of services, but had concerns that by limiting new authorizations, there will be an increase in cost of operating for satellite operators consequently increasing the costs to users.

70. Inmarsat and Intelsat did not support this proposal. Inmarsat had concerns regarding its telemetry, tracking and command (TT&C) station operating within the 3700-4000 MHz range that is located in a non-satellite-dependent area. Inmarsat stated that this earth station in particular would be unable to transition. Intelsat, however, expressed that it wants to see flexible use licensees coordinate or come to a commercial agreement with the FSS earth station operators instead of limiting new authorizations. Intelsat indicated that if the flexible use licensee and FSS earth station operator are unable to come to an agreement, that FSS earth station should be able to continue operating on a no-protection basis.

71. Authorizations of new FSS earth stations to 4000-4200 MHz: Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Cogeco, Ecotel, Erisson, Iristel, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TekSavvy, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet all supported ISED’s proposal to limit authorization of new FSS earth station licences to 4000-4200 MHz in all areas. Additionally, Bell, Rogers and TELUS indicated that FSS earth stations in this band should be further limited to use 4100-4200 MHz in the future. However, Bell also noted the importance of maintaining satellite connectivity for communities in the North and that until a suitable substitute for existing C-band FSS operations is available (e.g. LEO satellites), ISED should allow FSS to:

  1. use the entire 3700-4200 MHz band
  2. add new carriers on existing earth stations within this spectrum band
  3. move transponders within the 3700-4200 MHz band for optimization

72. Corus, Eutelsat, Intelsat, NABA, SES and Telesat recommended that the proposal to limit authorization of new FSS earth station licences to 4000-4200 MHz should apply only to non-satellite-dependent areas and that FSS earth stations in these areas be allowed to operate on a no-protection basis to flexible use in the 3700-4000 MHz band. They indicate that deployment of flexible use services is likely to be concentrated in populated areas with little or no deployment in more rural areas.

73. New Canadian footnote: Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Ericsson, Eutelsat, Intelsat, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TekSavvy and TELUS all indicated their support for the addition of the proposed new Canadian footnote. TELUS further suggested that the text of the footnote be modified to clarify that protection of FSS stations in satellite-dependent areas would not constrain the deployment of flexible use operations in non-satellite-dependent areas.

74. Iristel indicated that it did not oppose the addition of a new Canadian footnote, while SSi indicated that it does not oppose this addition with the provision that ISED adopts rules designed to ensure that the transition of FSS stations in non-satellite-dependent areas is done in a just, reasonable and non-discriminatory manner.

75. Inmarsat, SES, and Telesat opposed the proposal to add the new Canadian footnote in its current form. Inmarsat was of the view that the footnote is not suitable to protect TT&C operations within the band for already deployed satellites. Similarly, SES expressed that the footnote should be modified to recognize the need to protect certain gateways in non-satellite-dependent areas operating throughout the 3700-4000 MHz band. Telesat indicated its concern that the proposed footnote does not sufficiently take into account the need to protect FSS deployment in satellite-dependent areas.

76. Satellite-dependent areas: Bell, CanWisp, CBC/Radio-Canada, Cogeco, Corus, Ericsson, Eutelsat, Inmarasat, Intelsat, Iristel, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, RABC, Québecor, Rogers, Rural Municipalities of Alberta, SaskTel, SES, Shaw, SSi, Teksavvy, Telesat and Xplornet indicated support in allowing FSS earth stations to continue operations in the full 3700-4200 MHz in satellite-dependent-areas.

77. Rogers was of the additional view that ISED should confirm that licensees who maintain operations for any FSS earth station in 3700-4000 MHz in satellite-dependent areas after the transition deadline cannot increase capacity as it would make it harder to deploy flexible use systems in 3700-3980 MHz.

78. Although TELUS did not oppose the proposal to maintain a primary allocation to FSS in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band to support the notion of continuation of service in satellite-dependent areas, it questioned whether this would be necessary to support sustained connectivity in these areas. TELUS is of the view that geostationary high-throughput-satellites, medium earth orbit and low earth orbit satellite systems that have already deployed or are being deployed in the near future will add sufficient capacity and modern broadband capabilities to services in these areas. As such, TELUS indicated that the full 500 MHz in 3700-4200 MHz may only be required as a means to transition and would not be needed in the long-term.

Discussion

79. Canada works closely with the international community to harmonize frequency allocations, particularly on a regional basis. This approach allows for economies of scale in equipment manufacturing and, when aligned with the US, facilitates cross-border coordination for all services.

80. Based on the support received, the decision to adopt a flexible use licensing model and in order to enable the release of additional flexible use spectrum in response to the growing demand for commercial mobile services, ISED will add a primary mobile service allocation to the 3700-4000 MHz band in the CTFA with the changes detailed in annex A. ISED will further align this primary mobile allocation with the International Telecommunications Union Radio Regulations (i.e. “MOBILE except aeronautical mobile”).

81. Allowing mobile use in the 3700-4000 MHz band would also allow Canada to align with the policy and licensing decisions in the US and enable the harmonization of the use of spectrum through the adoption of common industry equipment standards allowing for economies of scale in equipment manufacturing. The addition of mobile service to the CTFA would be considered a fundamental reallocation.

82. Rural, remote and northern communities will continue to have a strong reliance on satellites to deliver essential communication services in the long term. Although there is a trend towards using high frequencies as they provide a larger capacity, ISED notes that the propagation characteristics and existing infrastructure for FSS in 3700-4200 MHz have made the band important for providing telecommunications, media and Internet to these communities.

83. Commenters were generally in agreement with ISED’s proposals on segmenting the band in order to maximize the benefits of flexible use in more populated areas of Canada, while maintaining FSS in rural, remote and northern regions. ISED will therefore segment the band as proposed. The lower portion, 3700-4000 MHz, will be allocated on a co-primary basis to the fixed, mobile and fixed satellite services. However, most FSS operations will be required to transition out of that portion of the band to the 4000-4200 MHz band, with the exception of satellite-dependent areas and limited gateway operations in non-satellite-dependent areas, described further in section 9 and section 10.3, respectively. The continued operations of existing FSS will be permitted in the full 3700-4200 MHz range in satellite-dependent areas to support rural communities. However, the authorization of new FSS earth stations in any areas of Canada will be limited to the 4000-4200 MHz band. ISED also proposed a guard band of 20 MHz (3980-4000 MHz), which will be discussed in section 8.1.

84. Finally, there will be no allocation changes in the 4000-4200 MHz portion of the band, with FSS and fixed services remaining co-primary.

85. ISED will modify the CTFA as detailed in annex A to reflect the decisions in this document, including the addition of a new Canadian footnote CZZ. This new footnote will specify that as of the transition deadline, FSS earth stations in the 3700-4000 MHz band will operate on a no-protection basis, except in satellite-dependent areas as defined in this Decision, and limited number of gateway sites in non-satellite-dependent areas, to be defined prior to the transition. Gateway earth stations are discussed in section 10.3 and the transition deadline is discussed in section 10.2.

86. Additionally, ISED is limiting the authorization of new FSS satellites and earth stations in all areas of Canada to the 4000-4200 MHz band. Consequentially, no new FSS earth stations are to be authorized in the 3700-4000 MHz band in the future. As discussed in section 10.3, gateway operations will be consolidated. Licence-exempt receive-only FSS earth stations could continue operating in all areas of Canada on a no-protection basis in all parts of the band, while some may be eligible to voluntarily apply for an authorization as described in section 10.4.

Decision

D3
ISED is adding a primary mobile service, except aeronautical mobile, allocation to the 3700-4000 MHz band in the CTFA with the changes detailed in annex A.
D4
With the exception of authorizations that may be issued to facilitate the relocation of existing gateway stations prior to the transition date, no new earth stations will be authorized in the 3700-4000 MHz band. New and transitioned FSS earth station licences are limited to the 4000-4200 MHz band.
D5
ISED will maintain the primary allocation to FSS in 3700-4200 MHz such that existing FSS can continue to be provided in satellite-dependent areas, supported by a limited number of gateway stations in other areas. Existing authorized FSS earth stations will continue to be licensed for the entire 3700-4200 MHz band in satellite-dependent areas. Licence-exempt receive-only earth stations can continue operating in all areas of Canada on a no-protection basis.
D6
To reflect this decision, ISED will modify the CTFA as detailed in annex A to include the addition of a new Canadian footnote CZZ.

7.3 Changes to the status of FSS in 3500-3650 MHz

87. Through the Consultation, ISED sought comments on its proposal to remove the FSS allocation within the 3500-3650 MHz band and to suppress the corresponding Canadian footnote C20 in the CTFA. ISED also sought comments on its proposal to grandfather the existing earth station operations, such that fixed and mobile services would be required to coordinate with them.

Summary of comments

88. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Cogeco, Ecotel, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TekSavvy, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet all expressed their support for removing the FSS allocation and suppressing the footnote C20 in the 3500-3650 MHz band. The respondents agreed that these actions would align with the previous policy decisions for the 3500 MHz band, and would remove potential deployment constraints from the incoming flexible use operations. SES indicated that they have no strong views on the allocation but noted that the grandfathered earth stations should be reflected in the CTFA.

89. Conversely, Inmarsat and Intelsat opposed the removal of the FSS allocation and suppression of the Canadian footnote C20 within the 3500-3650 MHz band. Inmarsat indicated that they intend to replace their existing satellite with a new satellite operating over the same frequency range for which they are authorized and therefore should maintain the FSS allocation to reflect their current operations. As an alternative, Intelsat proposed amending footnote C20 to reflect that all FSS earth stations, except those that will be grandfathered, be allowed to operate on a no-protection basis relative to the fixed and mobile services.

90. Additionally, Ericsson, Inmarsat, PSBN Innovation Alliance, SaskTel, and Xplornet supported the proposal to grandfather existing earth stations in 3500-3650 MHz, such that fixed and mobile services would be required to coordinate in accordance with the technical standards prescribed in Standard Radio System Plan SRSP-520, Technical Requirements for Fixed and/or Mobile Systems, Including Flexible Use Broadband Systems, in the Band 3450-3650 MHz. TELUS did not oppose grandfathering the existing earth stations. SES requested the ability to co-locate new FSS earth stations near those that had been grandfathered provided that such operations do not require any additional interference protection beyond that afforded to existing stations.

91. CanWISP, Mobilexchange, TekSavvy, the Toronto Police Service and Rogers opposed the proposal to grandfather the existing earth stations. In their submissions Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Services were of the view that having the existing stations grandfathered, such that coordination would be required by fixed and mobile services, is sub-optimal. CanWisp, TekSavvy and Rogers suggested that the earth stations should only be grandfathered for a limited period of time, after which FSS operations in the band would be ceased, in order to allow efficient use of the spectrum. In their reply comments, Inmarsat was of the opinion that the proposals to have a time limit for the protection of earth stations as put forward by CanWisp, TekSavvy and Rogers does not reflect the importance of the service provided by Inmarsat and goes against the coordination procedure that was previously established.

Discussion

92. While there is currently a primary FSS allocation in 3500-3650 MHz, this band has been used for the deployment of fixed wireless access systems since 2003. At that time, the Canadian footnote C20 was adopted to limit the deployment of FSS earth stations in such a way as to not constrain the fixed service. In 2014 an allocation for the mobile service was added to the band through the release of the Decisions Regarding the Policy Changes in the 3500 MHz Band (3475-3650 MHz) and a New Licensing Process resulting in the footnote being amended to also include the mobile service. The future of the band is now expected to support the deployment of new 5G flexible use services through the upcoming 3500 MHz auction in June 2021.

93. As a result of the policy changes throughout the years FSS deployment within the band is minimal, with only two remaining earth stations in operation, as listed in annex B. Provisions for coordination with FSS earth stations within the band have been established through SRSP-520. Namely, fixed or flexible use spectrum licensees looking to deploy fixed and/or mobile services within 80 km of the earth stations are required to coordinate. Since the 80 km coordination zone does not include a large or medium population centre, ISED will be grandfathering the earth stations listed in annex B such that their existing operations will be protected in accordance with the provisions within the 3500-3650 MHz band until the end of life of the existing satellites. No replacement satellites will be authorized for use in Canada in that range.

94. For the reasons stated above, ISED is of the view that there is no need to maintain the current primary FSS allocation within the 3500-3650 MHz band. As such, the primary FSS allocation will be removed from the CTFA and the corresponding Canadian footnote C20 will be suppressed, as detailed in annex A.

Decision

D7
ISED will remove the primary FSS allocation within the 3500-3650 MHz band and suppress the Canadian footnote C20 in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations as detailed in annex A.
D8
ISED will continue to authorize the existing FSS earth stations in the 3500-3650 MHz band shown in annex B and fixed and mobile operations will continue to be required to coordinate with them until the end of life of the existing satellites.
D9
ISED will no longer authorize FSS satellites or earth stations in the 3500-3650 MHz band for use in Canada.

7.4 Changes to the status of FSS in 3650-3700 MHz

95. ISED sought comments on its proposal to remove the primary FSS allocation within the 3650-3700 MHz band and to suppress the Canadian footnote C33 in the CTFA.

Summary of comments

96. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Cogeco, Ecotel, Ericsson, Iristel, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, TekSavvy, Telus, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet supported the proposal to remove the primary FSS allocation and to suppress the corresponding Canadian footnote, C33, in the CTFA. The respondents provided the rationale that given there where no longer any existing grandfathered FSS stations in the band, and with the proposal to transition FSS operations above 4000 MHz, that the primary FSS allocation was no longer necessary.

97. Conversely, Inmarsat and Intelsat opposed the proposal. Inmarsat objected to removing the primary FSS allocation as, similar to the 3500-3650 MHz band, they have licensed operations that they continue to use. They additionally proposed that the same coordination procedure established in SRSP-520 could be applied to reasonably accommodate the incoming flexible use operations, while allowing continued FSS operation in an area. In addition, Intelsat expressed its view that allowing the continued operation of FSS in the band on a secondary basis promotes efficient use of the spectrum, especially given the fact that there is no potential for interference to primary services as FSS is operating in the space-to-Earth direction.

Discussion

98. Although there is a primary allocation to FSS in the CTFA, footnote C33 stipulates that any new FSS earth stations as of June 2009 are required to operate on a secondary basis so as not to constrain the deployment of WBS systems in 3650-3700 MHz. In addition, authorization of new FSS earth stations for large antenna applications, such as gateways, is limited to remote areas outside of urban centres.

99. Given the decision in section 12 to include this band for flexible use licensing as part of an auction process and noting the fact that there are no longer any grandfathered FSS earth stations remaining in this band, ISED will remove the primary allocation to FSS in the 3650‑3700 MHz band in the CTFA and suppress the corresponding Canadian footnote C33.

100. However, existing earth stations that are currently operating on a secondary basis may continue operating but on a no-protection basis from new flexible use operations.

Decision

D10
ISED will remove the primary FSS allocation within the 3650-3700 MHz band and suppress the corresponding Canadian footnote C33 in the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations as detailed in annex A.
D11
ISED will no longer authorize new FSS satellites or earth stations in the 3650-3700 MHz band for use in Canada.

8. Band plan for 3800 MHz band

101. This section discusses the band plan for the 3800 MHz band.

8.1 Guard band between FSS and flexible use

102. In the Consultation, ISED proposed to add a guard band between flexible use operations and licensed or authorized FSS earth stations operating only in the 4000-4200 MHz band. Specifically, ISED proposed that a 20 MHz guard band be implemented in 3980-4000 MHz to protect FSS operations from harmful interference (hereinafter referred to as interference) from flexible use operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band.

Summary of comments

103. Bell, CanWISP, Cogeco, Ecotel, Ericsson, Mobilexchange, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Québecor, RABC, Rogers, SaskTel, SES, Shaw, TekSavvy, Telesat and TELUS supported a guard band of 20 MHz in 3980-4000 MHz since it would align with the band plan in the US. Some cited the benefit of having an aligned equipment ecosystem with the US. CBC/Radio-Canada, Eutelsat, Huawei, Intelsat, RABC, SaskTel and SES noted that a guard band of 20 MHz should only be one part of the technical requirements for adjacent band flexible use and FSS coexistence.

104. Both Rogers and Iristel were of the opinion that if 3900-3980 MHz is designated for shared use then no guard band would be required between flexible use and FSS, given that the technical requirements in 3900-3980 MHz may be subject to power restrictions similar to that of current WBS operations.

Discussion

105. The use of a guard band in addition to appropriate technical requirements will protect FSS operations in the 4000-4200 MHz band from flexible use operations in 3650-3980 MHz band. ISED recognizes that this would allow Canadian providers and consumers to benefit from cost economies of scale from equipment ecosystems in the US market.

106. ISED is also of the view that a guard band is only one component in addition to technical requirements that will be developed and implemented to ensure that FSS in the 4000-4200 MHz band are protected from interference from flexible use operations. Other potential technical requirements may include specifications such as transmitter power limits as well as receiver standards requirements. Consultation on these technical requirements will be held with stakeholders in the future.

107. To support the decisions in the previous sections of this document and to enable coexistence between flexible use systems and FSS, ISED is adopting a guard band of 20 MHz in 3980-4000 MHz to protect FSS operating in 4000-4200 MHz from interference from flexible use operations in 3700-3980 MHz band.

Decision

D12
ISED is adopting a guard band of 20 MHz in 3980-4000 MHz to protect licensed or authorized FSS earth stations operating only in 4000-4200 MHz from interference from flexible use operations in 3700-3980 MHz band. ISED will consult on additional technical requirements such as limitations on flexible use transmission or FSS earth station reception in the future.

8.2 Block sizes

108. In the Consultation, ISED proposed a band plan consisting of 10 MHz unpaired blocks for the 3650-3980 MHz band and noted that these 10 MHz blocks would not preclude ISED from licensing blocks as aggregated packages of multiples of 10 MHz blocks to facilitate large bandwidth channels for 5G technologies.

Summary of comments

109. BCBA, Bell, CanWISP, Cogeco, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Eastlink, Ecotel, Federated Wireless, Huawei, Iristel, Mobilexchange, Québecor, RABC, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, Teksavvy, Telesat, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet all supported the 10 MHz unpaired blocks in both the 3650-3700 MHz and the 3700-3980 MHz bands as proposed. These respondents also supported the band plan with allowance to aggregate blocks to create larger contiguous blocks.

110. Several stakeholders were of the view that larger block sizes are required. Advanced Interactive Canada Inc proposed 30-50 MHz blocks in rural areas to make it more economically viable. Qualcomm was of the view that the 3700-3980 MHz band should be licensed in blocks larger than 10 MHz blocks, however, supported the aggregation of the 10 MHz blocks. Planetworks Consulting Corporation did not support the proposed band plan as it stated that it deviates from the FCC’s band plan and that it does not want to risk a Canada only equipment ecosystem. PSBN Innovation Alliance noted that there could be some advantages to aligning with the FCC.

Discussion

111. The adoption of the proposed band plan would allow for LTE and 5G NR equipment based on Time Division Duplex (TDD) technology to operate using the 10 MHz channel bandwidth. Although ISED recognizes the value of large bandwidth channels for 5G technologies, 10 MHz blocks can be aggregated to create the larger bandwidths that are expected to be supported by equipment, including equipment created for the US. For these reasons, ISED will adopt a band plan including 33 unpaired 10 MHz blocks between 3650-3980 MHz as shown in figure 1.

Figure 1: 3800 MHz band plan

3800 MHz band plan
Description of figure 1

This figure shows the new block sizes for the 3650 to 3980 MHz band. The adopted plan is composed of 33 unpaired blocks of 10 MHz ranging from 3650 to 3980 MHz, which are adjacent to a 20 MHz guard band in 3980 to 4000 MHz.

Decision

D13
ISED is adopting a band plan using 33 unpaired 10 MHz blocks in 3650-3980 MHz band as shown in figure 1.

9. Definition of satellite-dependent areas

112. ISED proposed to allow existing FSS earth stations to remain licensed in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band in some rural or remote areas where communities depend on satellite services for telephony and broadband connectivity and sought comments on how to define these satellite-dependent areas. ISED sought comments on whether the Tier 4 areas identified in annex C, which were also used in the interim guideline GL-10, Interim Guideline for Licensing of Earth Stations in the Fixed-Satellite, Earth Exploration-Satellite and Space Research Services in the Frequency Bands 26.5-28.35 GHz and 37.5-40.0 GHz to identify licensing areas exempted from certain provisions for mmWave, should be used, or if another set of Tier 4 or Tier 5 areas would be more appropriate.

Summary of comments

113. CBC/Radio-Canada, Inmarsat, SSi Micro, TekSavvy and Telesat generally supported the proposal to use the Tier 4 areas listed in GL10. Bell stated that the use of smaller areas such as Tier 5 is too cumbersome and grouping them could lead to a longer boundary with more edges between satellite-dependent and non-satellite-dependent areas resulting in more interference-related issues.

114. SES indicated that the separation distance between FSS earth stations in 3700-4000 MHz and flexible use in the same range require greater distances than those of the mmWave bands. As such, SES believed that the provisions of GL-10 are not appropriate for the C-band.

115. RABC urged ISED to take all precautions to ensure continued service in these communities and to consider the complexity of migrating services so that the North may also benefit from new wireless services being proposed in the 3800 MHz band. RABC proposed the adoption of a principle that excludes areas where there is currently mobile or fixed terrestrial coverage from the definition of a satellite-dependent area.

116. Ericsson agreed with RABC and added that the definition of satellite-dependent areas should not be rigidly bound to a geographical notation (Tier 4, Tier 5, etc.) but should be flexible enough to take into consideration changes happening over time: technology advancements, demographical changes, evolving business cases in bringing broadband to users and so on.

117. TELUS disagreed with the use of Tier 4 areas since it does not sufficiently distinguish between the regions of Canada that may require C-band satellite service to support telephony and broadband connectivity and the more densely populated parts of rural Canada where terrestrial wireless and wireline connectivity options are available.

118. Rogers also noted that some of the constituent Tier 5 areas contained in the Tier 4 areas listed in GL-10 are currently well served by terrestrial broadband and wireless communications service providers. Thus, Rogers proposed that ISED could adopt a principle that, areas where there is currently mobile or fixed terrestrial coverage in access bands would not be considered satellite-dependent. Similarly, Iristel commented that the Tier 4 designation includes communities served by terrestrial fiber in the list of satellite-dependent communities. Thus, it submitted that the use of Tier 5 for the definition, though imperfect, is more representative of the reality.

Discussion

119. Many rural and remote communities depend on satellite services for telephony and broadband connectivity. Although there is a trend towards using higher frequencies as they provide a larger capacity, ISED notes that the propagation characteristics and existing infrastructure for FSS in 3700-4200 MHz have made the band important for providing telecommunications, media and Internet to these communities.

120. ISED’s definition of satellite-dependent areas will not prohibit the deployment of flexible use services in these areas. However, existing satellite earth stations located in satellite-dependent Tiers will be protected from flexible use operations in the 3800 MHz band regardless of the service area from which the flexible use is operating, as described in the following sections. Through various interference mitigation techniques, as well as voluntary private commercial arrangements, a flexible use operator should be able to deploy and offer services in these areas, as well as in areas adjacent to these satellite-dependent tiers. Consequently, ISED intends to make flexible use licences available in satellite-dependent areas, along with all other areas of the country through a future competitive licensing process.

121. ISED recognizes that satellite communications have a critical role in providing broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas such as the Tier 4 areas listed in annex C, which are aligned with the interim guideline GL-10. While a more granular approach to defining satellite-dependent areas, such as using Tier 5 service areas, may reduce the coordination requirements for future flexible use licensees in some areas, protecting existing FSS operations in rural and remote areas is paramount to ensuring connectivity for Canadians.

122. As such, ISED will be adopting the definition for satellite-dependent areas as identified in the GL-10. Satellite-dependent areas for the 3800 MHz band are listed in annex C.

123. ISED recognizes that continued evolution of FSS into higher frequency bands and non-geostationary satellite orbit constellations may provide new service availability in satellite-dependent areas. Similarly, the deployment of terrestrial services will continue to expand over time in satellite-dependent Tiers. ISED may therefore review the definition of satellite-dependent areas in the future, as appropriate.

Decision

D14
ISED is defining satellite-dependent areas for FSS operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band as listed in annex C.

10. Treatment of incumbent users

124. The following sections discuss the treatment and protection status of various incumbent users and related transition or displacement timelines. Further details regarding the transition processes for the various users of the band will be outlined in a future public release, which will be published prior to the application deadline to participate in the auction.

10.1 WBS systems in 3650-3700 MHz

125. This section discusses the treatment of WBS incumbents in the 3650-3700 MHz frequency range including the related transition timeline and revisions to the moratorium on new licences and deployments.

10.1.1 Displacement and alternative spectrum options

126. In the Consultation, ISED considered two options to address the future use of the 3650-3700 MHz band by WBS licensees. Option 1 would allow WBS licensees to remain in 3650-3700 MHz but subject them to new technical rules that would align with the new band plan and require measures to improve coexistence with new flexible use. Option 2 would displace WBS licensees from 3650-3700 MHz, while introducing a new licensing process for shared use in the 3900-3980 MHz band. ISED proposed Option 2 as it would optimize the 3800 MHz band for flexible use while giving WISPs means of accessing a larger amount of alternate spectrum. 

Summary of comments

127. Displacement from 3650-3700 MHz: CCSA supported Option 1. Cogeco, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Federated Wireless, Iristel and TekSavvy expressed their preference for Option 1 and proposed to expand the current WBS designation by 30 MHz, to 3650-3730 MHz as shared spectrum since this would align with bands already supported by most existing WBS equipment. Ecotel also supported Option 1 and suggested adding 100 MHz to the existing WBS band to allow for a total of 150 MHz for WBS use from 3650-3800 MHz. In its reply comments CanWISP supported Ecotel’s proposal.

128. Bell, Québecor, SaskTel, Rogers, TELUS and Xplornet supported Option 2 to maximize the opportunity for contiguous deployment across the full 3450-3900 MHz range to support 5G services. They indicated that blocks of 100 MHz of contiguous spectrum are optimal to allow for efficient 5G deployments. Xplornet specified that by interrupting the 3450-3900 MHz range by maintaining the WBS band in 3650-3700 MHz, flexible use licensees will be less able to obtain contiguous spectrum to support 5G deployments. SaskTel indicated that displacing the WBS licensees would also provide current WBS licensees, who are providing wireless internet service, with more spectrum to meet the CRTC’s 50/10 Mbps national target. Additionally, Bell indicated that by allowing spectrum contiguity between the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands, this will support the efficient use of spectrum as flexible use licensees would not need to incorporate two sets of technical specifications between the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands.

129. Eastlink opposed Option 2, stating that it would require a complete replacement of equipment or the discontinuation of service. Intelsat disagreed with Option 2, and proposed that WBS be reallocated to 3450-3530 MHz. Redline Communications Group Inc opposed Option 2 due to the limited equipment ecosystem.

130. Shared spectrum licensing process in 3900-3980 MHz: CCSA, Cogeco, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Québecor, RABC, the Regional Municipality of Durham, SaskTel, TekSavvy, TELUS and Xplornet all supported ISED’s proposal to designate 80 MHz of shared spectrum as part of a future licensing consultation. They noted that the additional spectrum would allow for WISPs to continue to expand their deployments, and would better assist them in meeting the CRTC’s target service levels. However, as part of their submissions, many also provided alternative proposals.

131. While TELUS supported the proposal of designating 3900-3980 MHz for shared use, it was of the view that this should only be applicable in rural and remote areas where the majority of WBS operators are currently providing service and proposed that the spectrum be auctioned in urban areas. Xplornet indicated that should additional spectrum be repurposed for flexible use above 4000 MHz in the future, the 20 MHz guard band should be incorporated for shared use, granting WBS operators access to 100 MHz of spectrum.

132. In addition to Xplornet, Advanced Interactive Canada Inc., BCBA, CCSA, CanWISP, Ecotel, Federated Wireless, Iristel, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Redline Communication Group Inc and SpeedFI Inc also expressed preference for access to additional spectrum. They proposed varying amounts of spectrum in different frequency bands that could be designated for shared use. Some suggested making use of other sharing schemes to make efficient use of spectrum and grant access to as much spectrum as possible to as many users as possible.

133. SpeedFI Inc expressed that it would require a minimum of 100 MHz in order to meet the 50/10 Mbps target. BCBA and Iristel also put forth a proposal to allow 130 MHz of spectrum for WBS operators comprised of 3900‑3980 MHz while granting access to 3400-3450 MHz as well. CanWISP expressed the need for additional spectrum in order to support the growth of consumer demand for Internet services and stated that 80 MHz would be the minimum amount of spectrum required. CanWISP encouraged ISED to investigate the possibility of making further spectrum available in 3400-3450 MHz, and in 3980-4195 MHz for shared use, citing that this had been done by other administrations.

134. Some respondents supported making all the of the 3800 MHz band available for shared use. Alternatively, Advanced Interactive Canada Inc. proposed that WBS operators have access to the entire 3650-3980 MHz band, or at a minimum 230 MHz of spectrum in 3750-3980 MHz. Federated Wireless, PSBN Innovation Alliance, and Redline Communication Group Inc proposed implementing a shared licensing approach throughout the entire 3650-3980 MHz band using a tiered access approach, similar to the FCC’s Citizen Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) in the US. They indicated that by adopting this type of access scheme throughout the entire 3800 MHz band secondary users would have efficient access to additional spectrum that could be used in unserved or underserved areas or on a priority basis in times of emergency.

135. By contrast, Bell and Rogers were of the opinion that the proposed 80 MHz was not needed by these operators and that the current 50 MHz was sufficient. Rogers indicated that given the licence-exempt and lightly-licensed spectrum options available if WBS operators are displaced there is little evidence that they require more than 50 MHz.

Discussion

136. ISED is of the view that displacing WBS and designating 80 MHz in 3900-3980 MHz for shared use would provide long-term stability throughout the full 3450-3980 MHz range, allowing for more efficient use of the spectrum for future 5G applications and other use cases, including wireless Internet access. A new licensing process can be established to provide access to the spectrum in 3900-3980 MHz with low barriers to entry.

137. Given the emerging 5G equipment ecosystem in this band, providing unobstructed access to spectrum from 3450-3980 MHz will support ISED’s policy objective to foster investment and the evolution of wireless networks by enabling the development of high quality 5G networks and technology.

138. Furthermore, if WBS remains in the 3650-3700 MHz band, coordination with flexible use systems in the adjacent bands could be challenging. ISED is of the view that additional technical or operational constraints would be required (e.g. guard bands) on the band edges of the 3650-3700 MHz band to minimize the potential of interference between flexible use systems in the adjacent bands and systems in the 3650-3700 MHz band. WBS operators may incur additional costs if they were to remain in this band since they may be required to install additional equipment to their existing systems to meet such constraints. If WBS operations were to remain, these additional constraints would reduce the amount of spectrum available for both the 3650-3700 MHz band as well as the adjacent blocks below 3650 MHz and above 3700 MHz.

139. Due to the current low barrier licensing process and absence of licence fees, ISED recognizes the importance of the WBS band to WISPs for the provision of fixed-wireless broadband access in rural and remote areas, and other licensees for services such as automatic meter reading and video surveillance. ISED aims to support the continued role of WISPs in providing high-speed broadband connectivity to Canadians in rural areas, particularly as expectations for broadband Internet rise to speeds of 50 Mbps download and 10 Mbps upload (50/10 Mbps) become the minimum requirement for all Canadians based on the High-Speed Access for All: Canada's Connectivity Strategy. With the lower adjacent band (3450‑3650 MHz) having been repurposed and the proposed repurposing of the upper adjacent band (3700-4000 MHz), this is an opportune time to consider long-term solutions that increase the efficient use of the band while considering the spectrum needs of WISPs that provide high-quality services to Canadians.

140. Under the current rules, there is no limit on the number of WBS licences that may be issued for the same spectrum and geographic area. Existing WBS stations are deployed in various densities in urban, rural and remote areas, often with overlapping coverage. Licensing is on an all-come, all-served basis and all licences have equal access to the spectrum. While this has enabled a low barrier to entry, ISED recognizes that there have been some challenges (e.g. coordination between licensees and a limited availability of spectrum) in the WBS band due to these licensing procedures. ISED is of the view that with the current licensing process and continued operation by some licensees on older equipment these issues will continue, and potentially worsen as operators expand their systems and/or deploy new sites with more modern LTE or 5G technologies. These developments are expected to increase the challenges of inter-user coordination as the existing radiofrequency environment may become congested and create potential coordination challenges that may necessitate changes and could require licensees in the same area to upgrade their equipment at the same time to maintain services.

141. Under the existing sharing rules and deployment scenarios, WBS operators may experience challenges in meeting the CRTC’s announced targeted speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps for Canadian homes and businesses. Numerous WBS operators are currently not able to use the full 50 MHz since they need to coexist with other WBS operations. Designating 3900-3980 MHz for shared use would provide additional spectrum for flexible use, while enabling the leveraging of emerging equipment ecosystems for 5G NR technology in order to increase the capability of offering improved service. In doing so, this increases opportunities for existing operators (e.g. WISPs and utilities) or new operators to deploy systems in rural and remote areas that could support increased speeds given the large blocks of spectrum that would be available through a new licensing process. Furthermore, ISED is of the view that long-term stability throughout the full 3450‑3980 MHz range and more efficient use of the spectrum for future 5G applications would require access to a standardized equipment ecosystem across the band.

142. ISED had made other bands available that could assist WBS operators to reach the 50/10 Mbps target, including existing licence-exempt or lightly licensed frequency bands with low regulatory barriers that could facilitate the delivery of applications similar to those in the current WBS band, in addition to the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands. WBS licensees could also choose other bands that are either available or may become available in the near future. For example, higher power and outdoor RLAN devices are permitted in the 5150-5250 MHz band, which is accessible under a light-licence regime and access to unused television channels is available on a licence-exempt basis using white space devices. With the designation of RED Technologies as a white space database administrator announced in February 2021 and equipment now certified for use in Canada under RSS-222White Space Devices (WSDs), current WBS licensees have access to a large amount of licence-exempt low-band spectrum as a viable option to increase their coverage. Moreover, ISED recently released SMSE-006-21, Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band, which made the band available for licence-exempt use.

143. With respect to the band 3400-3450 MHz, ISED concluded in its Decision on Revisions to the 3500 MHz Band to Accommodate Flexible Use and Preliminary Decisions on Changes to the 3800 MHz Band, that it would continue to monitor and study this band to assess its potential use in the future for other services. As there has been no change to the Canadian or US use of the band by aeronautical and maritime radars, ISED will not be making changes to 3400-3450 MHz at this time, and any changes to the use of the band will be subject to a future consultation.

144. Based on the above, ISED is adopting the proposal to displace current WBS licensees from the 3650-3700 MHz band and designate the 3900-3980 MHz band for shared use in which a new licensing process will be undertaken through a future consultation. Details on the timing of displacement is discussed in the following section.

Decision
D15
Existing WBS licensees in the 3650-3700 MHz band will be displaced, subject to the transition plan in section 10.1.2.
D16
In addition, ISED will designate 80 MHz of spectrum for shared use in the 3900‑3980 MHz band. The licensing framework for the 3900-3980 MHz band will be developed through a future consultation.

10.1.2 Transition plan and protection status

145. As part of the proposal to displace WBS licensees from the 3650-3700 MHz band, ISED proposed a transition deadline for WBS incumbents of December 2023 in urban tier areas, and December 2025 in all other areas. ISED had proposed that the 24 Tier 4 service areas, shown in annex D of the Consultation that contain large population centres, as defined by the 2016 Census of Population from Statistics Canada, would be considered urban areas.

Summary of comments

146. Cogeco, Québecor, SaskTel and Shaw were supportive of the proposed fixed-date deadlines, while Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service expressed their approval of a 2023 deadline for urban areas but did not comment on the deadline for rural areas.

147. Bell, Rogers and TELUS stated that the proposed timelines were too long particularly in urban areas, expressing concerns with impacts to flexible use deployment in the adjacent 3500 MHz band. They indicated that the transition deadline of December 2023 should apply to both urban and rural areas. Bell indicated that it is critical to provide timely access to flexible use spectrum to facilitate the introduction of 5G technologies for Canadians. Rogers indicated that urban areas are where 5G deployment will happen first and where capacity needs would be the greatest. TELUS further proposed a one-year notification of displacement for all urban WBS operations, consistent with previous displacement policies for urban areas.

148. Iristel expressed that the proposed timelines were unrealistic based on existing delays within ISED in making other priority spectrum available, such as the delay of the 3500 MHz band auction. It also suggested that the risk of displacing WBS licensees before new flexible use licensees were ready to make use of the spectrum would negatively impact WISPs. Iristel proposed that ISED use a “where and when necessary and possible” principle for the transition. Similarly, the BCBA proposed that, beyond Tier 5 urban core areas, displacement be required on an as-needed basis, and only after five years from the date that the new band is available for licensing.

149. The CCSA, CanWISP, the Regional Municipality of Durham, TekSavvy and Xplornet, were opposed to the proposed transition deadlines, stating that it would be unfeasible to implement the displacement of WBS by the proposed deadline. They also raised concerns over the lack of an available commercial ecosystem and the associated cost of replacing their equipment within this timeframe. CCSA, CanWISP and TekSavvy emphasized that their ability to serve rural customers would be jeopardized if a three-year transition period was adopted, while the Regional Municipality of Durham stated it would be unable to make the transition by 2023 in the urban service area it operates in. They proposed that five years would be the minimum amount of time necessary to transition. They expressed concerns that the appropriate equipment to operate in the shared band may not be available prior to 2023, and that new equipment would be offered at a premium price, which would generate additional challenges for smaller operators in all areas. Xplornet was also supportive of a four to five year transition period and indicated that one transition deadline should be applied to both urban and rural areas.

150. Although PSBN Innovation Alliance and Telesat deferred to the opinions of the affected operators, they expressed concerns that the proposed timeline might be too short to be feasible.

Discussion

151. ISED recognizes that many new flexible use licensees will be planning to launch mobile services in a timely manner, with the first deployments expected in large urban population centres. ISED notes that some WBS licensees, in particular smaller operators in rural and remote areas, may face challenges with transitioning to new spectrum within a new band plan. In an effort to address the needs of the rural WBS incumbents and the needs of the new flexible use licensees wanting to deploy 5G services, ISED is of the view that a transition process and timelines need to provide for expedited transition in urban areas and longer transition in rural areas.

152. ISED is also of the view that the transition process and timelines need to minimize the potential disruption of existing services, allowing additional time for rural licensees to continue operating at their current technical and operational parameters while they plan to move to the 3900-3980 MHz band or to alternative options. As such, ISED is implementing a transition plan that will allow for the timely deployment of 5G services in urban areas while providing rural users with more time to transition their existing systems.

153. In some bands, for example the 3500 MHz and AWS bands, ISED has developed transition plans based on the “where and when necessary” principle. ISED is of the view that applying this principle to the existing WBS licences would be impractical. Since there are many licensees and many sites, often with multiple sites overlapping, this would make sharing between existing WBS operation and future flexible use operations a challenge across the whole 3450-3980 MHz range. Applying a where and when necessary approach, where licensees are overlapping in the same area and have a licence for the same 50 MHz, would mean transition would often be triggered throughout the whole Tier when a future flexible use licensee planned to deploy. ISED would normally impose a six-month to one-year notification period for a where and when necessary approach, however, ISED is of the view that this could be onerous for existing and new licensees to manage and create an uncertain business environment. As such, ISED is of the view that a fixed displacement deadline respects the needs of urban and rural users, and would provide certainty for existing licensees, allowing them to plan a move to other bands or apply for the proposed new licensing process.

154. In the Consultation, ISED initially proposed that urban be defined as the 24 Tier 4 service areas that contain a large population centre, as defined by the 2016 Census of Population from Statistics Canada as listed in annex D of the Consultation. After further analysis of existing WBS operations, ISED is of the view that this would negatively impact services to Canadians, especially rural Canadians that live near urban population centres, given the high number of deployments found in these areas. As such, ISED is opting to define urban for the purposes of the WBS transition, as all metropolitan and urban Tier 5 service areas listed in annex D.

155. In an effort to provide timely access to flexible use spectrum and to facilitate the introduction of 5G technologies for Canadians, while also accommodating existing WBS operations in rural areas, ISED will be employing a Tier 5 based transition process for all existing WBS licence areas. As such, ISED is adopting the following deadlines for the displacement of all WBS licensees:

  • WBS operations in all metropolitan and urban Tier 5 service areas will be displaced by March 31, 2025
  • WBS operations in all rural and remote Tier 5 service areas will be displaced by March 31, 2027

156. To achieve the policy objectives set out for this band as detailed in section 3, ISED believes that the displacement deadlines would balance the development of 5G in urban areas where 5G is first expected to be deployed while recognizing that a longer timeline may be required for WBS licensees that are offering services in rural and remote areas. Additional time will also allow WBS licensees, choosing to transition to the 3900-3980 MHz band, to take advantage of the anticipated equipment ecosystem developing in the US and other international markets.

157. It should be noted that voluntary agreements between the new flexible use licensees and incumbent WBS licensees may be established to support mutually agreeable, earlier displacement timelines.

158. Prior to the applicable displacement deadlines, WBS stations can continue to operate as per their technical and operational parameters. Furthermore, new stations or modifications to existing WBS stations are subject to successful coordination with any deployed flexible use systems below 3650 MHz. As such, the coordination requirements for WBS contained in SRSP-303.65 will be updated accordingly. New flexible use stations below 3650 MHz will be required to continue meeting the coordination requirements in SRSP-520 until the applicable displacement deadlines.

159. Prior to the applicable displacement deadlines, flexible use licensees will be permitted to operate in the 3650-3700 MHz band, however, they are required to protect existing, new or modified WBS stations from interference. This means that flexible use stations operating in 3650-3700 MHz must protect WBS stations located in metropolitan and/or urban Tier 5 service areas from interference until March 31, 2025 and WBS stations located in all other areas until March 31, 2027. 

160. Additionally, flexible use operations above 3700 MHz must protect existing, new or modified WBS stations from interference until the applicable displacement deadlines. WBS stations will be protected from flexible use stations operating above 3700 MHz in metropolitan and urban Tier 5 service areas until March 31, 2025 and in all other areas until March 31, 2027.

161. The technical details such as power flux density (pfd) limits to protect WBS systems from flexible use systems operating in the 3650-3980 MHz band will be included in a future 3800 MHz transition manual.

162. ISED notes that WBS licences are issued on a Tier 4 basis, and as such, WBS licences that include a combination of metropolitan, urban, rural and/or remote Tier 5 service areas will be maintained until the relevant displacement deadline, subject to compliance with the displacement deadlines for each Tier 5 within the licence area. Once all of the Tier 5 service areas that comprise a Tier 4 area have passed their displacement deadlines, all of the existing WBS licences issued for that tier will not be renewed. All WBS licensees that have licences in Tier 4 areas that contain a metropolitan or urban Tier 5 area as listed in annex D, will be required to cease operations within those metropolitan and urban Tier 5 areas by March 31, 2025. Licensees may continue to operate in licensed areas outside of the metropolitan and urban Tier 5 areas until March 31, 2027. Once all of the service areas have passed their displacement deadlines, the existing WBS licences issued for that tier will not be renewed.

Decision
D17

ISED is adopting a March 31, 2025 displacement deadline for WBS operations in all metropolitan and urban Tier 5 service areas, as defined in annex D, and March 31, 2027 for rural and remote Tier 5 service areas.

Prior to the displacement deadlines, existing, new and/or modified WBS operations will be protected from interference from flexible use operations in 3650-3700 MHz and flexible use operations in 3700-3980 MHz.

Prior to the displacement deadlines, flexible use licensees in all areas operating in 3450-3650 MHz and WBS licensees in 3650-3700 MHz will be required to coordinate with each other prior to the deployment of any new/modified flexible use or WBS stations (where permitted as per section 10.1.3).

After the applicable displacement deadlines, WBS operations will no longer be authorized in 3650-3700 MHz and must cease operation.

The current WBS conditions of licence will be amended to reflect the results of this decision.

10.1.3 Revisions to the moratorium on new WBS licensing, station deployments and modifying technical information for existing stations

163. As part of the Consultation, ISED instituted a moratorium on issuing new licences and permitting new deployments within the 24 Tier 4 service areas that contain large population centres. ISED also consulted on whether the moratorium on authorizing new WBS licences and permitting new WBS station deployments for existing licensees should be expanded to additional areas beyond the proposed 24 Tier 4 service areas.

Summary of comments

164. Bell, Rogers and TELUS were supportive of extending the moratorium to service areas outside of the 24 Tier 4 areas identified in the Consultation, with TELUS commenting that a moratorium is necessary to allow for transition plans to begin in and out of the band, and to give prospective licensees bidding at auction certainty around potential encumbrances. PSBN Innovation Alliance and Shaw were also supportive of extending the moratorium.

165. Advanced Interactive Canada Inc. stated that the moratorium should continue until all WBS stations are listed in ISED’s SMS database with full technical details to allow for interference analysis and coordination. Québecor was also not in favour of extending the moratorium.

166. Iristel and Cogeco indicated support for a moratorium on new licences but stated that existing licensees should be permitted to continue deploying new equipment and expand their existing services.

167. The BCBA expressed that the moratorium should be limited to only urban Tier 5 service areas.

168. CanWISP, Ecotel, TekSavvy, Xplornet and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta all generally opposed the moratorium, with Xplornet and the Rural Municipalities of Alberta stating that a moratorium is counter to the SPFC as well as the CRTC’s 50/10 Mbps speed targets.

169. Mobilexchange and the Toronto Policy Service stated that ISED’s focus should be the metropolitan areas of Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal.

Discussion

170. Through the moratorium, ISED intended to prevent WBS deployment by new WBS licensees and further deployment by existing WBS licensees in the urban areas where it is expected that new flexible use licensees would deploy first. The moratorium allowed existing WBS licensees to continue operating in the urban areas, while also allowing those in rural areas to continue to expand their services to rural Canadians.

171. As WBS licences are issued on a Tier 4 basis, the moratorium was initially applied using the Tier 4 service areas. However, based on the comments received, and in order to balance the timely deployment of new flexible use services with the importance of rural broadband connectivity, ISED has come to the view that the definition of urban areas should be revised to enable WBS operations in the rural areas outside of urban centres, to continue providing services to Canadians. As such, the moratorium is being revised to be based on Tier 5 areas, as described below.

172. Effective the date of this Decision, ISED is rescinding the temporary moratorium, Decision 1 of the Consultation, and the following moratorium and deployment rules will apply to all current and prospective WBS licensees, as follows:

  • Issuance of new licences: No new licences will be issued in the following Tier 4 service areas: 4‑051 Montréal, 4-077 Toronto and 4-152 Vancouver. ISED may continue to issue new licences in all other Tier 4 areas until applicable displacement deadline, subject to the deployment rules described below.
  • Deployment of stations by licensees in specific areas: In the metropolitan and urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E1 of annex E, WBS licensees will be limited to operating existing WBS stations that were uploaded to ISED’s Spectrum Management System as of the end of the WBS station registration period specified in the Consultation (i.e. prior to December 25, 2020).
  • In the urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E2 of annex E, existing WBS licensees, and new WBS licensees that have submitted an application regarding the use of the WBS spectrum in these corresponding areas prior to the publication of this Decision, may deploy and operate existing and new stations in accordance with their licences. This will allow well developed deployment plans made by licensees prior to the issuance of this Decision to continue to proceed in these medium population areas.
  • WBS licensees that submit applications after the publication of this Decision are not permitted to deploy new stations in the urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E1 or E2 of annex E.
  • All existing and new WBS licensees are permitted to deploy and operate existing and new stations in all rural and remote Tier 5 areas, in accordance with their licences.

173. WBS licensees may operate new or existing stations in accordance with the technical parameters that the licensee has provided to ISED in relation to that station.  A licensee may operate an existing station with modified technical parameters provided that the licensee reports the new technical parameters to ISED before making any operational changes. These modified WBS stations, and any new WBS stations where permitted, must coordinate with deployed flexible use systems in the 3450-3650 MHz band and other WBS stations. In addition, these modified and/or new WBS station operator(s) must notify licensed FSS earth station operator(s) in accordance with the provisions in section 10.3

174. All WBS licensees are subject to the displacement process outlined in section 10.1.2. As such, ISED encourages licensees to consider other spectrum options for long term deployments.

175. Any licensee that deploys a station contrary to the provisions outlined in this Decision will be subject to compliance and enforcement measures including administrative monetary penalties, prosecution, licence revocations, suspensions or other measures.

176. Accurate WBS station location is essential for coordinating interactions between users in the band and for protecting incumbent WBS users from harmful interference during the transition periods. In order for current deployments in all service areas to be able to continue to operate and receive protection going forward, licensees must provide ISED with their updated site-specific data as required under their conditions of licence as outlined in CPC‑2‑1‑23, Licensing Procedure for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services.

177. More specifically, ISED requested that WBS licensees provide their site-specific deployment data within 120 days of the publication of the Consultation, in order to ensure that existing deployments are not considered to be new deployments under the moratorium. As this time period is now closed, only WBS stations for which site information has been already been filed with ISED, will be considered “existing stations.” Any other station will be considered a “new station” for the purposes of this Decision. Effective the date of this Decision, existing and new deployments permitted under the moratorium outlined above will be protected from new flexible use operations, until the displacement deadline indicated in section 10.1.2.

Decision
D18

Effective the date of this Decision, the following moratorium and deployment rules will apply to all current and prospective WBS licensees, as follows:

  • No new licences will be issued in the following Tier 4 service areas: 4-051 Montréal, 4-077 Toronto and 4-152 Vancouver. ISED may issue new licences in all other Tier 4 areas until the applicable displacement deadline, subject to the deployment rules described below.
  • In metropolitan and urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E1 of annex E of this Decision, WBS licensees will be limited to operating existing WBS stations that were uploaded to ISED’s Spectrum Management System prior to December 25, 2020.
  • In the urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E2 of annex E, existing WBS licensees and new WBS licensees that submitted an application regarding the use of the WBS spectrum in these corresponding areas prior to the publication of this Decision, may deploy and operate existing and new stations in accordance with their licences.
  • WBS licensees that submit applications after the publication of this Decision are not permitted to deploy new stations in the urban Tier 5 areas listed in table E1 or E2 of annex E, in accordance with their licences.
  • All existing and new WBS licensees are permitted to deploy and operate existing and new stations in all rural and remote Tier 5 areas in accordance with their licences.

WBS licensees may operate new or existing stations in accordance with the technical parameters that the licensee has provided to ISED in relation to that station.  A licensee may operate an existing station with modified technical parameters provided that the licensee reports the new technical parameters to ISED before making any operational changes. These modified WBS stations, and any new WBS stations where permitted, must coordinate with deployed flexible use systems in the 3450-3650 MHz band and other WBS stations. In addition, these modified and/or new WBS station operator(s) must notify licensed FSS earth station operator(s) in accordance with the provisions in section 10.3.

These decisions will be reflected in amended conditions of licence for WBS licensees.

10.1.4 Future shared licensing process for 3900-3980 MHz

178. ISED sought preliminary comments on a future shared licensing process for the spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band. Specifically, considerations included the types of usage for this band, the type of shared licensing process, additional measures to manage access to this band in high demand areas, technical considerations and whether priority should be given to current WBS licensees.

Summary of comments

179. Types of applications envisioned: Bell stated that the new frequency range should be licensed for fixed use only and opposed the proposal to reallocate the spectrum for flexible use, stating that operators who wish to provide mobile wireless services should do so through exclusive flexible use spectrum or through commercial arrangements with facilities-based mobile wireless operators. CanWISP and TekSavvy held the opinion that the spectrum should remain for fixed use, but with an option for future flexible use. TELUS supported flexible use licensing for all mid-band spectrum. Cogeco also stated its preference for the spectrum to be made available for flexible use, but with fixed wireless services limited to rural Tier 4 service areas. Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service were of the opinion that the spectrum should be used for both mobile and fixed applications.

180. PSBN Innovation Alliance envisioned a number of use cases for the new frequency range, including video calling to allow emergency responders to communicate with the public and the use of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors on a growing scale.

181. The RABC recognized that flexible use could be licensed for shared access to meet the needs of mobile network operators, wireless Internet service providers and vertical industries alike. Redline Communications Group Inc agreed with the list of use cases outlined by ISED in the Consultation, particularly with private and industrial networks. Rogers stated that future WBS licensees are likely to be similar to today’s WBS licensees, focusing primarily on broadband connectivity in rural and remote areas, where business cases for network deployments using exclusively licensed spectrum may be more challenging. Rogers expressed that there would be interest in creating private networks to support vertical industries or private broadband networks on enterprise campuses. Both SaskTel and Xplornet submitted that new use cases for this band will not be limited to rural fixed wireless access systems, but would also include private networks supporting vertical industries such as mining, farming, and manufacturing.

182. Type of shared licensing process: The BCBA, Ecotel, Mobilexchange, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel and the Toronto Police Service were not supportive of a CBRS-type system.

183. Bell expressed support for the current Spectrum Management System (SMS) database approach, which it believes has been successful in facilitating licensee-to-licensee coordination, so long as ISED adequately enforces its proper use. TELUS noted that a dynamic database ecosystem does not exist for the 3800 MHz band and as such recommended that ISED not implement this type of sharing mechanism. It instead recommended a first-come, first-served approach, limited to no more than two licensees in a given area. Xplornet was supportive of a coordinated licensee-to-licensee approach facilitated by the use of a database, but cautioned that based on ISED’s existing SMS, improvements are necessary to allow licensees to be able to coordinate their operations.

184. CanWISP, RABC and TekSavvy supported a centralized database approach similar to the one employed by Ofcom (the UK’s communications regulator) where ISED would establish detailed predefined parameters and preapprove applicants.

185. The CCSA, Canadian Electricity Association, Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, Railway Association of Canada, Redline Communications Group Inc and WInnForum supported the implementation of a CBRS-type spectrum assignment system.

186. Iristel preferred to maintain the current all-come, all-served licensing model spectrum in the new frequency range. Federated Wireless indicated its preference to see the spectrum licensed exclusively to existing mobile carriers on a lightly licensed basis.

187. Managing access in high demand areas: Bell, Rogers, TELUS and Cogeco all agreed that the 3900-3980 MHz spectrum in urban areas should be licensed on an exclusive basis, by a process developed through a future licensing consultation. The RABC proposed, which TELUS also supported, that high demand areas such as major metropolitan centers could be licensed based on grid cells to licence the smallest area required in order to maximize the number of licensees that can access the shared spectrum. SaskTel suggested using a mechanism similar to the one proposed by the RABC that would allow for variable service area sizes for shared licencing in the band.

188. Given the smaller, site-specific nature of typical WBS deployments, Xplornet recommended licensing the new frequency band on a Tier 5 level, which in turn would facilitate resolution of any coordination issues that might arise.

189. Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service proposed that dedicated licenses be allocated to public sector agencies in major metropolitan centres (Vancouver, Toronto and Montréal). PSBN Innovation Alliance also recommended that a carve-out of spectrum for municipal public safety be included in the band plan.

190. CanWISP and TekSavvy recommended that ISED delegate the coordination of deployments in the band to a committee established specifically for this purpose.

191. Technical restrictions: The BCBA stated that coordination is most effective when carriers employ similar technologies, as such it favoured the adoption of technical rules that support the standardization of systems. Bell was supportive of ISED’s proposal to apply technical restrictions to facilitate sharing and co-existence with adjacent bands, favouring technical rules similar to those used in the 3500 MHz band to ensure access to the existing ecosystems in the US and Europe. Additionally, Bell concurred with both Rogers’ and Xplornet’s advocacy for TDD synchronization to avoid the need for a guard band. The RABC and SaskTel similarly advocated for TDD synchronization.

192. The Aviation Industry and Associations maintained the need for a guard band but stated that ISED should take into account the technical information provided in the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics (RTCA) report, Assessment of C-Band Mobile Telecommunications Interference Impact on Low Range Radar Altimeter Operations for developing and implementing additional short-term mitigations to ensure the protection of safety-of-life aviation systems.

193. Telesat advocated against out-of-band emissions in 3900-3980 MHz. However, Redline Communications Group Inc stated that if the new frequency range were to be licensed for flexible use similar to the lower adjacent bands, similar emission restrictions should be considered for this band, with lower power levels for channels adjacent to 3900 MHz.

194. CanWISP, TELUS and TekSavvy suggested technical rules similar to those adopted by Ofcom. Iristel was of the belief that power restrictions should be designed using Tier 5 service areas to allow for additional granularity and stated that rural Tier 5 service areas should not be subject to any restrictions on power.

195. Eligibility criteria: Bell, BCBA and SaskTel recommended that ISED maintain current WBS eligibility requirements for the new frequency range. TELUS and Cogeco suggested that existing WBS licensees be given priority access in rural service areas.

196. Rogers was opposed to any requirements that would prevent large network operators from acquiring a licence in the new frequency range. Rogers further encouraged ISED to reject proposals to treat large national or regional incumbents differently. However, CCSA and Iristel were of the view that large, incumbent providers should be excluded from obtaining spectrum in the new shared band.

197. CanWISP and TekSavvy recommended that WISPs be granted the highest licensing priority for the shared spectrum along with protection from interference, whereas private commercial networks and private individuals would be granted secondary and tertiary priority respectively.

198. The Regional Municipality of Durham stated that ISED should consider classifying utilities and other essential services with a higher priority within a new, shared frequency band.

199. The PSBN Innovation Alliance suggested that tri-services public safety agencies (e.g. Police, Fire, EMS) be considered eligible for priority access licensing or digital right-of-way prioritization within the 3650-3980 MHz band.

Discussion

200. ISED will take into consideration the comments received in response to these issues in the development of proposals for the future licensing framework consultation for the 3900-3980 MHz band.

10.2 Transition plan for existing FSS operations in 3700-4200 MHz

201. As mentioned in the Consultation, the US is undertaking a similar process to make 3700-4000 MHz available for flexible use. FSS space stations operators have committed to clearing this spectrum in the US by 2023. In the Consultation, ISED proposed an FSS transition deadline of December 2023, at which time Canadian satellite licences would be modified to limit operations to within 4000-4200 MHz in all areas of Canada with the exception of operations in satellite-dependent areas and a limited number of gateway sites in non-satellite-dependent areas. ISED further proposed that it would continue to license space stations for the full 3700‑4200 MHz band for service outside of the Canadian territory and within Canada in satellite-dependent areas. Conditions of licence would be adjusted to reflect the proposed service area changes and the possible removal of a high expectation of renewal for the 3700-4000 MHz portion of the band within Canada (excluding satellite-dependent areas and a limited number of gateway site locations in non-satellite-dependent areas).

202. The same transition date of December 2023 was also proposed for licensed or authorized FSS earth stations, which could continue operating in 3700-4200 MHz until that date. ISED proposed that as of December 2023, earth station licences or authorizations in non-satellite-dependent areas would be modified to 4000-4200 MHz and would receive protection from new flexible use deployments in 3700-3980 MHz. A limited number of gateway sites supporting service in satellite-dependent areas could continue to operate in the full 3700-4200 MHz band and be protected from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz.

Summary of comments

203. The FSS operators: Intelsat, SES, Telesat, SES and Inmarsat expressed concerns with the feasibility of meeting the 2023 deadline. Intelsat indicated that due to the complexity and uniqueness of the Canadian media distribution ecosystem, the transition deadline of 2023 would not be feasible. Intelsat indicated that December 2025 would be more appropriate. SES stated the transition deadline of 2023 was made possible in the US since the FCC had made the decision to reimburse space station operators for incurred costs associated with the transition. Telesat also stated that achieving the 2023 transition deadline without widespread loss of critical services will only be possible with substantial investment.

204. Eutelsat, Intelsat, SES and Telesat have indicated that satellite and earth station operators should be reimbursed for costs incurred to transition, and that this is necessary to complete the transition by 2023. Intelsat proposed that the funds for reimbursement be made available through the auction process, similar to what was done in the US. Telesat noted that the proposed timelines are shorter than those in the US where satellite operators are also being compensated for clearing the same band, expressing concern that this might affect their ability to compete globally.

205. With regards to the proposal on making changes to existing licences to limit operations to 4000-4200 MHz and other related revisions, Eutelsat, Inmarsat and Telesat did not agree with ISED’s proposal. Eutelsat and Telesat expressed that since FSS would continue to be permitted in the 3700-4000 MHz band, it would not be necessary to modify the licence, specifically as it related to the high expectation of renewal. Eutelsat indicated that if ISED permits receive-only earth station operations in the 3700-4000 MHz band on a no-protection basis, then satellite operators will have flexibility to focus efforts of transition in areas where flexible use services are likely to be deployed earlier and will be able to effectively meet the December 2023 deadline.

206. TELUS and Xplornet favoured having both FSS space and earth stations to transition at the earliest opportunity so that flexible use can be made available earlier. TELUS stated that it would like to see this transition take place in parallel with the transition timing of the 3500 MHz band so that the transition takes place by end of 2021 in urban areas and between 2023 and 2024 for the rest of the country.

207. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Ecotel, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers, Shaw, TekSavvy, the Toronto Police Services and TELUS agreed with the proposed deadline of December 2023 for the FSS earth station transition, noting that aligning with the FCC’s accelerated deadline will facilitate 5G deployment in Canada. Cogeco supported ISED’s proposal to adjust the conditions of licence for FSS space station operations to reflect the proposals of the FSS transition deadline, including removal of the high expectation of renewal for the 3700-4000 MHz portion of the band. Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service also agreed that there should be no expectation of licence renewal for FSS in the 3700-4000 MHz band.

208. While Iristel and SSi did not explicitly indicate support for the proposed transition date of December 2023, they both stated that they are not in opposition to this proposed transition date.

Discussion

209. Recognizing that satellite footprints in this band can serve the North American market, the US transition timelines may determine the availability of some Canadian services in the 3700-4000 MHz band. In particular, given that satellite operators providing broadcast programming in the US are also serving the Canadian market with the same satellites, these channels may be impacted in Canada regardless of any intervention from ISED.

210. Based on the comments received, ISED recognizes that satellite operators need additional time to transition, and will therefore not adopt the accelerated timeframe that was set in the US. The transition deadline for space station operations in 3700-4000 MHz in non-satellite-dependent areas will be set at March 31, 2025. This will allow operators to better plan for the transition while continuing to provide services to Canadians.

211. Since the coverage areas of satellites operating in this band cover large geographic areas, ISED will continue to license space stations for the full 3700-4200 MHz band after the transition deadline. However, conditions of licence for existing and new satellite authorizations will be modified to restrict operations in Canada to satellite-dependent areas or communications with a limited number of gateway station locations in non-satellite-dependent areas (as discussed in section 10.3). In non-satellite-dependent areas after the transition deadline, any incidental space station transmissions must not cause interference to flexible use operations, and FSS earth stations are not entitled to protection from flexible use operations, with the exception of a limited number of excluded gateway earth stations. There will be no coverage restrictions outside of Canada.

212. ISED recognizes that Canadian-licensed satellites can provide services anywhere on Earth visible from the orbital position of the satellite, subject to the regulatory approval of countries where operators intend to provide services. To the extent that FSS allocations remain in the full 3700-4200 MHz range outside of Canada, space station licences issued by ISED will maintain a high expectation of renewal, with coverage and service limitations within Canada as per this Decision.

213. Existing ISED approvals for foreign-licensed satellites that provide service in Canada, will be amended to limit operations in 3700-4000 MHz to satellite-dependent areas only, as of March 31, 2025 and to a limited number of existing gateway earth station locations in non-satellite-dependent areas, if applicable. In non-satellite-dependent areas after the transition deadline, any incidental space station transmissions must not cause interference to flexible use operations, and associated earth stations receiving those transmissions are not entitled to protection from flexible use operations, with the exception of a limited number of excluded gateway earth stations. New approvals will be similarly limited.

214. Decision 4 of the Consultation placed a temporary moratorium excluding Canada from the service area on any new satellite licences issued by ISED in the 3700‑4200 MHz band. For space station authorizations, this moratorium is rescinded as of the date of publication of this Decision.

215. ISED recognizes that the transition deadlines for the FSS satellite operations and licensed FSS earth stations are inextricably linked. Therefore, ISED will also extend the transition deadline for FSS earth stations to March 31, 2025. Licence modifications will be made as described in section 10.2. Flexible use licensees may deploy sooner given that they protect FSS earth stations according to sections 10.3.1 and 10.4.5, or may come to a voluntary commercial arrangement with the affected FSS earth station operator(s). Should flexible use licensees wish to deploy sooner, they could negotiate a voluntary commercial arrangement with affected FSS operators.

216. The temporary moratorium that was established for earth station licensing in Decision 5 of the Consultation is rescinded. As of the date of publication of this Decision, no new earth stations will be licensed in 3700-4000 MHz in non-satellite-dependent areas, with the exception of those required to consolidate existing gateway stations, or time-limited licences to facilitate transition out of that portion of the band.

217. ISED will make consequential amendments to Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-6-01, Procedure for the Submission of Applications to License Fixed Earth Stations and to Approve the Use of Foreign Satellites in Canada, CPC-2-6-02, Licensing of Space Stations and Radio Systems Policy RP-008, Policy Framework for Fixed-Satellite Service (FSS) and Broadcasting-Satellite Service (BSS), as appropriate.

218. Specific coordination rules and procedures for the sharing of the 3800 MHz band between Canadian and US earth station licensees are under negotiation between ISED and the FCC, and will take into account the longer FSS transition deadline in Canada.

Decision

D19
The transition deadline for FSS space station operations in 3700-4000 MHz will be March 31, 2025.
D20
By March 31, 2025, all Canadian FSS space station licences will be amended to limit operations in 3700-4000 MHz within Canada to satellite-dependent areas and to a limited number of gateway earth stations in non-satellite-dependent areas. In non-satellite-dependent areas after the transition deadline, any incidental space station transmissions must not cause interference to flexible use operations, and FSS earth stations are not entitled to protection from flexible use operations, with the exception of a limited number of excluded gateway earth stations. 
D21
ISED will continue to issue space station licences for the full 3700-4200 MHz range for service outside of Canada, with no changes to the conditions of licence related to the expectation of renewal.
D22
ISED’s authorizations related to foreign-licensed satellites operating in 3700-4200 MHz will be amended to limit operations in 3700-4000 MHz to satellite-dependent areas and applicable consolidated gateway station sites in non-satellite-dependent areas effective March 31, 2025. For approved satellites that communicate with existing gateway earth stations in Canada outside of satellite-dependent areas, operations may continue, subject to the re-location of those stations as described in section 10.3.3. In non-satellite-dependent areas after the transition deadline, any incidental space station transmissions must not cause interference to flexible use operations, and associated earth stations receiving those transmissions are not entitled to protection from flexible use operations, with the exception of a limited number of excluded gateway earth stations. All new approvals for foreign-licensed satellites in 3700‑4200 MHz will be similarly limited.
D23
The transition deadline for licensed FSS earth station operations in non-satellite-dependent areas will be March 31, 2025.
D24
After the transition deadline, existing FSS earth station licences in non-satellite-dependent areas will be limited to frequencies within the 4000-4200 MHz band. The transition deadline does not apply to licensed FSS earth station operations in satellite-dependent areas and to a limited number of gateway earth station at consolidated sites in non-satellite-dependent areas.
D25
No new earth station licences will be issued in 3700-4000 MHz in any areas of Canada, with the exception of: temporary authorizations to facilitate transition, relocation of existing gateway earth stations to consolidated sites, or for interim authorizations for existing licence-exempt earth stations as described in section 10.4.

10.3 Protection of licensed FSS earth station operations

219. ISED proposed that licensed FSS earth stations be protected from interference from new flexible use operations and that there be a consolidation of existing licensed gateways outside of satellite-dependent areas to a limited number of sites.

10.3.1 Protection of licensed FSS earth stations prior to the FSS transition deadline

220. ISED proposed that in all areas, licensed FSS earth stations operating in the 3700-4200 MHz band be protected from in-band interference from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz and adjacent band interference from flexible use in 3450-3700 MHz bands until the transition deadline.

Summary of comments

221. Protection status of existing FSS in 3700-4200 MHz from flexible use in 3700‑3980 MHz in all areas: Intelsat agreed with protecting FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz band in all areas until the transition deadline. SES supported the continued operation of existing licensed FSS earth stations in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band, including maintaining interference protection from flexible use services in the 3450-3700 MHz and 3700-3980 MHz bands.

222. Corus and NABA were of the view that FSS earth stations operating in 3700‑4200 MHz should be protected from interference from flexible use operating in the 3700‑4200 MHz band in all areas. They indicated that flexible use operations and the FSS are not possible in-band within the same community.

223. Protection status of existing FSS in 3700-4200 MHz from flexible use in 3450-3700 MHz in all areas: Both Rogers and TELUS generally supported licensed FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz being protected from interference from flexible use operating in 3650-3980 MHz prior to the transition deadline. Rogers focused on adjacent band interference, stating that FSS earth stations in 3700-4200 MHz should not claim protection greater than as specified in SRSP-520, Technical Requirements for Fixed and/or Mobile Systems, Including Flexible Use Broadband Systems, in the Band 3450-3650 MHz for flexible use systems operating in 3450-3700 MHz. TELUS expressed concerns that the proposal to protect the licensed FSS earth stations in the 3650-3700 MHz would limit the ability for new flexible use licensees to deploy in the 3700‑3980 MHz band in all areas if it were licensed before the transition deadline.

224. BCBA, CanWISP, Cogeco, Ecotel, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Iristel, and TekSavvy supported the proposal to extend the existing requirement from SRSP-520 for new flexible use licensees to coordinate with FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band within 25km to flexible use operations in 3650-3700 MHz. Ecotel was of the opinion that the coordination distance could even be lowered. Telesat did not endorse the 25km coordination distance at this stage.

225. Dynamic Spectrum Alliance, NABA and SES each suggested a separate method to protect the FSS earth stations from flexible use in 3450-3700 MHz. Dynamic Spectrum Alliance proposed the use of a dynamic spectrum access solution in order to protect the adjacent FSS operations. NABA was of the view that flexible use operations in the 3650-3700 MHz band should not deploy within a 40km distance prior to the transition date. SES recommended adopting the same coexistence measures implemented by the FCC at the 3700 MHz band edge.

226. Protection status of FSS newly licensed or transitioned early to 4000-4200 MHz from flexible use in 3450-3700 MHz: CanWISP, Cogeco, Ecotel, Eutelsat, Iristel, Québecor, RABC, TekSavvy and the Toronto Police Service were supportive of ISED’s proposal to remove adjacent band coordination requirement for licensed earth stations after the transition date as stated in SRSP-520, as it would no longer be necessary to protect the FSS earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band. NABA and Inmarsat did not object to the proposal.

227. Conversely, Intelsat and Telesat expressed that the coordination requirements should be maintained in order to protect licensed FSS earth stations operating over the full 3700-4200 MHz band in satellite-dependent areas. SES also supported maintaining some form of coexistence measure to protect operations in satellite-dependent areas, however, would prefer to establish the same coexistence measures implemented by the FCC at the 3700 MHz band edge.

228. Protection status of FSS newly licensed or transitioned early to 4000-4200 MHz from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz: Intelsat and Rogers agreed with the proposal. Rogers stated that it supported the development of appropriate technical rules to ensure coexistence of adjacent flexible use systems in 3700-3980 MHz but insisted that a fair coordination mechanism be developed to not unduly restrain the use of flexible use licensees in non-satellite-dependent areas to the detriment of Canadian mobile and fixed wireless consumers. Rogers proposed that technical studies, which could be conducted within the RABC and chaired by ISED, may be required to develop an equitable solution.

229. Rogers also suggested that ISED take into account any transition funding that satellite operators in non-satellite-dependent areas receive for additional shielding or other protective measures, and should be considered as part of any required upgrades. It added that satellite operators should not receive transition funding from both ISED and flexible use licensees.

230. SES indicated that it supported the proposal if ISED carved out satellite-dependent areas and stated that other technical measures should be included in addition to a guard band. SES added that licensing future FSS earth stations to operate only in the 4000-4200 MHz range would be quite constraining considering the increasing demand for more bandwidth in such areas.

231. The Department of National Defence, Ecotel, Eutelsat, Mobilexchange, RABC, SES, Telesat and the Toronto Police Service supported adopting the coexistence measures established by the FCC for the protection of FSS earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band from adjacent flexible use operations. CanWISP and TekSavvy noted their preference for the coexistence measures adopted by the EU, however, supported aligning with the FCC coexistence measures to facilitate cross-border coordination.

232. Intelsat and NABA agreed with the principles of the US coexistence measures, however, proposed ISED adopt more stringent OOBE limits, pfd threshold, guard band and/or coordination distances to protect FSS earth stations.

233. Iristel was of the view that the 20 MHz guard band alone would be sufficient to protect FSS operations in the 4000-4200 MHz band.

Discussion

234. As discussed in section 10.2 the transition deadline for FSS operations will be March 31, 2025 and as discussed in section 12 ISED’s planned auction timing for flexible use licences is early 2023. ISED expects that some Canadian FSS operations will transition along with the US transition in 2023 and that there could be areas where flexible use can coordinate with FSS earth stations. As such, ISED will allow flexible use licensees to deploy before the FSS transition deadline.

235. FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band receive relatively weak signals from satellites and in some cases require access to the entire band. Transmissions from flexible use operations in the same frequency band or in adjacent bands could create harmful interference to FSS receivers if protection measures are not implemented. As such, prior to the transition deadline, existing licensed FSS earth stations in all areas will be protected from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz. ISED will develop technical rules for the relevant protection criteria such as pfd at earth station in a future transition manual.

236. Additionally, existing licensed FSS earth stations in all areas will be protected from adjacent band flexible use operations in 3450-3700 MHz prior to the transition deadline. To facilitate coexistence, adjacent band flexible use operation in 3450-3700 MHz are required to coordinate with FSS earth stations within 25km. ISED will develop technical rules for the relevant protection criteria such as pfd at earth station in a future transition manual.

237. It should be noted that, WBS licensees are required to continue notifying FSS operators as soon as possible (minimum six weeks) in advance of deploying a WBS base station within 25 km of an existing licensed earth station (in all areas) operating in the band 3700-4200 MHz as described in SRSP-303.65, Technical Requirements for Wireless Broadband Services (WBS) in the Band 3650–3700 MHz.

238. Any FSS earth station that is newly licensed or transitioned early to the 4000-4200 MHz band (in all areas) will only be protected from flexible use operations in 3700-3980 MHz band. It is anticipated that these earth stations will be able to filter out flexible use transmissions below 3700 MHz.

239. The technical rules for the relevant protection criteria such as pfd at earth station will be included in a future consultation.

240. It should be noted that voluntary agreements between the new flexible use or WBS licensees with FSS earth station licensees may be established to support mutually agreeable alternate sharing agreements prior to the FSS transition deadline.

Decision
D26
Prior to the transition deadline, existing licensed FSS earth stations can continue to operate in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band in all areas and will be protected from interference from flexible use operating in the 3700-3980 MHz and 3450-3700 MHz bands. To facilitate adjacent band coexistence, flexible use operating in the 3450-3700 MHz band are required to coordinate with existing licensed FSS earth stations within 25km. WBS licensees are required to continue notifying existing licensed FSS operators as soon as possible (minimum six weeks) in advance of deploying a WBS base station within 25 km of an existing licensed earth station (in all areas) operating in the band 3700-4200 MHz.
D27

Any FSS earth station that is newly licensed or transitioned early to the 4000-4200 MHz band (in all areas) will only be protected from flexible use operating in the 3700-3980 MHz band. Technical requirements for protection of FSS earth stations operating in 4000-4200 MHz will be developed in a future consultation. These technical requirements may include specifications such as transmitter power limits for flexible use, as well as, earth station receiver standards requirements for FSS earth stations.

The technical rules for the relevant protection criteria during transition will be included in a future consultation.

10.3.2 Protection of licensed FSS earth stations after the FSS transition deadline

241. ISED proposed that after the transition deadline, FSS earth stations would only be licensed to operate in the 4000-4200 MHz band in non-satellite-dependent areas, with the exception of a limited number of gateway earth stations at consolidated sites, and that these earth stations would only be protected from flexible use operations in the adjacent 3700-3980 MHz band.

242. However, ISED also proposed that flexible use licensees deploying stations in the 3450-3700 MHz band within 25 km of an existing licensed FSS earth station in the 3700-4200 MHz band be required to provide a notification to these operators one year prior to the deployment of fixed or mobile stations.

Summary of comments

243. Protection status of existing FSS (3700-4200 MHz) in satellite-dependent areas from flexible use operating in 3450-3700 MHz: Rogers did not support notification requirements for flexible use deployments in either satellite-dependent or non-satellite-dependent areas based on a distance trigger. Instead, Rogers proposed using a pfd threshold, which it believes is better suited for coordination with FSS earth stations. Similarly, Xplornet did not support using 25 km as the notification distance for flexible use licensees operating in 3450-3700 MHz. Xplornet suggested that the appropriate radius and notification period be developed through a future consultation with the RABC.

244. Intelsat and SES did not agree with allowing interference from flexible use services operating below 3700 MHz to primary FSS earth stations operating in the 3700-4200 MHz in satellite-dependent areas. Intelsat proposed notification of operations of flexible use in the 3450‑3700 MHz, as well as coordination with FSS earth stations within 25 km of the flexible use stations. SES was of the opinion that a notification distance of 25 km is not sufficient to prevent adjacent band interference to the FSS. It stated that the notification distance of 25 km adopted in SRSP-520 was based on a 50 MHz guard-band between the flexible use and the FSS. SES suggested that the adjacent band protection rules at the 3700 MHz band edge should be similar to the rules adopted by the FCC for the 4000 MHz band edge in terms of guard-band, out-of-band emission limits and new bandpass filters for the FSS earth stations.

245. Protection status of existing FSS (3700-4000 MHz) in satellite-dependent areas from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz: Corus and NABA were of the view that flexible use operations are not possible in-band within the same community. As such, they proposed that flexible use operations must be coordinated within 40km of a FSS earth station.

246. Eutelsat supported the proposal to protect primary FSS earth stations in the 3700‑3980 MHz band from flexible use operation, to the extent possible.

247. TELUS did not oppose the proposal to protect operations of existing licensed FSS earth stations in satellite-dependent areas from in-band flexible use operations (3700-3980 MHz). Telus added that, requirements for protection of FSS should not constrain the deployment of flexible use in non-satellite-dependent areas.

248. Protection status of newly licensed or transition earth stations to 4000-4200 MHz: Stakeholder views on the protection status of FSS earth stations newly licensed or transitioned to 4000-4200 MHz in all areas from flexible use in 3450-3700 MHz and 3700‑3980 MHz were the same as those mentioned in the section above.

Discussion

249. As discussed in the previous sections, existing licensed FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz in satellite-dependent areas will be allowed to continue licensed operations for the entire band so that services in these areas are maintained. However, ISED will also make these areas available for flexible use.

250. Flexible use licensees in 3700-3980 MHz in satellite-dependent and non-satellite-dependent Tiers will be required to protect existing licensed FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz in satellite-dependent areas.

251. ISED is of the view that implementing technical rules for flexible use to protect FSS earth stations from adjacent band interference could limit access to equipment and deployment of future flexible use operations in the 3450-3700 MHz band in the long-term. As such, ISED will no longer require that these licensed FSS earth stations be protected from interference from adjacent band flexible use operations in 3450-3700 MHz. ISED recognizes that FSS earth station operators will require time to adjust their operations (e.g. implement a filter or move up in the band). Thus, ISED will require flexible use licensees deploying stations in the 3450-3700 MHz band within 25 km of existing licensed FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band to notify the operators of these earth stations in satellite-dependent areas, one year prior to the deployment of fixed or mobile stations.

252. Given the decisions above, after the transition deadline, FSS earth stations in non-satellite-dependent areas would no longer be licensed to operate in 3700-4000 MHz band with the exception of a limited number of gateway earth stations, as discussed in the following section.

253. Any FSS earth station that is newly licensed or has completed the transition to the 4000-4200 MHz band in all areas will only be protected by flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz band. It is anticipated that these earth stations will be able to filter out flexible use transmissions below 3700 MHz.

254. The technical rules for the relevant protection criteria post transition such as pfd at earth station will be developed in a future consultation.

Decision
D28
After the transition deadline, existing licensed FSS earth stations can continue to operate in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band in satellite-dependent areas and will be protected from flexible use operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band, but will not be protected from flexible use operation in the 3450-3700 MHz band. However, flexible use licensees deploying stations in the 3450-3700 MHz band within 25 km of existing licensed FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz located in satellite-dependent areas will be required to notify the operator(s) at least one year prior to the deployment of fixed or mobile stations.
D29
A limited number of gateway earth stations at consolidated sites, as discussed in section 10.3.3, will be permitted to operate in non-satellite-dependent areas in the full 3700-4200 MHz band and will be entitled to the same protections and notifications as earth stations in satellite-dependent areas.
D30

After the transition deadline, new FSS earth stations or those that have completed transition, located in any area operating in the 4000-4200 MHz band will only be protected from flexible use operations in the adjacent 3700-3980 MHz band. Flexible use licensees operating in 3450‑3700 MHz that are deploying stations within 25 km of FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz that are located in non-satellite-dependent areas, will no longer be required to coordinate with the FSS earth station operator(s). WBS licensees whose deployment(s) are within 25 km of FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz that are located in non-satellite-dependent areas will no longer be required to provide notifications.

The technical rules for the relevant protection criteria post transition such as pfd at earth station will be developed in a future consultation.

10.3.3 Gateways serving satellite-dependent areas

255. In the Consultation, ISED proposed that gateways located in non satellite-dependent areas that serve satellite-dependent areas be consolidated to two sites. ISED also sought comments on the spectrum requirements of stations on such consolidated stations.

Summary of comments

256. Inmarsat, Intelsat, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers and TELUS supported the accommodation of gateway sites at certain locations around Canada, with Inmarsat explaining that given the availability of fiber and infrastructure as well as natural shielding of the site, its earth station located in Weir, Quebec could be considered as one of the consolidated gateways. Intelsat encouraged ISED to establish sites where gateways can be deployed but underlined that the specific number of gateway sites require further examination. PSBN Innovation Alliance noted that two sites may be inadequate to provide continuity of operations and disaster proofing stance, proposing instead that Canada follow the US and allow for four gateway sites with geo-redundancy to guarantee up-time.

257. Telesat underlined that at least two gateways must access the entire 3700‑4200 MHz spectrum to avoid constraining the ability of satellite-dependent areas to connect with Canada’s telecommunications backbone. Telesat added that gateways need to be located in natural valleys and not close to urban and suburban areas. It further proposed its earth station located in Allan Park, Ontario could be used as one of the consolidated gateways. In its reply comments, Telesat supported Inmarsat’s proposal to consider Inmarsat’s earth station located in Weir, Quebec as the second consolidated gateway.

258. Bell commented that the satellite operators are in the best position to decide if all the users of gateway capacity can be moved to 4000-4200 MHz. Bell added that if consolidation is required, then the gateways must be located away from population centers and the location should have access to fiber connectivity and be able to support the capacity demand in satellite-dependent areas. Similarly to CanWISP and TekSavvy, Bell also noted that it expects the consolidated gateways to be located in eastern and western Canada. While, Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service proposed that gateways should be at least 100 km from any major urban areas and geo-redundancy should be considered.

259. Iristel was not opposed to limiting the number of gateway stations but cautioned that permitting only two sites to continue to operate as FSS gateways may create a government mandated monopoly. Iristel further suggested that ISED should also mandate open access to those two consolidated gateways such that smaller service providers may benefit from these sites at equitable cost.

260. SES and SSi commented that consolidating all existing satellite gateways may not be practical. SES therefore recommended that ISED solicit additional information from the FSS operators and their customers before reaching a conclusion on whether only two gateway locations would be sufficient and where they should be located. They also stated that the amount of spectrum that would be required at the gateway sites in non-satellite-dependent areas will depend on how much is being used to provide the services today. SSi indicated that it would impose significant costs to move equipment and supporting infrastructure from its Network Operations Centre in Ottawa to the new hubs, which would make it nearly impossible to secure a service level agreement and quality of service commitments compared to what it offers to customers today.

Discussion

261. With the exception of Inmarsat and Telesat, who mentioned their TT&C stations and gateways in Weir, Quebec and Allan Park, Ontario, respectively, no specific sites were mentioned in the comments as the candidates for consolidated gateways. Some respondents did, however, agree that gateways sites be geographically spaced across the country (for example, in eastern and western Canada), be located away from major population centers, be located in proximity to major network interconnection points and fiber, and be accessible to maintenance staff.

262. In seeking to balance the competing objectives of enabling the timely deployment of new flexible use services and protecting FSS earth station operations that are critical to the provision of services in satellite-dependent areas, ISED is of the view that gateways supporting service in satellite-dependent areas, located at consolidated sites should have access to the full 3700‑4200 MHz. Furthermore, that a maximum of four sites spread across eastern, western and central Canada would better address the concerns raised in the comments. These sites would be located in areas to allow for connection of the satellite network to the terrestrial network while not overly encumbering the deployment of flexible use in those same areas. ISED also confirms that both existing TT&C operations for currently approved satellites and existing gateway operations be considered as eligible for relocation to the consolidated gateway sites.

263. ISED agrees that the two sites noted by respondents, Weir, Quebec and Allan Park, Ontario be identified as two of the sites. ISED takes note of the views that four consolidated gateway stations with geo-redundancy would provide better protection for FSS operations in satellite-dependent areas. However, given the views expressed by gateway operators and users of gateway services, more information may be required regarding the specific siting of such gateways.

264. There was no consensus on the spectrum requirements of the consolidated gateways. Some of the commenters mentioned that 500 MHz is required to be accessed by two gateways, while others argued that 200 MHz is sufficient to provide the necessary services. However, ISED is of the view that in order to ensure continuity of service in satellite-dependent areas, the full 3700-4200 MHz should be permitted for TT&C and gateway operations in a limited number of consolidated sites.

Decision
D31
ISED will consolidate FSS earth stations currently operating as gateways into a maximum of four sites, including those located in Weir, Quebec and Allan Park, Ontario. Both facilities must be open to hosting relocated TT&C and/or gateway earth stations from other licensees who currently have those types of earth stations operating in Canada.
D32

ISED will allow the TT&C station located in Weir, Quebec used by Inmarsat to continue its operations until the end of life of the current satellites communicating with the facility. This TT&C station will be entitled to protection in its designated bands under its current licence and associated conditions of licence. Telesat’s gateway facilities at Allan Park, Ontario will also be allowed to continue operating in 3700-4200 MHz.

The locations of up to two more consolidated gateway sites will be determined through further consultation.

10.4 Licence-exempt FSS earth station operations

265. ISED sought comments on a number of proposals related to the eligibility requirements for interim authorizations for licence-exempt receive-only earth stations, the deadline for applying for these authorizations, and protection of these interim authorized earth stations during and after the transition in both satellite and non-satellite-dependent areas.

10.4.1 Interim authorizations and eligibility

266. ISED sought comments on its proposals to issue interim authorizations for certain existing licence-exempt receive-only earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band and on the eligibility requirements for these stations.

267. ISED noted that there are two broad types of licence-exempt earth stations in use in Canada: those that are part of an enterprise network, such as those used in broadcast distribution; and those that are used by individuals to directly receive satellite broadcast signals intended for the general public. ISED proposed to limit the interim authorization eligibility to those stations that are part of an enterprise network.

Summary of comments

268. Allowing authorizations for licence-exempt FSS earth stations: Bell, CBC/Radio-Canada, Corus, Eutelsat, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, SaskTel, SES, TELUS and Xplornet supported this proposal to allow certain existing licence-exempt receive-only stations to operate with an interim authorization. Intelsat and Iristel stated that they do not oppose this proposal. Most of these respondents stated that an interim authorization would be necessary to protect certain earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band and for coordination purposes between flexible use and existing licence-exempt FSS earth stations during the transition period.

269. Rogers expressed support on this proposal with the exception that interim authorizations are not issued for earth stations located in urban Tier 4 service areas as proposed by Rogers. It cited concerns with protection status in relation to the 3500 MHz band licensees. Telesat was also supportive of issuing interim authorizations but expressed concerns with the details regarding the protection status of such licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under the interim authorization.

270. Ericsson expressed that operations in non-satellite-dependent areas in the long-term should be licensed to terrestrial mobile operations and therefore licence-exempt operations should not be protected through an interim licence in the 3700‑4200 MHz band.

271. Eligibility for authorizations of licence-exempt FSS earth stations: Bell, CBC/Radio-Canada, Eutelsat, Iristel, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers, SaskTel, and TELUS agreed with ISED’s proposal on the eligibility criteria for interim authorizations for licence-exempt FSS earth stations. Intelsat did not oppose this proposal. They expressed that the proposed eligibility criteria provides a balance between protecting licence-exempt FSS earth stations and the ability of flexible use deployment during the transition period.

272. Eutelsat was also supportive but proposed the eligibility be broadened to include those used by mining and energy sectors in remote locations. Corus and NABA also proposed to broaden the eligibility to include educational institutions and religious organizations.

273. Telesat stated that it is unclear of the rationale of treating stations that are part of existing enterprise networks differently from those used by individuals to directly receive satellite broadcast signals intended for the general public.

Discussion

274. As indicated in the Consultation, the majority of earth stations in the 3800 MHz band operate on a licence-exempt basis, with foreign satellite operators providing most of the content (video and radio) to cable head-ends and broadcast distribution undertakings. Currently, most earth stations communicating with satellites in the FSS are operating in the 3700-4200 MHz band on a receive-only, licence-exempt basis and are not protected from interference from licensed systems.

275. Given their importance to broadcasting, some measures to protect these earth stations from interference from new flexible use systems in the 3700-3980 MHz band would be beneficial to the content-distribution industry as well as the general public. The FCC recognized the importance of these stations in deciding to allow licence-exempt earth stations to register and receive protection from flexible use services during the transition to, and future operation in, the 4000-4200 MHz band. ISED shares this view and proposed a similar approach. For certain licence-exempt earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz, ISED proposed to provide the opportunity for those stations to be issued interim authorizations on a voluntary basis, following the interim procedures in place for systems of identical earth stations, as described in CPC-2-6-01, Procedure for the Submission of Applications to License Fixed Earth Stations and to Approve the Use of Foreign Satellites in Canada.

276. ISED will expand the existing interim rules to the 3700-4200 MHz band, and will issue a single authorization to each entity to allow all of its systems of identical receive-only earth stations to remain in operation across Canada. In addition, ISED will require individual site information for each earth station in order to facilitate the earth station transition and future coordination. The term of these interim authorizations will be set to expire on March 31, 2025, and be subject to annual updates to location information. There will be no associated fee until such time a public consultation is undertaken on the overall earth station licensing and fee framework.

277. ISED will limit eligibility for interim authorizations to individuals or entities that operate an enterprise network. For the purpose of this Decision, an enterprise network is a communications network that supports content and broadcasting distribution, including for educational and religious organizations. Receive-only earth stations used by individuals to directly receive satellite broadcast signals intended for the general public will not be eligible for interim authorizations.

Decision
D33
ISED may issue voluntary interim authorizations upon application for eligible applicants who are part of an enterprise network for existing licence-exempt FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band. Applicants must provide information on earth stations that are part of the enterprise network to ISED.
D34

Earth stations that are subject to an interim authorization will be protected similarly to licensed stations in accordance with section 10.4.5 of this Decision via conditions of licence and technical rules to be developed for flexible use licences in this band.

10.4.2 Interim authorization deadline and continued licence-exempt operations

278. ISED sought comments on the proposed deadline of 90-days from the date of this Decision for eligible earth stations to seek an interim authorization, and for the proposal that receive-only earth stations that are not eligible for an interim authorization or whose operators do not seek authorization, could continue to operate on a licence-exempt, no-protection basis.

Summary of comments

279. Bell, CBC/Radio-Canada, Corus, Eutelsat, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers, SaskTel, SES, TELUS and Xplornet agreed with both the proposed 90-day timeline for submitting an application for an interim authorization and with allowing licence-exempt earth stations to continue to operate on a no-protection basis for those receive-only earth stations that are not eligible for an interim authorization or whose operators do not seek authorization. Intelsat indicated that it was not opposed. SES agreed with the timeline but suggested that ISED should be open to an extension, if required. Rogers stated that its support for the proposal is predicated on interim authorizations being limited to satellite-dependent areas.

280. CanWISP and TekSavvy supported a 90-day timeline for submitting an application for an interim authorization. However, they were opposed to allowing licence-exempt receive-only FSS earth stations without authorizations to continue operating on a no-protection basis, citing concerns with how it may affect WISPs.

281. Iristel supported the proposal to allow licence-exempt FSS earth stations to continue operating on a no-protection basis for those that are receive-only without an authorization. However, Mobilexchange and the Toronto Police Service stated that this proposal was not a good idea but did not provide a rationale.

Discussion

282. In order to better inform ISED’s proposals in its future licensing framework consultation, as well as to provide certainty to future flexible use licensees, ISED will require that eligible applicants seeking an interim authorization for existing licence-exempt FSS earth stations submit an application no later than 90 days from the date of publication of this Decision. Application procedures will be established in CPC-2-6-01. Only those applicants that currently have stations deployed will be eligible. As a condition of the interim authorization, the applicant must provide full site information for all of its eligible existing sites. Eligible applicants must also ensure that an agreement is in place with the space station operator, or its representatives, which provides for access to the space station capacity or signals. A copy of the agreement, or confirmation from the satellite operator may be requested by ISED.

283. ISED takes note of the concern expressed by SES that an extension to the deadline be considered, if needed. ISED has at times extended licensing or request for information deadlines when circumstances dictated, and when doing so would support the policy objectives of a consultation or decision. For example, operators of licence-exempt earth stations in the 3800 MHz band have benefitted from a deadline extension with respect to ISED’s request for information on their earth stations. As information on these stations will be important to the development of proposals for ISED’s future licensing framework consultation, it is critical that ISED receive these applications in a timely manner.

284. Receive-only earth stations that are not eligible for an interim authorization or whose operators do not seek authorization, may continue to operate on a licence-exempt, no-protection basis.

Decision
D35
Eligible applicants seeking an interim authorization for existing licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating in the 3700-4200 MHz band are required to submit an application no later than 90 days from the date of publication of this Decision. Only those applicants that currently have stations deployed will be eligible, and only those stations operating in 3700‑4200 MHz that are deployed as of the date of this Decision will be included in the interim authorization.
D36

As a condition of the interim authorization, an applicant must provide full site information for all of its existing sites. Those that had previously submitted earth station data to ISED (through the SAB-001-19, Request for Information on Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) Earth Stations Operating in the 3700-4200 MHz Band) will be required to formally submit an application. Eligible applicants must also ensure that an agreement is in place with the space station operator, or its representatives, which provides access to the space station capacity or signals, which may be requested by ISED. Application guidance will be published in CPC-2-06-01 by June 4, 2021, and may include additional information requirements. If an authorization is granted, associated stations will be eligible for protection as described in section 10.3. The conditions of licence will be in accord with those in annex F.

Applicants are required to submit all materials even if they have previously submitted earth station data to ISED through the SAB-001-19.

D37
Receive-only earth stations, which are not eligible for an interim authorization or whose operators do not seek authorization, may continue to operate on a licence-exempt, no-protection basis.

10.4.3 Authorization for new receive-only earth stations in 4000-4200 MHz

285. ISED sought comments on whether to extend the same authorization process used for interim authorizations to new receive-only FSS earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band.

Summary of comments

286. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Corus, Eutelsat, Intelsat, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, SaskTel, SES, Teksavvy, Telesat and TELUS supported using the same process as the interim authorizations for new receive-only FSS earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band. Iristel was not opposed, however Rogers was of the view that this should only apply to those located in satellite-dependent areas.

287. Bell, Corus and NABA underlined the importance of having information on the location and properties of the new receive-only FSS earth stations in the band 4000-4200 MHz. Bell focused on the usefulness of such information for future consultations while Corus and NABA focused on the usefulness of such information to better spectrum coordination and the protection of commercial users of FSS from unwanted interference.

288. SES proposed that applicants should be free to choose between regular licensing, an interim authorization, or licence-exempt status for new receive-only FSS earth stations in this band. SES stated that licensed earth stations (regular licensing and interim authorization) in the 4000-4200 MHz band would receive protection from flexible use stations operating in the 3700-3980 MHz. Telesat was of the view that interim authorizations for receive-only earth stations should generally be treated on par with other FSS earth station licences.

289. While supportive of extending the interim authorization to new earth stations, both Rogers and TELUS proposed to limit the amount of spectrum in which these new earth stations could deploy. Rogers stated that new receive-only FSS earth stations should be limited to 4100-4200 MHz in non-satellite-dependent areas and that adjustments to the definition of satellite-dependent area should be considered.

290. TELUS proposed that a single authorization process (following the procedure in CPC-2-6-01) should apply for both existing and new FSS earth stations the 4000-4200 MHz frequency range.

Discussion

291. Regular licensing in 4000-4200 MHz band is always available as per CPC-2-6-01. However, ISED recognizes that the current authorization process is not appropriate for large networks of identical stations. Given that authorizations are required for earth stations to be protected, ISED will allow eligible entities to seek interim authorizations for new earth stations operating in 4000-4200 MHz through the same process outlined in section 10.4.1.

292. New receive-only earth stations operating in the 4000-4200 MHz band that are not eligible or whose operators do not seek authorization, may continue to operate on a licence-exempt, no-protection basis.

293. All interim authorizations in 3700-4200 MHz will be subject to a future earth station licensing consultation, including the introduction of an appropriate fee.

Decision
D38
The interim licensing process outlined in CPC-2-6-01 will also be available for eligible entities, as described above, for new receive-only earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz range anywhere in Canada.
D39
New receive-only earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band that are not eligible for an authorization or whose operators do not seek authorization or a licence, may operate on a licence-exempt, no-protection basis.

10.4.4 Conditions of licence for interim authorizations for existing and new receive-only earth stations

294. ISED sought comments on the proposed conditions for interim authorizations for eligible receive-only licence-exempt FSS earth stations in 3700-4200 MHz and eligible new receive-only FSS earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz portion of the band, as detailed in annex G of the Consultation. These conditions of licence would govern the operation of systems of identical earth stations before and after the transition that is consistent with spectrum policies in satellite-dependent and non-satellite-dependent areas, including in-band and adjacent band protection as described above. Conditions of licence also include the requirement to maintain up-to-date technical and site information, and comply with the applicable standards, procedures, legislation, regulations and other obligations.

Summary of comments

295. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Iristel, SaskTel, Teksavvy and TELUS were supportive of the conditions of licence as proposed. CBC/Radio-Canada sought clarity on the condition related to fees.

296. SES was supportive of the conditions of licence proposed but wanted licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations to receive protection from adjacent bands, and wanted to see the conditions revised to reflect this.

297. Corus, NABA and Telesat sought greater clarity on the proposed wording of some conditions of licence. Corus and NABA specifically requested that the term “identical earth stations” used in the condition of licence be defined or clarified. They indicated that the proposed wording directed the definition to CPC-2-6-01 but remained unclear. Telesat expressed that the condition related to fees should not apply to licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations. Additionally, Telesat requested for clarification on the condition of licence related to protection.

298. Rogers opposed the proposed condition of licence as it expressed concerns specifically to the conditions related to the operation of earth stations and protection. Rogers expressed that FSS earth stations operating with a licence-exempt status are explicitly linked to not being able to claim protection. Rogers was concerned that if licence-exempt FSS earth stations were able to claim protection under an interim authorization this would create a precedent for other licence-exempt users in the future, and change the spectrum environment.

Discussion

299. Given that most respondents were supportive of the proposed conditions of licence, and that the conditions align with those for other satellite bands, ISED will be adopting the conditions of licence outlined in annex F.

Decision
D40
The conditions of licence in annex F will apply to interim authorizations issued to existing licence exempt receive-only earth stations in 3700-4200 MHz as described in section 10.4.2 and new authorizations for earth stations operating in 4000-4200 MHz as described in section 10.4.3.

10.4.5 Protection status for interim authorized FSS earth stations from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz

300. ISED proposed that in non-satellite-dependent areas, existing earth stations that operate under interim authorizations receive protection from flexible use operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band until the transition and that in satellite-dependent areas, they receive protection from flexible operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band both during and after the FSS transition deadline in this band.

Summary of comments

301. Bell, CBC/Radio-Canada, Corus, Eutelsat, Intelsat, NABA, PSBN Innovation Alliance, SaskTel, SES and Telesat supported both proposals to protect licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations in non-satellite-dependent areas from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz until the transition date, and in satellite-dependent areas from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz before and after the transition date.

302. TELUS and Xplornet supported the proposal to protect licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations in non-satellite-dependent areas from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz until the transition date. They did not support the proposal to protect licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations in satellite-dependent areas from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz before and after the transition date. TELUS disagreed with protecting these FSS earth stations after the transition and Xplornet had concerns with the need to protect these FSS earth stations in satellite-dependent areas.

303. However, CanWISP, Mobilexchange, TekSavvy and the Toronto Police Service did not support the proposal. CanWISP and TekSavvy had concerns with the level of service that WBS would be able to provide in order to protect the licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under interim authorizations.

Discussion

304. As discussed in section 10.2, the transition deadline for FSS operations will be March 31, 2025 and as discussed in section 12 ISED’s planned auction timing for flexible use licences is early 2023. ISED expects that some Canadian FSS operations will transition along with the US transition in 2023 and that there are areas where flexible use can coordinate with FSS earth stations, as such, ISED will allow flexible use licensees to deploy before the FSS transition deadline.

305. As previously discussed in section 10.3, ISED recognizes that transmission from flexible use operations in the same frequency band could create harmful interference to FSS receivers if protection measures are not implemented. As such, prior to the transition deadline, interim authorized FSS earth stations in all areas will be protected from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz. Interim authorized FSS earth stations located in satellite-dependent areas will also be protected from interference from flexible use operating in 3700-3980 MHz after the transition deadline. ISED will develop technical rules such as a pfd limit for the relevant protection criteria in a future consultation.

306. Similar to newly licensed FSS earth stations, newly authorized earth stations or earth stations under an interim authorization that have transitioned to 4000-4200 MHz (in all areas) will be protected from flexible use in 3700-3980 MHz band prior to and after the transition deadline.

307. The technical rules for protection of interim authorized and licensed earth stations including relevant protection criteria such as pfd at earth station will be developed in a future consultation or provided in a future 3800 MHz transition manual.

308. It should be noted that voluntary agreements between the new flexible use licensees and FSS earth station licensees may be established to support mutually agreeable alternate sharing agreements prior to the FSS transition deadline.

Decision
D41
In non-satellite-dependent areas, existing eligible receive-only earth stations that operate under interim authorizations will receive protection from flexible use operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band until the transition deadline.
D42
Existing eligible receive-only earth stations that operate under an interim authorization in the 3700-4200 MHz band in satellite-dependent areas as defined in section 9 will receive protection from flexible use operations in 3700-3980 MHz prior to and after the transition deadline.
D43

New eligible receive-only earth stations that operate under an interim authorization in 4000-4200 MHz in all areas will receive protection from flexible use operations in the 3700-3980 MHz band prior to and after the transition deadline.

Technical rules for the relevant protection criteria such as pfd at earth station will be developed in a future consultation or provided in a future 3800 MHz transition manual.

10.4.6 Protection status from WBS and flexible use below 3700 MHz

309. ISED sought comments on its proposal that in all areas, existing licence-exempt earth stations that operate under an interim authorization in 3700-4200 MHz receive no protection from adjacent band WBS stations and flexible use stations operating below 3700 MHz before and after the transition deadline.

Summary of comments

310. Bell, CanWISP, CBC/Radio-Canada, Eutelsat, Iristel, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Rogers, SaskTel, TekSavvy, Telesat, TELUS and Xplornet supported the proposal that in all areas, existing licence-exempt earth stations operating under an interim authorization will not receive protection from interference from adjacent band WBS and flexible use operations below 3700 MHz before and after the transition deadline.

311. However, Intelsat and SES were in disagreement. Intelsat expressed that licence-exempt FSS earth stations in satellite-dependent areas should be provided with protection from WBS and flexible use operating below 3700 MHz and that operators should coordinate with the licence-exempt FSS earth stations in satellite-dependent areas. SES indicated that since flexible use operating below 3700 MHz will be operating in higher power than incumbent WBS operations, there should be a 20 MHz guard band between the flexible use and licence-exempt FSS earth stations operating under the interim authorization during the transition period.

Discussion

312. With respect to flexible use and WBS operations in the adjacent 3450-3650 MHz and 3650-3700 MHz bands, ISED notes that the requirements set out in SRSP-520 and SRSP-303.65 regarding FSS earth stations operating in 3700-4200 MHz band apply only to licensed stations. As such, licence-exempt earth stations operating in the 3700-4200 MHz are currently not protected from flexible use or WBS stations operating in 3450-3650 MHz and 3650-3700 MHz bands. Based on this and the likelihood that a large number of these licence-exempt FSS earth stations could impose a potentially significant burden on flexible use licensees below 3700 MHz, ISED is of the view that the existing protection requirements should be maintained. Thus, after licence-exempt earth stations are issued with authorizations under the interim licensing process outlined in section 10.4.1, they are not protected from flexible use or WBS stations operating in the 3450-3650 MHz and 3650-3700 MHz bands before or after the FSS transition deadline. Licence-exempt FSS operators may need to take into consideration any potential modifications (e.g. installation of effective filters) that may be required in order to avoid receiving harmful interference from adjacent band flexible use and WBS operations.

D44
FSS earth stations authorized under the interim authorization process outlined in section 10.4.1 may not claim protection from flexible use operating in the 3450-3700 MHz band or WBS stations operating in 3650-3700 MHz band.

10.5 Fixed services

313. In the Consultation, ISED sought comments on its proposals to:

  • no longer issue new radio licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 3700-4000 MHz band
  • grandfather existing point-to-point operations in the 3700-4000 MHz band under existing licences for the fixed service (identified in the Consultation) such that flexible use systems in the tiers of the proposed grandfather systems may not claim protection from, nor cause interference to, these fixed service station
  • allow new licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 4000-4200 MHz band

Summary of comments

314. No new fixed use in 3700-4000 MHz: Bell, CanWISP, the Department of National Defence, Ericsson, Intelsat, Iristel, Mobilexchange, NABA, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, Telesat, TELUS and the Toronto Police Service all supported the proposal to no longer issue new radio licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 3700-4000 MHz band. They stated that due to the very limited demand for these applications there should not be any issues with no longer authorizing new radio licences for fixed point-to-point applications.

315. Grandfathering existing fixed service operations in 3700-4000 MHz: Bell, CanWISP, the Department of National Defence, Québecor, SaskTel and TekSavvy supported the proposal to grandfather existing point-to-point fixed services operations in the 3700-4000 MHz, such that flexible use systems in these two tiers may not claim protection from, nor cause interference to these stations. SaskTel further suggested that if coexistence is not possible, the flexible use licensee can negotiate a business arrangement with the fixed point-to-point systems operator(s) to provide compensation for the replacement of the point-to-point links.

316. Rogers supported the proposal to grandfather the existing fixed stations but argued that it should be for a limited time period suggesting that after 10 years, a 2-year notification period for displacement should be implemented. Ericsson also supported allowing the existing licensees to remain, however, noting that should flexible use systems deploy within proximity of the existing point-to-point licensees that they should be displaced with reasonable notice.

317. Mobilexchange, NABA and the Toronto Police Service opposed the proposal to grandfather the existing stations, preferring instead to see them relocate to another band.

318. Allowing new fixed service licences in 4000-4200 MHz: Bell, CanWISP and Shaw supported ISED’s proposal to allow new radio licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 4000-4200 MHz band.

319. The Department of National Defence, Ecotel, Ericsson, Eutelsat, Intelsat, Mobilexchange, NABA, Rogers, SaskTel, TekSavvy, Telesat, TELUS and the Toronto Police Service did not support allowing new radio licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 4000-4200 MHz band. They argued that the current demand for this service remains low and could lead to coordination issues in the future.

Discussion

320. Over the years other bands have become more favourable for deploying fixed point-to-point applications, as evidenced by the low number of current licensees operating in the band. As there are many available alternatives, ISED remains of the view that it is no longer necessary to continue issuing new radio licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 3700-4000 MHz band. In addition, should licensees wish to deploy new fixed point-to-point applications within the 3700-3980 MHz band they will be able to do so under the new flexible use licence issued either through the auction process or the future shared use licensing process, depending on the portion of the band.

321. As there is limited interest for fixed deployment within the 4000-4200 MHz band at the moment, and given the many alternatives available for similar fixed point-to-point applications, ISED is of the view that it is not necessary to continue issuing new radio licences in the band.

322. Therefore, ISED will no longer issue new licences for fixed services that operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 3700-4200 MHz band, except for the renewal of existing licences shown in annex G.

323. Given the limited number of licences within the 3700-4000 MHz band, taking into account the fact that the systems are deployed in remote areas, ISED is of the view that through cooperation and coordination coexistence between these existing systems and future flexible use deployments is possible. As the system belonging to the Department of National Defence is non-disclosed, flexible use licensees within that Tier will not be able to find the necessary technical information required in order to determine if coordination is necessary. As such, given the low volume of licences, and the high likelihood that only a limited number of operators will deploy within the impacted Tier, the Department of National Defence will be required to ensure its system is protected and will be responsible for initiating coordination with the flexible use licensees.

324. ISED will grandfather the existing licences operating in the fixed service, shown in annex G and new flexible use deployments will not be allowed to claim protection from or cause interference to these existing fixed systems.

Decision

D45
ISED will no longer issue new licences for fixed services to operate fixed point-to-point applications in the 3700-4200 MHz band.
D46
ISED will continue to authorize existing fixed point-to-point radio licences operating in 3700-4000 MHz band, shown in annex G and new flexible use licensees may not claim protection from, nor cause interference to these existing fixed systems. No new point-to-point links or modification to existing point-to-point links are permitted for these existing fixed systems.

11. Coexistence between flexible use systems and aeronautical radionavigation systems

325. Through the Consultation ISED sought comments on the proposal to not implement any technical requirements for the coexistence between flexible use operation in the 3650-3980 MHz band and radionavigation operations in the 4200-4400 MHz band, noting the 220 MHz frequency separation between the bands of operation.

Summary of comments

326. Representatives from the Aviation Industry and Associations, and Transport Canada Civil Aviation, disagreed with ISED’s proposal to not implement technical measures given the large frequency separation stating that additional technical measures will need to be considered to ensure that the services can successfully coexist. Transport Canada Civil Aviation indicated that it is not opposed to the introduction of 5G services in the 3800 MHz band, and suggested several measures that could be considered to avoid harmful interference. In the reply comments, the Aviation Industry and Associations reiterated that a 220 MHz guard band is necessary but insufficient to fully avoid harmful interference pending radar altimeter improvements. The Aviation Industry and Associations also suggested that ISED should take into account the technical information provided in the RTCA report for developing and implementing additional short-term mitigation measures to protect the aeronautical services.

327. Conversely, Bell, CanWISP, Eutelsat, Iristel, Mobilexchange, Rogers, Shaw, TekSavvy, Telesat, TELUS and the Toronto Police Service supported the proposal from ISED to not implement technical measures for coexistence. The respondents in favour of the proposal indicated that the 220 MHz of frequency separation should be sufficient for the services to coexist.

328. PSBN Innovation Alliance initially agreed with ISED’s proposal that the 220 MHz of frequency separation was sufficient. However, in their reply comments they agreed with Transport Canada Civil Aviation’s recommendation on further studying the upper portion of the band to determine the possibility of harmful interference.

329. The Department of National Defence, Ericsson, Nokia, RABC and SaskTel did not support or oppose the proposal put forth by ISED, but rather encouraged ISED to continue to closely monitor international developments and further study the issue noting its complexity. Specifically, Nokia, RABC and SaskTel highlighted the need to monitor the proceedings with the FCC and the work being performed in the US, while engaging with members of both the mobile and aviation industry to determine what, if any, technical measures may be required to ensure coexistence between the services.

Discussion

330. ISED recognizes the importance of avoiding harmful interference to aeronautical radionavigation systems. Radio altimeters are sensors installed on most civil and military aircraft and operate in the 4200-4400 MHz band. They continuously measure an aircraft’s altitude above ground level in flight and provide direct measurement of its clearance over terrain and obstacles. They also feed information to other systems on board the aircraft, including the automated landing and collision avoidance systems. Although new standards for radio altimeters are expected to be available in 2022 to address potential interference concerns, it could take several years to implement, certify and deploy new equipment on existing aircraft.

331. International spectrum regulators, including ISED, have recently become aware of studies that have shown a possibility of interference to radio altimeters from signals outside their band of operation, which could include signals from future flexible use deployment of 5G systems operating below 4200 MHz around airports and heliports.

332. Regulators around the world are currently examining the need for measures to protect radio altimeters on aircraft when considering flexible use in bands below 4200 MHz. Some regulators (e.g. France, Japan) have decided to implement measures, such as operational restrictions on flexible use systems near airport runways and around heliports. Conversely, other regulators (e.g. the United Kingdom, United States and Australia) have not, to date, imposed any specific requirements for the protection of radio altimeters with respect to flexible use. Additional international studies are underway to assess the potential interference to radio altimeters from flexible use below 4200 MHz.

333. ISED is closely monitoring international developments, as well as examining possible mitigation measures to address the potential for harmful interference, as appropriate. ISED is committed to keeping Canadians safe. As this situation evolves internationally, ISED will complete an assessment of the issue and may consult further on the development of technical standards, if necessary.

Decision

D47
ISED will continue to monitor ongoing developments internationally and will assess possible mitigation measures to limit the potential interference to radio altimeters from flexible use operating in the 3800 MHz band, as necessary.

12. Licensing process for the new flexible use licences

334. In the Consultation, ISED proposed to use an auction as the licensing process for the flexible use spectrum that would be considered as the 3800 MHz band.

Summary of comments

335. BCBA, Bell, CCSA, CanWISP, Cogeco, Eastlink, Eutelsat, Mobilexchange, PSBN Innovation Alliance, Qualcomm, Québecor, Rogers, SaskTel, Shaw, SSi, TekSavvy, Telesat, TELUS, the Toronto Police Service and Xplornet supported ISED’s proposal to use an auction to award new flexible use licences in the 3800 MHz band, noting that since demand was likely to exceed supply, an auction would be the most efficient mechanism to award these licences.

336. Iristel did not oppose the use of an auction, as long as appropriate pro-competitive measures were put in place. SSi did not oppose the use of an auction either, but indicated that it had some concerns regarding how ISED would licence flexible use in satellite-dependent areas.

337. Ecotel added that any spectrum reserved for existing WBS licensees and for private networks should not be allocated through an auction.

Discussion

338. The Framework for Spectrum Auctions in Canada indicates that ISED will generally consider using an auction process as the spectrum assignment mechanism where the demand for spectrum is expected to exceed the available supply and where government policy objectives can be fully met through the use of an auction.

339. It is expected that demand will exceed supply for the 3800 MHz band in Canada based on the comments received and given the high demand demonstrated in the US during the FCC’s 3.7 GHz auction (Auction 107). As such, ISED is of the view that an auction is the most appropriate mechanism to award licences in the 3650-3900 MHz band. ISED will auction this spectrum in all areas of Canada, including the satellite-dependent areas defined in section 9. The details of this future licensing process, including auction format, competitive measures, and conditions of licence, will be the subject of a future licensing framework consultation.

340. This future auction will not include the 3900-3980 MHz band. This spectrum has been designated for shared use (see section 10.1.1) and will be licensed through a non-competitive process, which will be the subject of a future consultation process.

Decision

D48
ISED will use an auction as the licensing process for the flexible use spectrum in the 3650‑3900 MHz band.

12.1 Revision to the timing of planned auctions

341. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ISED delayed the start of the 3500 MHz auction, originally scheduled to begin in December 2020, until June 2021. This delay, combined with ongoing market developments, has made ISED reconsider its auction plans from those originally announced in the Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 (Spectrum Outlook) in June 2018.

342. In the Spectrum Outlook, ISED identified the 26, 28 and 38 GHz (mmWave) bands as the next proposed auction process following the 3500 MHz auction. Since that time, ISED has observed that international 5G deployment has occurred primarily in mid-band, with a stronger device ecosystem and coverage characteristics that largely allow the reuse of existing towers, compared to shorter-range mmWave spectrum, which requires the creation of additional antenna sites.

343. In addition, since the publication of the Spectrum Outlook, the US has announced its plans for repurposing the 3800 MHz band and has now auctioned a portion of the band. In response to ISED’s Consultation, many stakeholders, including Bell, Rogers, TELUS, Xplornet, and CanWISP noted the band’s complementarity with the upcoming 3500 MHz auction and recommended ISED make additional mid-band spectrum available sooner to support the deployment of 5G and align more closely with the US ecosystem.

344. ISED recognizes that while the mmWave ecosystem has continued to develop since the release of the Spectrum Outlook, there remains significant uncertainty around use cases and deployments in the mmWave bands. As such, ISED is of the view that demand for the 3800 MHz band is higher than demand for the mmWave bands at this time.

345. In light of these developments, ISED is of the view that it is appropriate to resequence the proposed auctions for the mmWave bands and the 3800 MHz band. Accordingly, ISED will adjust the auction schedule such that the 3800 MHz auction will be scheduled in the first quarter of 2023, followed by the proposed mmWave auction in the first quarter of 2024.

13. Next steps

346. ISED will consult further on the related licensing framework(s), as well as the technical standards, as appropriate.

14. Obtaining copies

347. All spectrum-related documents referred to in this paper are available on ISED’s Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website.

348. For further information concerning the process outlined in this document or related matters, contact:

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
c/o A/Senior Director, Spectrum Regulatory Best Practices
Spectrum Licensing Policy Branch
235 Queen Street (6th Floor, East Tower)
Ottawa ON K1A OH5
Telephone: 613-219-5436
TTY: 1-866-694-8389

Email: ic.spectrumauctions-encheresduspectre.ic@canada.ca

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