Framework for the Use of Certain Non-broadcasting Applications in the Television Broadcasting Bands Below 698 MHz

Posted on Industry Canada website: October 30, 2012


April 2013
Section 8.1 (Summary of Comments) has been amended to better reflect the WRAN Alliance's comments.


  1. Intent
  2. Policy Objectives
  3. Abbreviations
  4. Background
  5. Introduction of Television White Space Devices in Canada
  6. Television White Space Interference Prevention
  7. Television White Space Implementation
  8. Remote Rural Broadband Systems
  9. Low-Power Apparatus, Including Wireless Microphones
  10. Changes to the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations
  11. Next Steps

1. Intent

Through the release of this paper, Industry Canada hereby announces the decisions resulting from the consultation process undertaken in Canada Gazette notice SMSE-012-11 — Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework for the Use of Non-Broadcasting Applications in the Television Broadcasting Bands Below 698 MHz.

These decisions, announced in Canada Gazette notice SMSE-012-12, address the introduction of certain non-broadcasting applications in the television broadcasting bands below 698 MHz, specifically in the bands 54-72 MHz, 76-88 MHz, 174-216 MHz, 470-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz.

2. Policy Objectives

The Minister of Industry, 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. This responsibility includes developing national policies and goals for spectrum utilization, and ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

In developing a framework to make additional spectrum available for increased use, Industry Canada takes into consideration the need to provide spectrum access for new services and technologies, including broadband, the impact of such a framework on all stakeholders and the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (SPFC). The SPFC objective is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the radio frequency spectrum.

In the 2010 Consultation Paper on a Digital Economy Strategy for Canada entitled Improving Canada’s Digital Advantage: Strategies for Sustainable Prosperity, under the pillar of "Building a World-Class Digital Infrastructure," access to spectrum was identified as one of the challenges facing Canada. By issuing this decision, Industry Canada is, in part, delivering on this commitment.

3. Abbreviations

The following abbreviations are used in this document.

broadcast auxiliary services


Client Procedures Circulars



Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission



Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations



The Dominion Radio Astrophysical Observatory, located in Penticton, British Columbia



digital television



U.S. Federal Communications Commission




gigahertz (1 GHz = 109 hertz or a frequency of one billion cycles per second)



low-power apparatus (e.g. wireless microphones)



megahertz (1 MHz = 106 hertz or a frequency of one million cycles per second)



Radio Advisory Board of Canada



remote rural broadband systems



Radio Standards Specifications



Standard Radio System Plans






television white space(s)



Wireless Fidelity, an industry technical standard for wireless networking


4. Background

On August 27, 2011, Industry Canada released SMSE-012-11 — Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework for the Use of Non-Broadcasting Applications in the Television Broadcasting Bands Below 698 MHz. In the consultation, Industry Canada sought comments on general considerations related to the use of non-broadcasting applications in the bands 54-72 MHz, 76-88 MHz, 174-216 MHz, 470-608 MHz and 614-698 MHz.

The issues consulted upon include the introduction of licence-exempt TV white space (TVWS) devices; the regulatory framework for licensed remote rural broadband systems (RRBS); and the regulatory framework for licensed low-power apparatus (LPA), such as wireless microphones.

TVWS devices are designed to operate using unassigned TV channels without interfering with licensed broadcasters or other authorized wireless telecommunications licensees. These devices would operate on a no-protection, no-interference basis.

It is anticipated that these devices would be initially targeted toward consumers, as they could benefit from the availability of home wireless networks similar to Wi-Fi and also to service providers to offer access to Internet service by making use of wireless broadband equipment with improved range. In the longer term, white space technology also shows promise for machine to machine communications and has the potential to facilitate innovative products and services.

Comments were receivedFootnote 1 from 27 parties representing various industries, including TV broadcasters, TVWS proponents, cellular service providers, wireless device manufacturers, the Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC), research and development groups, wireless microphone industry and rural broadband service providers.

5. Introduction of Television White Space Devices in Canada

In the consultation, Industry Canada proposed to allow TVWS devices in Canada. In response to the consultation paper, several general comments were received regarding their use. These comments primarily highlighted potential benefits of the introduction of this technology and some potential challenges.

5.1 Summary of Comments

  • Support for the use of TVWS devices. All respondents, including broadcasters, support allowing the use of TVWS devices and a majority believes that the potential benefits are considerable. Broadcasters urge Industry Canada to adopt strong rules for prevention of interference.
  • Facilitating an economic and competitive environment. Many respondents believe that TVWS devices would facilitate the introduction of improved, more economical wireless broadband and Internet services to consumers in areas that are currently unserved or underserved. This could foster a competitive market environment that would encourage further experimentation and innovation. This, in turn, could help to minimize deployment costs and enhance the provision of broadband services, which should lead to better Internet access and the availability of innovative consumer products and services.
  • Use for rural/sensor networks. Respondents envisage the use of TVWS for applications such as rural broadband, wide-coverage hotspots, bridging between small networks, sensor networks and cellular off-loading, all of which would take advantage of these bands’ superior propagation characteristics. The RABC believes that allowing TVWS use is an opportunity for Canada to expand wireless broadband services as a complement to RRBS.
  • Benefits to many sectors. Many respondents note that the potential benefits of the various TVWS applications could apply to all levels of governmental organizations, education facilities, libraries, transportation services, local business enterprises and critical infrastructure entities.
  • Additional spectrum/Wi-Fi gap. Some respondents believe that TVWS use will help to address the capacity and spectrum shortage challenges facing the wireless communications industry, and that using TVWS spectrum may help to off-load some traffic from the main mobile networks. According to these respondents, the world is facing an impending spectrum shortage of mobile broadband services, arising from the explosive growth in mobile communication. Some respondents believe that the use of TVWS will offer additional spectrum in the lower frequency bands and that its use may provide connectivity where off-loading using other bands, e.g. Wi-Fi at 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, falls short.
  • Rapid proliferation/ensure protection. Some respondents argue that the expected low cost of TVWS devices, which would be typical of mass-market licence exempt devices, could facilitate rapid proliferation; therefore, compliance with protection limits for incumbent radio services will be essential.
  • Apprehension of moving too quickly/premature rules. Not all respondents are convinced that Canada needs to move quickly on allowing TVWS for licence-exempt use. One respondent notes that using TVWS spectrum is not the same as using spectrum set aside for dedicated use for licence exempt devices. Some respondents think that Industry Canada should closely monitor developments within the United States, especially when considering technical and standards harmonization, and that Industry Canada should only consider the introduction of TVWS devices after the technology has proven itself. In a similar vein, the RABC believes that Industry Canada should strive to preserve a variety of options for creating mobility in TVWS and that the Department should work closely with TVWS database administrators, devices manufacturers and incumbents to establish standards to ensure that harmful interference will not be caused to existing users. In particular Rogers believes that a conservative approach must be used when establishing such limits.
  • Mobile broadband transition anxiety. Ericsson warns that if up to 120 MHz of spectrum is repurposed for mobile broadband spectrum in Canada, as is currently legislated in the United States, this spectrum would no longer be available for TVWS devices. As well, the remaining TV channels would be packed more closely together in the remaining broadcast spectrum and fewer geographical spots would be available for TVWS devices.

5.2 Discussion

The management of the radio frequency spectrum has traditionally been a centralized process, with the access to spectrum overseen by a regulatory body. However, as technology has progressed, methods allowing dynamic spectrum access have begun to be developed to improve spectrum efficiency. A shift away from conventional licensing approaches could lead to a more flexible, adaptive administrative environment by enabling opportunistic use of the radio frequency spectrum. Such techniques for the use of TVWS have the potential to improve spectrum efficiency while facilitating the introduction of new wireless communications applications in Canada.

Some respondents express some apprehension about the introduction of TVWS devices due to the potential for rapid proliferation, especially in the context of licence-exempt operation among licensed systems. On the other hand, appropriate technical requirements and the ability of these devices to adapt their operation in real time should ensure that incumbent users do not suffer harmful interference. Industry Canada believes that the regulatory approach described in this document will provide the necessary measures to address these concerns.

Industry Canada will also closely monitor international regulatory developments, and will make appropriate regulatory changes as further experience is gained. It is noted that TVWS rules in the United States have been finalized and remaining legal obstacles to related TVWS deployment have been resolved. The development of rules and regulations for TVWS use are also moving quickly in many other countries, including in the United Kingdom, where rules development is particularly advanced.

Despite the potential that repurposing of some TV spectrum below 698 MHz in the United States might lead to calls for similar action in Canada, Industry Canada does not see this as a reason to delay the introduction of TVWS devices. If Canada were to follow the United States, available spectrum would be reduced and fewer geographical areas would be available for the operation of TVWS devices. However, proponents have indicated their belief in the ongoing viability of TVWS use regardless of whether such changes take place.

It is expected that the introduction of the use of TVWS devices will enable the development of new techniques for managing the radio frequency spectrum while easing spectrum shortages and enabling more options for wireless broadband and Internet services for consumers.

Decision related to the introduction of TVWS devices:

Industry Canada will establish procedures and technical rules to permit the introduction of TVWS devices in Canada. These devices will be exempt from licensing and will operate on a no-interference, no-protection basis.



6. Television White Space Interference Prevention

The following sections discuss the approach that will apply to TVWS use to prevent interference to other spectrum users.

6.1 Use of Spectrum Sensing vs. Databases

Industry Canada consulted on approaches to provide interference protection for licensees in the TV bands where TVWS devices are used. These included the use of spectrum sensing and/or the use of geographic TV band databases.

Spectrum sensing is the capability to detect and prevent interference to received signals from other users sharing the spectrum above a determined threshold. An alternative approach uses a list of protected spectrum users, which is maintained in one or more central databases, combined with geo-location of the TVWS devices. The TVWS devices would automatically access these databases to determine what spectrum, if any, is available at its locations.

The consultation paper proposed that Industry Canada focus initially on the development of rules for the use of databases to ensure interference protection from TVWS devices.

6.1.1 Summary of Comments

Spectrum Sensing

  • Most respondents believe that spectrum sensing technologies require further development. They are not convinced that spectrum sensing by itself is currently technically viable. For example, Shure is concerned that sensing techniques have not overcome problems associated with detecting receive only stations and, although sensing has promise, an effective approach for detecting LPA has yet to be developed.
  • Some respondents argue that spectrum sensing should be included in the proposal to allow better TVWS utility, especially in urban areas. They believe that spectrum sensing can improve indoor usage of TVWS whereas the use of a database may be challenging in an indoor environment.


  • Many respondents support the proposal for databases.
  • Some respondents, including wireless device manufacturers and the members of the RABC, suggest introducing interference management functionalities, through the use of databases, to provide protection between TVWS devices.

6.1.2 Discussion

Consistent with comments received, Industry Canada recognizes that the potential for spectrum sensing technology, either alone or used in conjunction with a geo-location licence information database, is quite promising. However, as most respondents mention, this technology is still in the developmental phase and key obstacles have not yet been resolved, including the inability to detect receive-only stations and to adequately protect LPA.

All respondents agree that the use of databases can provide effective interference protection to licensed incumbents within the same frequency band. Unlike sensing, the use of databases may allow the capability (i.e. through software changes to the databases) to respond to problems with equipment in the field without the need for a consumer recall. In the future, databases may add functionality, including the capability to manage interference between TVWS devices, but this would be outside the scope of Industry Canada’s regulations.

Industry Canada is of the view that the use of databases will allow an immediate means to implement TVWS while addressing sharing and interference issues. Spectrum sensing or hybrid approaches using elements of both sensing and geo-location databases show promise for the future.

Decision related to databases and spectrum sensing:

Industry Canada will develop initial rules and regulations for TVWS devices based on the use of geo-location and a registration database system to manage harmful interference.

As spectrum sensing matures, Industry Canada will consider additional regulatory provisions for sensing technology through the technical rule development process under this decision.

6.2 Policies for the Establishment of Databases of Protected Canadian Systems

During the consultation, Industry Canada invited comments on provisions related to database performance and operation, including the development and operation of Canadian TVWS databases by the private sector.

6.2.1 Selection Process and Criteria Summary of Comments

  • Most respondents agree that databases should be developed and managed by third party private sector database administrators.
  • Most respondents believe that third party database administrators should be selected based upon a competitive process. The RABC urges Industry Canada to consider authorizing multiple database administrators and to allow competition among administrators to ensure that the cost to access white space spectrum is reasonable and affordable.
  • Axia NetMedia believes that it is important to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between the database administrators and the broadband service providers. Discussion

Most respondents agree that databases should be developed and that they should be managed by third party private sector administrators.

Although most respondents believe that third party database administrators should be selected based upon a competitive process, this appears to be based on the assumption that Industry Canada would place limits on the number of possible administrators. However, experience in other countries has shown that multiple database administrators can operate at the same time without conflict and that the resulting increase in technical complexity would be minor. In addition, open entry of database administrators will foster the development of a competitive market for database services, which will mitigate many of the concerns that were expressed by respondents, including concerns about the potential for conflicts of interest or monopoly pricing. Such an approach would eliminate the need for Industry Canada to select winners and would allow for innovation among competing database administrators with alternative business models and added services. Evaluation of applicants against a common set of technical requirements will ensure protection of existing spectrum users. Consequently, Industry Canada will authorize any database administrators provided that they meet the appropriate regulatory requirements set out in this decision and the related technical rules.

Decision related to the criteria and selection process for database administrators:

Industry Canada will authorize the establishment of all TVWS database administrators that meet technical requirements. There will be no limit on the number of database administrators that can be authorized to provide service in Canada.

6.2.2 Regulatory Oversight Summary of Comments

  • Most respondents want Industry Canada to have strong regulatory oversight of the TVWS databases and believe that Industry Canada should maintain its equipment compliance role. Although respondents generally agree that technical certification of TVWS devices is necessary for their introduction into Canada, respondents do not believe that certification alone will provide sufficient regulatory oversight to control the operation of TVWS devices.
  • The RABC supposes that leaving the management and operation of database services entirely to the private sector would create potential problems and believes that oversight by Industry Canada is therefore required.
  • Shure believes that Industry Canada must play an active role in the oversight of TVWS databases, especially regarding information security, system reliability and regulatory compliance issues.
  • Broadcasters urge Industry Canada to put effective regulatory measures in place prior to authorizing TVWS services in order to protect users and licensed services against excessive cost levies by database administrators.
  • The RABC comments that the database administrators should be required to make appropriate updates to the databases in the event that interference is caused by TVWS devices.
  • The Whitespace Regional Area Network Alliance (WRAN Alliance) believes that the databases should reside within Canada in order to ensure that regulatory requirements can be enforced. Discussion

The clear majority of comments support Industry Canada maintaining strong regulatory oversight rather than indirectly regulating TVWS databases via the device certification process alone. The respondents have made a strong case and Industry Canada sees the benefit of such an approach. For this reason, the Department will approve TVWS database administrators for operation in Canada and will not rely solely on the certification process to ensure compliance with Industry Canada’s rules. That said, as part of the certification process for TVWS devices, they will be required to demonstrate that, when operating in Canada, they communicate with databases that are approved by Industry Canada.

In order to be approved, TVWS database administrators will be required to sign an agreement with Industry Canada, which will list the regulatory requirements with which they must comply. These requirements will include provisions related to database administrator eligibility, security, reliability, authentication, synchronization, interface between database administrators and privacy. Database administrators will be required to demonstrate their compliance with these conditions in order to receive departmental approval. Industry Canada will develop these requirements and criteria in consultation with stakeholders.

Furthermore, in order to provide effective mechanisms to deal with potential interference, database administrators will be required to update their information system algorithms to account for any changes to these criteria, and may be required to take action at Industry Canada’s direction in cases of harmful radio interference. If a database administrator fails to comply with the terms of its agreement, Industry Canada may take measures up to and including revocation of the database administrator’s approval until such time that the situation has been rectified to the satisfaction of the Department. Industry Canada believes that requiring databases to be hosted within Canada will help to ensure that these regulatory requirements can be enforced without limiting database administrators to Canadian companies. Database administrators indicate that this will not impose a burden on them.

Some respondents suggest that regulatory measures are needed to protect users and licensed services against excessive cost levies by database administrators. The protection of all licensed services, including collection of associated information, will be a fundamental requirement for a database administrator to receive approval. This would preclude charging a fee for a protected user to be listed in the database, but this would not rule out charging consumers for value-added services.

The existence of multiple database administrators will ensure that the cost to access the databases by TVWS devices is subject to competition. For this reason, Industry Canada has decided not to regulate fees set by database administrators to access their databases by TVWS devices.

Decision related to the regulatory oversight:

Industry Canada will develop requirements for TVWS databases through consultation with stakeholders.

Database administrators will be required to host the TVWS databases in Canada.

6.2.3 Security and Privacy Summary of Comments

  • Respondents see the need for reliable security measures, including authentication procedures between TVWS devices and databases, to minimize harmful or unauthorized intrusion or manipulation.
  • Axia NetMedia urges strong measures to protect the security of information and the privacy of users. Axia NetMedia believes that, as a minimum, all transactions should be conducted through Secure Socket Layers or other means of authentication/encryption.
  • Rogers supports stringent security regarding the contents and communications between the database and TVWS devices.
  • All respondents agree that the databases will need to be developed in close cooperation with Industry Canada and that security, reliability and privacy issues will need to be addressed, especially as individual devices and their locations are registered.
  • The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers 802 Local Area Network / Metropolitan Area Network Standards Committee comments that security related issues be considered in the database implementation, including ensuring database availability, authorization to access, authentication, encryption, data integrity, non-repudiation, confidentiality and privacy. In addition, the committee believes that TVWS devices should be required to supply a certification of identity in order to be granted operational access by the certified database. This will ensure mutual authentication to avoid spoofing or denial of service attacks.
  • The RABC believes that Industry Canada should require all information in the TVWS databases to be made publicly available by the database administrators. Discussion

Industry Canada agrees with the comments received regarding the importance of adequate security measures to protect data and ensure reliable operation. Appropriate measures will be developed in consultation with stakeholders. Industry Canada also agrees with the RABC on the need to make publicly available the information of the stations to be protected.

Information regarding protected stations, including TV stations, cable TV head-ends, RRBS stations and licensed LPA requiring interference protection, will therefore be required to be made publicly available by the database administrators. This does not apply to information regarding TVWS devices or their locations.

Decision related to security and privacy:

Industry Canada will develop measures relating to security and privacy through its established processes, including consulting with stakeholders.


Footnote 1

Comments received can be found on Industry Canada’s website.

Return to footnote 1 referrer