- Acronyms and abbreviations
- Executive summary
- 1. Intent
- 2. Context
- 3. Scope
- 4. A principled approach to releasing spectrum
- 5. Policy themes
- 6. Policy theme 1: Spectrum as an economic driver and enabler of Industry 4.0
- 7. Policy theme 2: Rural connectivity in the wake of COVID-19
- 8. Policy theme 3: Indigenous connectivity
- 9. Policy theme 4: Spectrum, 5G and climate change
- 10. Policy theme 5: Competition and wireless affordability
- 11. Licence fees
- 12. Spectrum demand
- 13. Potential frequency bands for future release and/or consultation
- 14. Priority and timing of spectrum plans (2022 to 2026)
- 15. Submitting comments
- Annex A: Demand for commercial mobile services
- Annex B: Demand for licence-exempt spectrum
- Annex C: Demand for satellite services
- Annex D: Demand for backhaul
- Annex E: Spectrum sharing
Notes (September 2022):
- The deadline provided in paragraph 181 for comments has been changed from October 21, 2022 to November 21, 2022
Acronyms and abbreviations
- 3rd Generation Partnership Project
- fifth generation mobile network
- 5G New Radio
- ancillary terrestrial component
- advanced wireless services
- cellular vehicle-to-everything
- Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
- dynamic spectrum access
- dedicated short-range communications
- Earth exploration satellite service
- Earth observation
- Federal Communications Commission
- fixed satellite service
- geostationary orbit
- high-density fixed satellite service
- information and communications technology
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
- international mobile telecommunications
- Internet of Things
- Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- low Earth orbit
- multiple-input multiple-output
- mobile satellite service
- non-geostationary orbit
- National Mobile Service Provider
- New Radio-Unlicensed
- radio local area network
- World Radiocommunication Conference
Through this draft version of Spectrum Outlook 2022 to 2026 (the 2022 Outlook), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) seeks input from stakeholders to inform its management of Canada’s radio spectrum over the next five years.
Since the publication of Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 (the 2018 Outlook), ISED has achieved a number of significant spectrum policy milestones that have increased the availability of spectrum to Canadians. These milestones include auctions for key spectrum bands for 5G services: the 600 MHz and 3500 MHz bands. The frameworks for these auctions included the strongest deployment requirements to date. Over the licence term, these new frameworks will help to ensure that licensees pursue a “use it or lose it” approach to their spectrum holdings and undertake the investments needed to connect Canadians. ISED also increased availability by releasing additional spectrum for licence-exempt use; for example, the release of the 6 GHz band tripled the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi.
The 2022 Outlook outlines ISED’s spectrum plans to support wireless telecommunications services in Canada, with a focus on commercial mobile services, satellite services, backhaul applications and licence-exempt applications. When planning these releases and consultations, ISED considers the demand for various wireless services, international spectrum allocations, the development of equipment ecosystems and standards that would allow Canadians to access the latest technologies and leverage economies of scale.
Additionally, ISED is asking specific questions related to policy considerations and principles for its spectrum release plans, Indigenous connectivity, support for rural connectivity, environmental impacts, spectrum licence fee renewal, technological developments, prioritization of spectrum releases and consultations, and other drivers of demand.
Spectrum as an economic driver and enabler of Industry 4.0: Spectrum is essential in all aspects of life, from enabling the use of personal communication devices to playing a growing role in the Internet of Things. Spectrum is a key component of Industry 4.0’s trend towards automation and massive data exchange in manufacturing technologies in order to increase productivity, improve process efficiencies and enhance decision making.
Rural connectivity in the wake of COVID-19: COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards greater digital connectedness in the economic and social lives of Canadians. The sudden and much greater role of remote work, education, health care and shopping has revealed the extent to which high-speed Internet access is a necessity for all Canadians, no matter where they live. ISED is committed to supporting the provision of wireless services to rural and remote areas of the country, particularly where wired services are not available or feasible.
While significant progress has been made to bridge the digital divide, ISED recognizes that there is still more to be done in order to ensure that all Canadians have access to broadband services. Since the publication of the 2018 Outlook, ISED has moved ahead with a number of initiatives and will continue to provide a number of other supports.
Indigenous connectivity: Indigenous input is crucial in using spectrum policy to advance economic reconciliation. Indigenous service providers, businesses and communities have emphasized that existing consultation practices need to be more accessible. Going forward, ISED will consider ways of better engaging Indigenous peoples and developing a deeper understanding of the unique connectivity issues faced by Indigenous communities. The goal will be to use spectrum policy to address connectivity gaps and enable knowledge sharing in order to build capacity and make spectrum policy more accessible.
Spectrum, 5G and climate change: The Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, among other stakeholders, has highlighted the considerable potential of 5G as a means to support the greening of the Canadian economy. While the initial deployment of 5G networks may increase energy consumption, network improvements could offer significant reductions in energy use per bit. By enabling smart monitoring and control technologies, 5G applications could help industries optimize their energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions. Engaging a broader subset of private-sector stakeholders, as part of ISED’s band-specific spectrum consultations, and asking the right questions about possible environmental impacts of spectrum decisions will be key components feeding into this edition and future editions of the Spectrum Outlook.
Competition and wireless affordability: Since 2008, the Government of Canada has advanced a number of initiatives to promote a more competitive wireless market that offers consumers a wider range of choices at more affordable prices. One such initiative is the use of pro-competitive measures in spectrum auctions to provide regional and smaller operators with the opportunity to acquire the spectrum they need in order to offer competitive 5G services. For example, the Government reserves a portion of the spectrum available at auction for a certain subset of entities and limits the amount of spectrum a single provider can acquire in a given band or bands. These pro-competitive measures have been instrumental in supporting the emergence of strong regional competitors that provide Canadians with greater choice and more affordable mobile services.
ISED will continue to support competition so that Canadian consumers and companies can maximize the benefits they derive from wireless technologies.
Fee policy framework
Licence fees play an important role in incentivizing more efficient use of spectrum. Improvements to licence fee policies can potentially address growing demand while also supporting new and emerging licensing techniques such as dynamic spectrum access. ISED is planning to refine its policies in this area.
The objective of the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the radio frequency spectrum resource. ISED also proposes a number of other policy objectives that will guide the development of new fee proposals and the revision of existing fees:
- Incentivizing the efficient use of spectrum
- Obtaining a fair return for this finite public resource
- Supporting continued and improved quality and availability of services, including in rural and remote areas
Licences assigned through a system of competitive bidding (such as an auction) are not subject to fees; however, licences allocated through any other process are all subject to applicable fees, including licences assigned through an auction and renewed through a process at the end of the initial term. Fees must comply with applicable legislation, such as the Service Fees Act, and relevant policies, such as those outlined by the Treasury Board.
Drivers of spectrum demand
Overall demand for data, as well as the number of connected devices, will continue to grow in the coming years and is expected to impact the demand for spectrum. ISED reviewed the projected spectrum demand for commercial mobile and satellite services, and for licence-exempt and backhaul applications, and concluded the following:
- Demand for commercial mobile services is increasing, but existing and planned spectrum releases and consultations are likely to be able to meet the foreseeable demand.
- Non-geostationary, low Earth orbit technologies are transforming the satellite market. Demands for faster speeds and greater capacity are shifting demand to higher frequency bands.
- New applications and technologies for Wi-Fi and the Internet of Things continue to drive demand for licence-exempt spectrum. ISED’s spectrum allocation plans will enable Canadians to take full advantage of these new capabilities.
- New backhaul technologies and network designs will help operators meet growing demand for capacity, and existing and planned spectrum releases and consultations should be able to meet this demand.
Potential frequency band releases and consultations
The 2022 Outlook sets out ISED’s plans for spectrum release between 2022 and 2026. Each potential band for release and/or consultation is assigned a priority level to characterize ISED’s approach to the band. Section 13 contains additional information on the status of each band. Section 14 summarizes ISED’s priority for each band identified in section 13 as a frequency band for potential future release.
- Priority 1: These are bands that ISED plans to release and/or on which ISED plans to initiate a consultation.
- Priority 2: These are bands that ISED could potentially release and/or on which ISED could potentially initiate a consultation during this period.
- Priority 3: These are bands that ISED will regularly monitor.
ISED will accept comments on the issues raised in this document until November 21, before publishing a final version in late 2022 that takes stakeholder input into account.
1. Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, is consulting on the overall approach to and plan for managing and authorizing radio frequency spectrum from 2022 to 2026.
2. ISED recognizes that being connected to the digital world is crucial to helping all Canadians reach their potential, no matter where they live.
3. To that end, ISED sets policy to guide the management of Canada’s radio frequency spectrum in response to changing technological and socio-economic conditions. In 2022, these conditions include the demand for increased connectivity, the adoption of innovative wireless applications, the potential for technology to respond to climate change, and the Government’s efforts to grow the economy as the country emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic.
4. This document is a draft plan on which ISED is seeking input from stakeholders across Canada. ISED will publish a final version of the 2022 Outlook following a review of the stakeholder input.
ISED is seeking comments on the following questions:
- In light of the Government’s proposed policy direction to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission on a renewed approach to telecommunications policy, should the policy objective and enabling guidelines in the 2007 Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada continue to drive ISED’s overall approach to releasing spectrum? Are there other policy considerations that ISED should consider?
- Should any of the guiding principles listed in section 4 be removed or modified?
- Are there additional considerations other than the ones defined in section 7 to support rural connectivity?
- How can ISED’s spectrum management program best support Indigenous connectivity (see discussion in section 8)?
- How can ISED best address environmental impacts in the spectrum management program (see discussion in section 9)?
- Beyond the considerations around competition identified in section 10, what factors should drive ISED’s policy development and the use of competitive measures in future spectrum processes?
- Are the policy objectives, guiding principles and general timelines for licence fees outlined in section 11 the right ones, or should they be changed?
- What should ISED take into consideration when managing the spectrum over the next five years (see discussion in section 12)?
- Are there any other technology developments or sources of spectrum demand ISED should consider?
- When considering what spectrum bands ISED should prioritize over the next five years (see section 13), are the bands in table 1 the right ones, or are there other bands that ISED should be considering? Is the prioritization ISED has assigned to the bands correct?
5. Radio frequency spectrum (spectrum) is a finite resource that is an integral part of Canada’s telecommunications infrastructure. Spectrum can be used to access a broad range of private, commercial, consumer, defence, national security, scientific and public safety applications and services that benefit all Canadians.
6. The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, through the Department of Industry Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations, with due regard for the objectives of the Telecommunications Act, is responsible for spectrum management in Canada. This responsibility includes setting national policies for spectrum management. ISED’s spectrum management policies are guided by the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada, 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.
7. High-speed connectivity became even more important as an increasing number of Canadians relied on it to work and learn from home, access critical services and stay connected to family and friends during the COVID-19 pandemic. This reliance underscored the importance of managing and licensing spectrum in an agile, responsive and flexible manner in order to respond to rapid shifts in spectrum supply, demand and use.
8. Reliance on remote activities during COVID-19 further exposed the urban/rural digital divide and underscored the importance of access to high-quality wireless across the country, no matter where Canadians live and work. ISED is committed to promoting rural connectivity by releasing new spectrum and by ensuring that the licensing regime encourages deployment of high-speed services in rural areas.
9. Various industry sectors are increasingly relying on wireless technologies to develop innovative products. From precision agriculture to transportation and public safety, new wireless technologies are expected to enhance productivity and the efficient delivery of services to end-users. As identified in a World Economic Forum report on the impact of 5G, the development of these new use cases is anticipated to be a catalyst for growth, with a cumulative global economic value of $13.2 trillion by 2035. Accordingly, ISED is also examining how spectrum policies can best support the development of new wireless technologies.
10. The Spectrum Outlook outlines ISED’s plans to make spectrum available to support services and applications that are expected to require new or additional spectrum in the coming years. ISED monitors trends in spectrum use, demand and supply, and technological developments to make informed decisions about the release or the repurposing of spectrum. The pace of innovation in the telecommunications sector and the resulting increased demand for data are the principal challenges ISED faces in managing the competing demands for access to the limited spectrum supply.
11. Demand for broadband services with faster data rates and more sophisticated applications has been driving an increase in the spectrum requirements for commercial mobile, satellite, and backhaul services, as well as licence-exempt applications. New technologies and uses for spectrum are also having a significant impact on spectrum demand and are enabling new approaches to spectrum management.
12. When considering future spectrum releases and consultations, ISED carefully considers international spectrum allocations, including those from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). ISED also considers that the development of equipment ecosystems and standards is part of enabling access to the latest technologies. This work allows ISED to ensure Canadians have access to more affordable and advanced equipment made possible by globally harmonized spectrum use.
13. The following is a summary of topics covered in the 2022 Outlook:
- section 4: an outline of ISED’s principled approach to spectrum release
- sections 5 to 10: several spectrum-related themes that ISED considers relevant to the future direction of its spectrum management activities
- section 11: policy objectives, guiding principles and general timelines for licence fees
- section 12: an overview of the expected demand for all services and ISED’s objectives for each service or application (supported by several annexes)
- section 13: ISED’s overall approach and plans for spectrum releases and consultations from 2022 to 2026
- section 14: a summary of ISED’s priority for all bands listed in the previous section and the timing for Priority 1 bands
4. A principled approach to releasing spectrum
14. In delivering the Government’s spectrum management mandate, the Minister is guided by the policy objectives of the Telecommunications Act and the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada. These objectives seek to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from spectrum. The guidelines listed in the Framework also help steer ISED’s spectrum management activities, while allowing some flexibility to apply appropriate measures as required.
15. In the 2018 Outlook, with due regard to the policy objectives and enabling guidelines, ISED set out several elements of its principled approach to spectrum release:
- reliance on market forces in spectrum management to the maximum extent feasible
- recognition that market forces alone may not result in spectrum being available for the range of services that best serve the public interest
- timeliness of spectrum release, through alignment with international and domestic spectrum usage and demand, as well as technological development, equipment availability and approaches to maximizing the use of spectrum and fostering innovation
- a long-term view of spectrum release, taking into account the expected evolution of high-quality services and applications
- an open, transparent and strategic process for making spectrum available, including public consultation, that provides stakeholders with opportunities to provide input and additional information to ISED, while benefiting from additional predictability and investment certainty
- recognition of the potential of new and emerging technologies and techniques to optimize spectrum use
16. ISED will continue to be informed by the above approach as it moves forward on plans to make additional spectrum available or repurpose existing spectrum.
5. Policy themes
17. In this edition of the Spectrum Outlook, ISED is highlighting five of the policy themes that will inform the future direction of ISED’s spectrum management activities:
- Spectrum as an economic driver and enabler of Industry 4.0
- Rural connectivity in the wake of COVID-19
- Indigenous connectivity
- Spectrum, 5G and climate change
- Competition and wireless affordability
6. Policy theme 1: Spectrum as an economic driver and enabler of Industry 4.0
18. In 2020, the Canadian telecommunications industry, as a whole, reported operating revenues of $53.4 billion (up 24% from 2011), with mobile wireless revenues accounting for $27.9 billion of that total. Spectrum is the most important factor of production for telecommunications companies seeking to provide wireless services.
19. Canadians benefit from a wide variety of wireless devices and applications, from communication devices to always-on mobile connectivity:
- Wireless communication devices range from smartphones for voice calls, text messaging, banking, and Internet browsing and messaging, to subscription-free push-to-talk radios that connect co-located groups of people, satellites and satellite phones that connect communities and individuals in Canada’s North and other remote areas, and laptops that connect to publicly available Wi-Fi.
- Radio and television broadcasting depend on spectrum to provide Canadians with news and public affairs reports, entertainment, and public service announcements.
- First responders depend on reliable wireless communications for police, fire, ambulance and disaster response activities.
- Modern navigation employs a wide variety of devices and applications that require spectrum: smartphone navigator applications, navigation systems built into vehicles, complex mission-critical navigation systems on airplanes and ships, and radars.
- Remote monitoring and control applications range such as vehicle starters and remote-control toys, industrial drones, telemetry systems tracking the location of vehicles or other assets, remote health monitors, and remote weather monitoring equipment.
20. Radiocommunications equipment and wireless connectivity are key enablers of businesses in many sectors of the economy and increasingly support the development of new products, services and employee workplaces. They also enable companies to be more efficient, productive and innovative, leading to better and more affordable product and service offerings.
21. Canadians increasingly rely on products that feature built-in radios, including remote-control devices such as garage-door openers, television remotes, smart-home control devices, in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspots, drones, and Bluetooth-enabled devices. Statista’s report on the smart-home market found that the proportion of Canadians expected to own a smart-home device in 2021 (27.9%) was significant and forecast to grow rapidly.
22. ISED is seeking to ensure the availability of spectrum that supports the emergence of Internet of Things (IoT) devices that provide wireless-enabled services in all sectors of the economy. For example, many commercial mobile service providers offer IoT solutions for tracking vehicle fleets, assets and goods in transit. These services are set to evolve, in tandem with 5G networks, into innovative new services that will increase efficiencies in the transportation and shipping industries.
23. Manufacturers and operators of drones, which are also known as remotely piloted aircraft systems, have highlighted their interest in using different spectrum bands, including commercial mobile spectrum bands. Drones are currently permitted only in certain licence-exempt bands, such as the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands, and are not permitted to operate in commercial mobile spectrum bands. Existing cross-border agreements, domestic policies and technical standards have been established for terrestrial systems (i.e. base stations communicating with user equipment located near the surface of the earth). ISED intends to release a future consultation on the use of drones in additional bands. Testing of drones in various bands, including commercial mobile bands, may be authorized under a developmental licence, as applicable.
24. Initial deployments of 5G networks have focused on coverage, while future deployments are expected to focus on generating higher data transfer rates, improved connectivity and higher system capacity.
25. Advanced 5G features, such as ultra-reliable low-latency connections, massive machine-to-machine communication, and network slicing, will enable the expansion of remote medicine, the development of autonomous vehicles and the optimization of sensing and artificial intelligence for agriculture and manufacturing through efficient, re-configurable mobile wireless networks. Accenture Strategy’s 2018 white paper, Fuel for Innovation–Canada’s Path in the Race to 5G, reported that from 2020 to 2026, 5G would contribute the following to the Canadian economy: $40 billion, 250,000 jobs and $26 billion in capital investment by carriers.
6.1 Spectrum, 5G and Industry 4.0
26. A World Economic Forum (WEF) report entitled The Fourth Industrial Revolution: what it means, how to respond outlines four main industrial revolutions:
- First revolution: Use of coal and steam power to mechanize production
- Second revolution: Use of electric power to create mass production
- Third revolution: Use of electronics and information technology to automate production
- Fourth revolution: A trend of automation and massive data exchange in manufacturing technologies (Industry 4.0), including cyber-physical systems, the IoT, cloud and cognitive computing, and the smart factory
27. 5G supports Industry 4.0 and will help to accelerate the expansion of the IoT. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report from June 2020, with the emergence of 5G, global mobile data traffic is forecast to be five times busier by 2025, with 5G networks accounting for about 45% of the total traffic. Meeting this level of connectivity will require new spectrum allocations such as the following:
- mobile and fixed wireless access services to connect caregivers, consumers, industry, vehicles, and public and private sensor networks through the IoT
- backhaul and satellite connections to the Internet for households and the above services
- licence-exempt applications and ecosystems to extend coverage and provide extra capacity and support for streamed audio and video
28. Spectrum is a key component of Industry 4.0 and one that will dramatically change almost every aspect of life, including how people live, work and communicate. These changes will increase productivity, improve the efficiencies of processes, provide greater safety for workers by reducing jobs in dangerous environments, and enhance decision making. Continued careful management of the spectrum resource will be necessary to realize the benefits of innovative wireless services. Careful management includes coordinating the use of spectrum domestically and internationally, as well as ensuring spectrum is used fairly and optimally. Specifically, ISED is committed to supporting innovation through competitive (e.g. auctions) and non-competitive (e.g. first-come, first-served) licensing processes. These processes will make spectrum available to a wide range of new and existing users across a range of service areas, including in rural and remote regions of the country.
29. The WEF anticipates that Industry 4.0 will manage and optimize future manufacturing processes and supply chains to make smarter and faster decisions leading to higher efficiency and profitability.
30. Various industry sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, precision agriculture, transportation and public safety, are increasingly relying on wireless technologies to develop innovative goods and services. These technologies are expected to enhance productivity and the efficient delivery of services to end-users, often at reduced cost. The development of advanced 5G features, such as ultra-reliable low-latency connections, massive machine-to-machine communication and network slicing, will further enable the expansion of remote medicine and the development of autonomous vehicles, agriculture and manufacturing optimization through sensing and artificial intelligence, and efficient, re-configurable mobile wireless networks.
31. While experts believe that the future of 5G is a key enabler for Industry 4.0, there are several wireless technologies emerging as key enabler candidates, including Wi-Fi 6E and 5G New Radio-Unlicensed (NR-U) in licence-exempt spectrum bands, and 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) and 5G in licensed spectrum bands. Regardless of the technology used, there is an emerging need for privately owned and operated wireless networks that can offer critical or secure IoT. Consequently, spectrum policy will need to ensure that businesses have enough spectrum to address this need.
32. Verticals, a term used to refer to companies and organizations that operate in industries such as manufacturing, transportation, agriculture, energy and health, have traditionally used a mix of public and private networks to meet their connectivity needs. Some verticals partner with telecommunications providers to gain access to advanced spectrum-based telecommunications services without a corresponding investment in telecommunications expertise and infrastructure.
33. However, verticals may also benefit from specialized uses, such as private networks, which enable a wide range of automated, robotic and remote operations for real-time monitoring, dispatching and emergency notifications. For example, agricultural and manufacturing sites are likely to make use of spectrum for automated operations such as crop tracking or product traceability, which require high levels of bandwidth and network performance. Private networks are also likely to provide operators with the flexibility to satisfy their specific connectivity and coverage needs, and the ability to manage their own networks in order to provide the quality of services they deem appropriate.
34. ISED recognizes that spectrum policy should seek to address the needs of verticals by ensuring they can access the spectrum they need to support their business. For example, making it easier for firms to deploy a non-public network in combination with a public network could enable greater use/reuse of network infrastructure, more efficient utilization of spectrum and more seamless mobility (see Ericsson’s 5G spectrum for local industrial networks).
35. Various regulators worldwide are considering new licensing approaches that enable localized access to spectrum for wireless services. Seven countries (the United Kingdom [UK], Sweden, Germany, France, Finland, New Zealand, and Japan) have implemented frameworks that facilitate localized access to mid-band spectrum, and six of those countries (UK, Sweden, Germany, Finland, Australia, and Japan) have implemented local licensing frameworks for spectrum in the millimetre wave (mmWave) bands.
36. ISED is also planning to make locally licensed spectrum available. Through SPB00322, Consultation on a Non-Competitive Local Licensing Framework, Including Spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band and Portions of the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, ISED will make spectrum available to a variety of users that will benefit from a flexible approach to spectrum access through the use of local or smaller area licensing. The release of this spectrum is expected to support private broadband networks on enterprise campuses such as universities, stadiums and shopping centres. By focusing on approaches that make spectrum easily available in localized areas and that facilitate deployment in different sectors of the economy, ISED enables Canadian consumers to benefit from the resulting increase in investment and innovation.
37. In introducing local licensing, ISED is exploring new licensing methods to modernize its licensing system. For example, ISED is considering how, and to what degree, automation may be adopted in order to manage an increasing licence volume. Depending on the chosen approach, legislative amendments could be warranted to support these new licensing methods and tools.
38. Further, as several competing wireless technologies emerge, ISED recognizes that alternative licensing processes, such as spectrum sharing, may be required not only as a means to facilitate access to spectrum, but also to support capacity and connectivity requirements, and advanced 5G features. As ISED prepares to make available critical 5G spectrum in the coming years, the Department is committed to ongoing engagement with stakeholders to inform its approach and achieve these objectives.
7. Policy theme 2: Rural connectivity in the wake of COVID-19
39. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards greater reliance on digital connectedness in the economic and social lives of Canadians.
40. The sudden dependence on Internet connectivity to support remote work, education, health care and shopping during the pandemic revealed the extent to which high-speed Internet access is a necessity for all Canadians, no matter where they live.
41. As part of the Government pandemic response, ISED approved a number of emergency spectrum-sharing arrangements and authorizations through which service providers accessed additional spectrum to meet increased network demand. To help keep rural and remote areas connected, ISED issued special authorizations for temporary access to spectrum in the 5.9 GHz band.
42. ISED will continue to consider short-term authorizations and fast-track sharing arrangements to address any other acute situations that arise, pandemic-related or other. Such temporary and short-term measures could be approved quickly. ISED will continue to consider any longer-term changes through its normal processes for amending spectrum policies and technical rules.
7.1 Supporting rural connectivity
43. Through Canada’s Connectivity Strategy, the Government aims to provide universal access to broadband speeds of 50 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 10 Mbps for uploads (50/10 Internet), and to improve mobile cellular access across the country, including along major highways and roads. Over the past five years, the Government has made available billions of dollars to support the introduction of high-speed Internet services to rural and remote areas of the country.
44. In Budget 2019, the Government announced $1 billion under the Universal Broadband Fund (UBF) for connecting Canadians living in rural and remote areas to high-speed Internet. To help accelerate connectivity and ensure all Canadians are connected, the 2020 Fall Economic Statement committed an additional $750 million to the UBF and $50 million to support mobile Internet for Indigenous peoples.
45. In Budget 2021, the Government committed an additional $1 billion to the UBF over six years, bringing the total commitment under the UBF to $2.75 billion. The UBF commitments announced in Budget 2021 built on announcements made in the September 2020 Speech from the Throne that stated the Government’s intention to accelerate the connectivity timelines and ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live, have access to high-speed Internet. This investment will support the Government’s goal of connecting 98% of Canadians across the country to high-speed Internet by 2026, and connecting all Canadians by 2030.
46. Funding for connectivity in underserved rural and remote areas is also available through the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) $750-million Broadband Fund, general infrastructure programs administered by Infrastructure Canada and Indigenous Services Canada, and the Canada Infrastructure Bank’s low-cost broadband financing. These efforts are augmented by low Earth orbit (LEO) satellite developments. For example, the Government has partnered with Telesat and invested up to $600 million to secure LEO satellite capacity over Canada in order to reach the most remote communities. These satellites will provide high-bandwidth, low-latency broadband Internet coverage to rural and remote regions of Canada, including the North.
47. The pandemic highlighted how important it is for Canadians in rural and remote regions to have access to fast, reliable Internet and mobile wireless services. Gaps in connectivity leave citizens in rural and remote areas at risk of falling behind in the digital economy. For example, according to the CRTC’s Communications Market Reports - Open Data, 99.2% of Canadian urban households had access to broadband speeds of at least 50/10 Mbps in 2020, compared to only 54.4% of rural households. In terms of mobile coverage, 99.5% of the population had access to LTE services, and 88.5% of major roads and highways had access to LTE coverage.
48. Gaps in broadband and LTE coverage in Canada are predominantly found in rural, remote and Indigenous communities. To close these gaps, Canada must harness wireless technology to support its rural connectivity initiatives, whether through mobile, fixed or satellite broadband, and to better serve rural homes and businesses where wireline solutions are not feasible due to economics, geography or other factors.
49. ISED has sought to encourage the deployment of wireless services to rural, remote and Indigenous communities across Canada through a number of different initiatives and approaches. In Canada's Connectivity Strategy, the Government committed to develop and administer licensing frameworks that 1) facilitate access to spectrum, 2) prepare for next generation satellites, and 3) consider new approaches that will support and encourage service provision in rural and remote areas. While work has progressed in the numerous areas outlined below, ISED recognizes that there is still more to be done in order to ensure that all Canadians have access to broadband services, and the Department will continue to review its licensing frameworks to ensure they support rural access.
7.1.1 More targeted licence areas
50. On July 24, 2019, ISED published DGSO-006-19, Decision on a New Set of Service Areas for Spectrum Licensing. That decision introduced smaller geographic areas, Tier 5 areas, to make it easier for smaller regional service providers to acquire spectrum and serve rural and remote areas. Tier 5 service areas improve access to spectrum, further the efficient use of spectrum across Canada, and help address the unique geographical distribution of Canada’s population. Tier 5 complements Tiers 1 to 4 and gives ISED greater flexibility when designing licensing frameworks to better address new and different services, technologies, applications and use cases, such as new services enabled by 5G and IoT applications. For example, in higher frequency bands where the signal propagation distance is generally shorter and there is therefore a lower potential for interference, the use of Tier 5 areas may be more appropriate.
51. ISED has used the smaller size of Tier 5 service areas to enable licensing policies that more closely meet the needs of various geographic areas. The structured “where and when necessary” transition process planned as part of the 3500 MHz band includes transitioning to Tier 5 service areas, as indicated in SLPB-001-20, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band.
52. In SPB-001-22, Consultation on a Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, ISED proposed to use Tier 5 service areas in the upcoming mmWave spectrum auction.
53. Over the next five years, ISED will continue to assess the requirements of new services and applications when establishing licensing frameworks and will ensure that the licensing areas are aligned with the intended uses, taking into account spectrum demand, emerging technologies and interference potential.
7.1.2 Low-cost spectrum
54. Another element of ISED’s approach to encouraging wireless coverage in rural and remote areas is making spectrum available at a lower cost or at no cost at all, including providing additional spectrum for licence-exempt applications, such as Wi-Fi and white space.
55. In 2021, ISED published SMSE-006-21, Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band, to support greater choice and affordability of wireless broadband for Canadian consumers. The decision tripled the spectrum available for Wi-Fi by allowing for an additional 1200 MHz. More spectrum available for Wi-Fi means Canadians will benefit from increased speed and connectivity for working from home, participating in online education and accessing health care services remotely. This decision also allows for more affordable deployment of broadband technology in rural areas and increased access to spectrum for Canadian businesses and innovators looking to use it.
56. Moreover, there is now an active and growing TV white space (TVWS) ecosystem, with two TVWS database administrators and licence-exempt TVWS devices available. In the last year, ISED has seen increased deployments of this licence-exempt technology to support broadband Internet services, especially in rural and remote locations across Canada. Giving providers access to low- or no-cost spectrum options with lower regulatory barriers can help providers offer improved broadband service in rural and remote areas.
7.1.3 Spectrum deployment requirements
57. Deployment requirements serve as a “use it or lose it” requirement. In other words, if at any point in the licence term the licensee is not in compliance with its deployment conditions, the Minister may invoke various compliance and enforcement measures, including warnings, administrative monetary penalties, and licence amendments, suspensions or revocations. All of ISED’s recently auctioned spectrum licences include a requirement that spectrum be used to provide service to a percentage of the population of a particular service area by a given deadline. Traditionally, licensees could meet these requirements by serving more urban areas. However, over the past six years, ISED has strengthened these deployment requirements to encourage the delivery of services in rural and underserved areas.
58. In a couple of notable examples, the licences for the 600 MHz auction (completed in April 2019) and the 3500 MHz auction (completed in July 2021) included deployment requirements obligating licensees to expand their networks throughout their licence area over the course of their licence term. The framework for the 3800 MHz auction and the proposals for the mmWave auction also include deployment requirements that increase throughout the licence term.
59. In addition, recognizing that current mobile service providers are well placed to quickly deploy newly acquired spectrum, ISED added the requirement that licences in the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz auctions demonstrate, within even tighter timelines, that they are using the spectrum in all areas where they have existing mid-band LTE coverage. ISED expects these more stringent deployment requirements to result in licensees providing coverage to more households within their licence area and ushering in next-generation services more quickly.
60. ISED believes that these strengthened deployment requirements will help Canadians in rural and remote areas benefit from the spectrum in a more timely manner. Over the next five years, ISED will continue to require that auctioned spectrum be put to use more promptly so that all Canadians, including those in rural communities, benefit from this finite resource.
7.1.4 Reforms to licence fees
61. Licence fees are an important policy tool and may have a role in addressing issues such as the growing demand for spectrum. ISED recently updated its licence fees for microwave point-to-point licences and modernized the licensing and fee framework for satellite services, with the objectives of encouraging the efficient use of spectrum and supporting the deployment of modern satellite technologies such as LEO constellations and advanced high-throughput geostationary (GSO) satellites.
62. In the coming years, ISED will review the fee structures for the remaining terrestrial services, including considering different fees for rural and remote areas (see section 11). In rural and remote areas, ISED recognizes that business and investment cases may be more challenging, and the cost and availability of spectrum may be a factor for providers in deciding whether and where to offer services. To accommodate the varied circumstances of different communities, ISED is proposing that its future work regarding licence fees aim to support continued and improved quality and availability of services across Canada, including in rural and remote areas.
7.1.5 Additional spectrum for rural services
63. Recently, ISED has taken a number of steps to make available spectrum that could benefit rural and remote regions. Of note, SLPB-004-21, Consultation on New Access Licensing Framework, Changes to Subordinate Licensing and White Space to Support Rural and Remote Deployment, provided more opportunity to make spectrum available for supporting rural and remote broadband coverage. Additionally, SPB-003-22, Consultation on a Non-Competitive Local Licensing Framework, Including Spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band and Portions of the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, will facilitate deployment in smaller, more targeted areas, and may enable wireless broadband services and wireless Internet service providers to bolster connectivity in various regions across the country.
64. Through the decision to open the 6 GHz band, published in May 2021, ISED decided to allow licence-exempt Radio Local Area Network (RLAN) use in the 5925-7125 MHz band. ISED also determined that releasing 950 MHz of spectrum in the 5925-6875 MHz frequency range for standard-power operation will encourage broad uptake of standard-power RLAN deployment in the band; therefore, ISED decided to permit standard-power RLANs to operate on a licence-exempt basis under the control of an automated frequency coordination system.
65. Service providers are expected to use this newly released spectrum to deliver broadband services to residential and business customers in rural areas. Furthermore, through SMSE-004-22, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for Radio Local Area Network Devices in the 5850-5895 MHz Frequency Band and for Intelligent Transportation Systems in the 58955925 MHz Frequency Band, ISED is proposing to release 45 MHz of spectrum for RLAN technology under a licence-exempt regime, supporting broadband Internet services in all parts of Canada.
66. With satellite services playing a vital role in providing communications in rural areas, ISED has also taken measures to facilitate the availability of satellite services across Canada’s vast land mass, including the licensing and fee reforms mentioned above. Certain initiatives are expected to benefit the deployment of these services today and in the years to come. These include the Ka-band decision (discussed in annex C of this document, specifically section C2.3) and ISED’s work at World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 on the development, sharing and coordination rules for satellite services across numerous bands.
7.1.6 Spectrum access
67. When developing its spectrum policies, ISED considers the impact of its decisions on the availability of broadband services in underserved areas. ISED aims to support the continued role of wireless Internet service providers in providing high-speed broadband connectivity to Canadians in rural areas, particularly as targets for broadband Internet speed rise to at least 50/10 Mbps.
68. Small and regional providers often cite the lack of access to quality spectrum and the lack of readily available information on available spectrum as impediments to their deployment of wireless broadband services in rural and remote areas. However, ISED has been exploring ways to improve spectrum access by including measures to support competition in its auction processes. In addition to supporting lower prices and greater choice in the marketplace, pro-competitive measures can give regional and wireless Internet service providers the opportunity to acquire the spectrum they need to grow their businesses including in rural, remote and northern areas. ISED will continue to explore ways to facilitate access to spectrum outside of competitive licensing processes.
69. Section 14, below, reviews additional initiatives ISED will pursue while it continues to develop licensing policies that facilitate the spectrum access of smaller regional providers in order to support services in rural and remote areas.
70. In SLPB-004-21, Consultation on New Access Licensing Framework, Changes to Subordinate Licensing and White Space to Support Rural and Remote Deployment, ISED proposed a new framework for licensing unused spectrum and simplifying access to both the secondary market and to more shared white space spectrum. This new framework will provide more opportunity to make spectrum available to support rural and remote broadband coverage.
71. ISED will also continue to explore additional ways to facilitate spectrum sharing, particularly in rural areas, in order to encourage deployment in underserved and unserved areas. Spectrum sharing allows disparate spectrum users to share frequencies without causing or experiencing interference. Through spectrum sharing, regulators can better optimize spectrum use by enabling multiple services to share the same frequency bands through geographical separation, management of power, and/or the use of databases and control systems to coordinate access.
72. ISED is of the view that spectrum sharing will be a key enabler for meeting the anticipated high demand for spectrum. ISED intends to continue to develop database-driven spectrum-sharing models to support departmental policy objectives and leverage modern spectrum-management automation technologies. ISED will continue researching and following advances in spectrum sharing through collaborative spectrum sensing and artificial intelligence-enabled radios and systems entering the commercial realm.
7.1.7 Emerging technologies and applications
73. A number of emerging technologies could significantly improve broadband services in rural and remote communities. For example, several companies are deploying constellations of small satellites in LEO that could enhance broadband communications across Canada, including deployments in satellite-dependent communities in Canada’s North and other remote locations.
74. Given these northern and remote deployments, ISED released Decision on the Utilization of the Bands 18.819.3 GHz and 28.6-29.1 GHz, and the Bands 17.3-17.7 GHz, 19.319.7 GHz and 29.129.25 GHz by the Fixed-Satellite Service in June 2020. The decision grants co-primary status to Canadian GSO and NGSO fixed satellite service licensees in the 18.8-19.3 GHz and the 28.6-29.1 GHz bands, providing an equal opportunity for coordinated use of spectrum by both types of systems. The intention was to increase the potential for new and innovative services to be delivered in rural and remote areas of Canada.
75. Other technologies could also improve services to rural customers. Over the next five years, ISED will study emerging technologies and applications, and amend existing standards or create new ones, as necessary, to reflect the latest advancements and support the entry of new and innovative products into Canada.
8. Policy theme 3: Indigenous connectivity
76. Indigenous input is crucial to using spectrum policy to advance economic reconciliation. Going forward, ISED will consider ways of better engaging Indigenous peoples and developing a deeper understanding of the unique connectivity issues faced by Indigenous communities.
8.1 Impact of COVID-19
77. Many Indigenous communities in Canada face barriers in accessing reliable internet. The CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report data indicate that only 39% of First Nations reserves have access to high-speed Internet at speeds of 50/10 Mbps, compared with 99% of urban households and 54% of rural households. Inuit communities also face significant barriers in accessing reliable Internet. Information from the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Reports – Open Data indicates that while 99.6% of households in Nunavut had access to download speeds of 10 Mbps in 2019, no households had Internet access at speeds of 50/10 Mbps.
78. While the pandemic has shown the importance of having resilient digital service platforms in place to access health care, education and remote work, connectivity gaps mean that Indigenous communities often have limited access to these service platforms. Accelerating efforts to address connectivity gaps in Indigenous communities is therefore more crucial than ever to address long-standing inequities faced by Indigenous peoples.
8.2 Supporting indigenous connectivity
79. Targeting connectivity gaps in rural and remote areas is a crucial step towards closing the gaps in Indigenous connectivity. The 2021 Census reported that over 50% of municipalities that identify as Indigenous communities are situated in the most remote areas of Canada.
8.3 Role of spectrum
80. More and more Indigenous service providers, business and communities in Canada are taking an interest in access to spectrum. In remote Indigenous communities, access to spectrum can have crucial benefits to accelerating broadband connectivity, establishing reliable cell service, improving access to emergency response services, building economic resiliency amongst Indigenous-led businesses and facilitating the participation and connectedness of remote Indigenous communities with the rest of Canada.
81. Indigenous service providers, business and communities have called for more inclusive and collaborative ways of assigning spectrum over their territories. Indigenous advocates have pointed out that when fibre optic lines are damaged, cell phone service in remote regions is compromised, and this can be dangerous in life-threatening emergency situations (see The Wire Report article). Additional spectrum can build redundancy in connectivity infrastructure, allowing communities to stay connected using wireless networks when wired infrastructure is temporarily non-functional.
82. In many Indigenous communities in Northern Canada, satellites not only play a vital role in providing telecommunications and broadcasting services, they also sometimes provide the only means to reach a community. ISED is considering the role that emerging technologies such as LEO satellite technologies can play in connecting communities where fibre lines may not be feasible. For instance, by deploying LEO satellite technology, the 3,000-person community of Pikangikum First Nation successfully connected its citizens to advanced broadband services.
83. Providers serving remote communities have called for more stringent rules to require that licensed spectrum be used in a timely fashion. Most of ISED’s recently auctioned spectrum licences include a requirement that the spectrum be used to provide service to a percentage of the population of a particular service area by a given deadline. Traditionally, licensees could meet these requirements by serving more urban areas. However, over the past six years, ISED has made these deployment requirements stronger in order to encourage the delivery of services further into rural and underserved areas.
84. ISED expects stronger deployment requirements to result in licensees providing coverage to more households within their licence area, resulting in greater connectivity for remote Indigenous communities across Canada. A number of other policies aimed at supporting rural connectivity, described in section 7, are also expected to benefit Indigenous communities in rural and remote areas. These policies include more targeted licence areas, reforms to licence fees, and decisions and consultations such as the 6 GHz decision and the consultation on a new Access Licensing framework.
8.4 International landscape
85. Other jurisdictions are developing regulatory frameworks and policies so that benefits of spectrum can be maximized for Indigenous peoples. There has been some progress in various countries concerning Indigenous access to spectrum and engagement on spectrum matters.
86. In 2010, the United States established the Office of Native Affairs and Policy (ONAP), which focuses on engaging Indigenous communities in ongoing consultations and disseminating information on Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceedings to Indigenous communities and First Nations groups. In 2018, under ONAP, the FCC established the Native Nations Communications Connectivity Task Force to ensure that the voices of Indigenous peoples are reflected in policy development. Furthermore, to incentivize service providers to secure licences in designated Tribal areas, the FCC introduced Tribal land bidding credits. Finally, the FCC has also introduced a rural Tribal priority window so that tribes in rural areas can have priority access to unassigned spectrum in their Tribal lands, subject to buildout requirements.
87. New Zealand established the Te Hurrahi Tika Trust in 2000, which enabled the Mori to access 15 MHz of 3G mobile spectrum that they used to support the launch of a mobile wireless provider (called 2degrees) across New Zealand. In February 2022, New Zealand also announced a historic spectrum agreement with the Mori that stipulates that 20% of all commercial spectrum will go to the Mori, and a permanent Mori spectrum entity will be established to represent Mori interests in spectrum policy.
88. In 2021, Mexico’s supreme court passed a decision that exempts the Indigenous-owned Telecomunicaciones Indigenas Comunitarias (TIC) from paying large fees to use radio spectrum and allows the TIC to provide affordable telecommunication services to the most disadvantaged people in Mexico, specifically the country’s 18 Indigenous communities.
8.5 Next steps
89. Indigenous feedback is crucial to develop policies that ensure ISED can find ways to meaningfully engage with Indigenous stakeholders and use spectrum policy to advance economic reconciliation. Indigenous stakeholders have emphasized that existing consultation practices need to be more accessible.
90. Going forward, ISED will consider ways of better engaging Indigenous peoples and will explore ways to develop a deeper understanding of the unique connectivity issues faced by Indigenous communities. The goal will be to use spectrum policy to address connectivity gaps, to enable knowledge sharing to build capacity and to make spectrum policy more accessible.
9. Policy theme 4: Spectrum, 5G and climate change
91. The Government of Canada’s November 2021 Speech from the Throne committed to build a more resilient, sustainable and competitive economy. The digital economy and next-generation technology solutions can enable significant and positive gains toward building a more environmentally sustainable Canada in all industrial sectors. In addition, the Government published Restart, recover, and reimagine prosperity for all Canadians - An ambitious growth plan for building a digital, sustainable and innovative economy. This October 2020 report from the Industry Strategy Council references the trend towards a more digital economy and a focus on clean energy and technology as key pillars for economic growth and recovery.
92. Wireless technologies can play a critical role in Canada’s green economic recovery. The advanced services and technologies unlocked by 5G have the potential to drive greenhouse gas emission reductions and help achieve greater efficiency and sustainability. 5G will also enhance Canadians’ ability to incorporate big data, sensory-based technologies, advanced mobile computing and other cutting-edge communication technologies into efficiency-enhancing processes across all industrial sectors.
93. This section of the 2022 Outlook sets out various views of the potential impacts of 5G technology on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as the potential risks, the benefits, and the myriad factors that should be considered as ISED seeks to support sustainable economic recovery plans.
9.1 Risks and opportunities for the information and communications technology sector
94. The information and communications technology (ICT) sector faces a green challenge in that 5G, like the previous generations of wireless networks (2G, 3G and 4G), is likely to require increased electricity consumption, along with growing greenhouse gas emissions. According to an Ericsson research paper on the ICT sector’s carbon footprint, the sector currently represents about 3.6% of global electricity consumption and 1.4% of global carbon emissions.
95. Some communications service providers have estimated that they will need to double their energy consumption in order to meet increasing traffic demands while improving their networks (see Euractiv’s 2020 article on 5G increasing network energy consumption). Also, according to Accenture’s 2020 report entitled Accelerating 5G in Canada: The Role of 5G in the Fight Against Climate Change [PDF: 3.9 MB], 5G is expected to reduce the energy use (per bit of data transmitted) by up to 90% from what 4G required. However, it is widely anticipated that when 5G is rolled out, overall demand for data will increase significantly, possibly erasing much of these energy savings.
96. The 2020 State of the Planet report on the “coming 5G revolution,” published by the Earth Institute at Columbia University, assessed the potential impact of 5G on the environment and cautioned that “if the entire system is not energy efficient, 5G will ultimately not be sustainable.” The report estimated that there will be 2.6 billion global 5G subscribers and 5.8 billion mobile subscriptions by 2025, along with 125 billion devices connected to the IoT by 2030, accounting for up to 20% of all global electricity consumption and, by 2040, 14% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.
97. However, on a network level, energy consumption might not be directly linked to how much data is carried on the network. For example, energy consumption grew markedly when 4G networks were initially deployed, but this consumption did not necessarily track the growth in network traffic. When each generation of network is fully built out, companies typically work to make the network more efficient as a whole, allowing for the growth in network data levels while energy use stays level.
98. While there are valid climate-related concerns associated with the rollout of 5G, Canada is well positioned to capitalize on its comparative advantages for environmentally sustainable economic growth. That is because the country’s electricity grid is cleaner than that of many other jurisdictions. Currently, 82% of Canadian electricity comes from sources that do not emit greenhouse gases, such as hydroelectric power, renewables and nuclear energy (see Natural Resources Canada’s 2021-2022 Energy Fact Book on its Energy Facts web page). The Government is aiming to reach 90% non-emitting electricity by 2030 (see the electricity goals in the Federal actions for a clean growth economy). This contrasts with a current global average of just 37% coming from low-carbon sources (see the International Energy Agency’s Global Energy Review 2019).
99. According to the GSMA project report from 2020 entitled Smart Grid 5G Network Slicing, 5G will bring advances in smart grid technology that help to optimize energy use and enable better integration with the power grid. The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation reports the following 5G benefits in buildings: improved reliability and resilience, improved integration of distributed energy resources such as rooftop solar energy, avoided electricity capacity buildouts, and reduced environmental impacts (see Beyond the Energy Techlash: The Real Climate Impacts of Information Technology).
100. Canada has already recognized that the smart grid is a key component of the Green Infrastructure Program. Canada’s Smart Grid Program is investing $100 million in utility-led projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, use existing assets more efficiently and foster innovation. Smart grids are key to mitigating greenhouse gas emissions as they make better use of the outputs of our existing electricity infrastructure and increase the resiliency of our infrastructure to advance climate change goals.
101. The benefits from greenhouse gas reductions enabled by 5G in Canada could be much more pronounced than the risks associated with the increased electrical use required to power 5G. For example, 5G could enable smart transportation solutions that optimize vehicle traffic patterns and reduce congestion; extended reality technologies that support remote work and machine operation; and more sophisticated and widespread use of connected building technology to monitor and automate building heating, ventilation and air conditioning, and lighting systems.
9.2 Internet of Things
102. IoT devices around the world could number 125 billion by 2030, according to UK information and analytics firm IHS Markit’s report entitled The Internet of Things: a movement, not a market [PDF: 2.3 MB]. Billions of sensors in factories and cities, on farms, and in homes already provide the foundational elements. Powered by a variety of technologies, including 5G, IoT devices will enable innovation, drive the required de-carbonization and, ultimately, support a sustainable future for everyone.
103. While an exponential increase in 5G-enabled IoT and ICT solutions will increase electricity consumption, such solutions can help cut by 9.7 times the carbon dioxide emissions they emit (see the Ericsson article entitled How can 5G & IoT enable exponential climate action?). ICT solutions could help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15% by 2030, while being responsible for less than 2% of the global carbon footprint, according to another Ericsson article on climate action.
104. In an article on 5G investment, Accenture estimates that, with the implementation of 5G, mobile technologies will enable a 48 to 54-million tonne reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in Canada by 2025. That is the equivalent of taking 10.5 million passenger vehicles off the road for a full year.
105. According to McKinsey & Company’s 2020 report on new strategies in the 5G era, the most important contribution of 5G to energy efficiency may come through industrial advances that enhance operational effectiveness. Smart, wirelessly connected factories, cities, power grids and transportation networks will be able to optimize and reduce their power consumption, which will result in meaningful contributions to global climate change responses.
9.3 Network improvements
106. From a network perspective, despite the increased demand for data, the energy consumption associated with the move to 5G can be significantly reduced. Industry is calling 5G the most energy-aware wireless standard (see Euractiv article on 5G and energy consumption). Technological improvements to 5G telecommunications equipment, such as smarter sleep modes and more efficient data transmission, will help to reduce the amount of energy used by connected devices and network equipment. Telecommunications equipment vendors are currently developing and marketing such devices.
107. These devices, combined with a new approach to deploying the network, have the potential to quadruple data traffic without increasing energy consumption (see the Euractiv article). The approach involves replacing network assets, using energy-saving software, deploying 5G with better precision and operating site infrastructure more intelligently. Moreover, some experts argue that once networks mature, more energy-efficient features will come online, thus optimizing energy consumption (see the Euractiv article).
108. The deployment of 5G networks will have a transformative impact on operational effectiveness and spur efficiency gains across all major industrial sectors, leading to lower greenhouse gas emissions in some of the highest-emitting sectors, including transportation, manufacturing and energy. According to Accenture’s report on accelerating 5G the accelerated rollout of 5G networks is viewed as a major enabler, essential to reaching energy and emission-reduction goals.
9.4 5G applications beyond telecommunications
109. In light of the many benefits 5G will bring to key economic sectors, including enhanced wireless connectivity and new use cases that will result in emission reductions, any spectrum decisions ISED makes must consider the impact on industries beyond just those in the telecommunications sector. Policymakers play a vital role in managing the spectrum that underpins developments in telecommunications and connectivity. The potential for environmental benefits stemming both directly and indirectly from advanced wireless networks and technology reinforces the need for ISED to make spectrum available for 5G in a timely manner.
110. One of the principal policy challenges will be to make the right amount of spectrum available at the right time for an increasingly diverse range of players. In this context, ISED recognizes the importance of balance: assigning spectrum to verticals in order to promote innovation, while continuing to make the spectrum resource available to commercial mobile providers to improve their networks.
111. Finding a balance between commercial mobile providers and verticals will be integral to unlocking the full potential of 5G as a key driver of Canada’s post-pandemic recovery, including supporting the transition to a greener economy. For example, clear, credible and stable economic policies coupled with 5G and 5G-enabled ICTs can facilitate energy saving and low-carbon innovations across all industries. Moving forward, ISED will engage a broader subset of private-sector stakeholders in band-specific spectrum consultations to enable industry to realize innovative technologies, including those that support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.
112. Engaging a broader subset of private-sector stakeholders as part of ISED’s band-specific spectrum consultations and asking the right questions about possible environmental impacts of spectrum decisions will be key components feeding into this and future editions of the Spectrum Outlook.
10. Policy theme 5: Competition and wireless affordability
113. The Government’s telecommunications policy is focused on three core objectives: quality, coverage and affordability. It is important that Canada’s networks support the latest applications, be available to all Canadians in the communities where they live and work, and offer affordable wireless service prices.
114. Since 2008, the Government has advanced a number of initiatives to promote a more competitive wireless market that offers consumers a wider range of choices at more affordable prices. Government initiatives include:
- issuing direction to the CRTC, Canada’s telecommunications regulator, on matters concerning competition and investment
- regulating roaming rates through the CRTC to help small and regional operators compete through access to incumbent networks in certain circumstances
- setting a benchmark for the three national mobile service providers to reduce the cost of mid-range wireless plans across their brands by 25% over two years
115. The Government has also taken action to increase wireless competition through its regulation of spectrum frequencies. As part of the auction process, the Government uses pro-competitive measures to provide regional and smaller service providers the opportunity to acquire the spectrum they need to offer services to Canadians.
116. Two types of competitive measures have been used in Canada. In the first type, a spectrum set-aside reserves a minimum amount of spectrum and makes this spectrum available at auction for a defined subset of entities. ISED has previously used set-asides in a number of auctions, reserving 40% of the AWS-1 band in 2008, 60% of the AWS3 band in 2015 and 43% of the 600 MHz band in 2019. Most recently, in the 3500 MHz auction of 2021, ISED set aside 42% of the available spectrum. This measure enabled regional and smaller providers to increase their total mobile spectrum holdings by more than 50%, strengthening their ability to offer competitive 5G services to Canadians.
117. A second type of competitive measure is the spectrum aggregation limit, also known as a cap. This measure limits the amount of spectrum each licensee may obtain, thereby regulating the distribution of spectrum across different licensees. Spectrum caps can be applied across one band (in-band) or multiple bands (cross-band). In-band spectrum caps have been used in past auctions, including the 700 MHz band auction in 2014 and the 2500 MHz band auction in 2015. ISED has also applied cross-band caps to ensure that a competitive environment is maintained, notably for the introduction of personal communications service (PCS) licences in 1995, where a 40 MHz cap was used across the 2 GHz and 800 MHz bands. Additionally, in 1999, ISED reviewed the spectrum cap policy and concluded that increasing the cap from 40 MHz to 55 MHz would continue to foster competition. In the upcoming 3800 MHz band auction, ISED will apply a 100 MHz cross-band cap to the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands.
118. Over the past fifteen years, regional and smaller service providers have made the substantial investments required to acquire spectrum and deploy wireless networks in many markets across Canada. These entities offer Canadians more affordable services, which plays an important role in putting downward price pressure on the national mobile service providers.
119. This price pressure was most recently illustrated by the 2021 price comparison study that was prepared for ISED, which found that prices for data plans offered by regional service providers, such as Freedom and Videotron, are lower than the Canadian average, at 28% and 20% respectively. Similarly, a 2019 Matrix Economics study on mobile wireless services commissioned by the Competition Bureau found that mobile prices are generally about 35% to 40% lower in areas where the national providers face competition from a facilities-based regional service provider with a provincial market share of more than 5.5%.
120. Beyond promoting more affordable wireless plans, increased competition in the market also provides consumers with a greater opportunity to choose services that best suit their needs. For example, regional service providers were the first in the market to introduce innovative wireless plans such as plans that offer data throttling in place of overage charges and plans with data rollover, filling existing gaps in the market. Competing plans were subsequently introduced by the national providers with no overage charges.
121. While progress has been made, more work is needed to foster competition in the downstream market. In particular, the Competition Bureau continues to find that the three national providers possess retail market power, as evidenced by their high levels of market concentration and profitability, as well as the significant barriers to entry of new competitors. As a result, ISED plans to continue consulting stakeholders on the use of competitive measures in future spectrum auctions, in addition to exploring broader initiatives to meet its telecommunications policy objectives of quality, coverage and affordability.
122. In addition to taking steps to foster a competitive commercial mobile market, ISED is also exploring options to facilitate competition among emerging vertical industries. Specifically, while both traditional mobile service providers and non-traditional users require spectrum to harness the benefits of new use cases, the challenges they face in acquiring spectrum vary. For example, many established service providers have existing and diverse spectrum portfolios and are well positioned to develop and commercialize new use cases in vertical industries. Conversely, some smaller firms may lack the capital and experience to acquire the spectrum needed to enter these markets and compete.
123. Accordingly, ISED may consider the use of competitive measures or other policy instruments when consulting on and developing new spectrum processes, particularly for higher frequency bands. These measures would provide emerging verticals with the opportunity to acquire the spectrum needed to innovate, compete and enable Canadians to benefit from the new technologies and applications.
11. Licence fees
124. Spectrum is a finite resource, and demand often exceeds supply. ISED is continually reviewing allocations, policies and regulations to consider their alignment with the Minister’s overarching spectrum policy objectives, namely, maximizing the social and economic benefits of spectrum for Canadians and promoting efficient use of spectrum while providing a fair economic return to Canadians.
125. Licence fees are an important policy tool and may have a role in addressing issues such as the growing demand for limited spectrum. ISED is also considering how fees may better support new and emerging licensing approaches, such as dynamic spectrum access. Through documents such as the following, ISED has communicated its intent to consult on applying fees to licences in a number of bands:
- SLPB-001-20, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band
- DGSO-001-20, Decision on the Spectrum Licence Renewal Process for Non-Auctioned Broadband Radio Service (BRS) Licences
- SLPB-007-18, Decision on a Licence Renewal Process for Spectrum in the Bands 849851 MHz and 894-896 MHz for Air-Ground Services
126. ISED has taken additional steps to modernize its licensing fee regime. In DGSO00419, Decision on the Licence Fee Framework for Fixed Point-to-Point Systems, ISED modernized the fee framework for fixed point-to-point systems. In SMSE-008-22, Decision on Updates to the Licensing and Fee Framework for Earth Stations and Space Stations in Canada, ISED modernized the fee framework for certain satellite licences.
127. ISED has also proposed new fees in recent licensing consultations. Through SPB00122, Consultation on a Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, ISED is consulting on a new fee framework that would apply to transitioned and renewed licences in those bands, as well as future licences in the 10-95 GHz frequency range that share similar characteristics. Through SPB-003-22, Consultation on a Non-Competitive Local Licensing Framework, Including Spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band and Portions of the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, ISED is consulting on a fee framework that would apply to licences issued through ISED’s proposed non-competitive licensing process.
128. ISED expects to advance its work in the area of licence fees in the coming years. This section outlines and solicits comments on proposed policy objectives, guiding principles and general timelines for applying licence fees. These comments will inform the finalization of a fee policy framework that will guide ISED’s future activities in this area.
11.1 Policy objectives
129. The Minister is responsible for developing national policies for the use of spectrum and ensuring effective management of the spectrum resource. Under section 19 of the Department of Industry Act, the Minister may fix fees related to rights and privileges provided by the Minister, such as spectrum licences. Fees must comply with other legislation, such as the Service Fees Act, and policies in place, such as those outlined by the Treasury Board. Fees set under section 19 of the Department of Industry Act are different from fees set under section 20. They are not subject to the limitations outlined in subsection 20(2), which restricts fees to an amount sufficient to compensate the Crown for the provision of regulatory processes or approvals.
130. Spectrum and radio licence fees are part of the overall spectrum-management regulatory scheme, which supports the efficient use of spectrum by licensees. Cost recovery is not an objective of the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada and is not a legislative requirement under the Department of Industry Act. As such, spectrum and radio licence fees may exceed cost recovery. They are tied to the regulatory scheme for spectrum management, and may be used to incentivize behaviour, such as ensuring that licensees use spectrum efficiently and only where required.
131. Licence fees should seek to achieve the following objectives:
- Objective 1: Incentivize the efficient use of spectrum for the benefit of Canadians. An effective fee regime should encourage licensees to maximize the benefits of the use of spectrum, by encouraging the use of spectrum, and its highest value use, taking into account what is permitted by domestic and international rules and standards. The fee regime should also encourage licensees to make unused or underused spectrum available to other users, such as by subordinating or transferring the spectrum or by returning it to ISED for licensing.
- Objective 2: Obtain a fair financial return to Canadians for the use of the public spectrum resource. Wireless communications often require protected access to assigned frequencies within a given spectrum band. For example, when licensees provide services in order to generate a return on investment and/or profit, an effective fee regime should allow Canadians to receive a fair financial return for the use of the public spectrum resource.
- Objective 3: Support continued and improved quality and availability of services across Canada. There is a divide in access to high-quality wireless services between urban and rural or remote areas. An effective fee regime should support the provision of high-quality wireless services to Canadians in all parts of the country, including in rural and remote areas.
11.2 Guiding principles
132. The fee policy framework should be guided by the following principles:
- Principle 1: Fees should be determined and applied in a transparent manner that provides reasonable clarity and predictability to licensees and other stakeholders, while also being responsive to changes in market, technological and social conditions. ISED’s approach to developing fees will allow stakeholders reasonable predictability in anticipating the application of fees, sufficient time to consider fees in their planning and, in accordance with section 21 of the Department of Industry Act, meaningful opportunities to provide input through consultation processes before fees are applied. This principle further implies that, with due regard to the importance of fee predictability and investment certainty for stakeholders, ISED should periodically review the applicability of its fee regime in light of evolving circumstances.
- Principle 2: Fees should reflect the relative utility and potential economic value of the licence. ISED recognizes that a number of factors determine the value of a radio or spectrum licence. These include the relative supply and demand for similar licences, permitted uses of the licence, and specific privileges and obligations outlined in the conditions of licence. This principle implies that, where feasible, similar fee prices should be applied to bands with similar uses, rules and characteristics.
- Principle 3: Fees should encourage innovation and incentivize spectral efficiency. The efficient use of spectrum helps maximize spectrum benefits for all Canadians. When feasible, fees should be set in such a way as to encourage efficient use of spectrum, investment in infrastructure and use of spectrally efficient technologies.
11.3 Applicable timelines for fees
133. ISED recognizes that a lack of predictability about the timing and level of future fees may be a challenge for stakeholders, and that additional certainty allows for better informed development of business and investment plans.
134. To provide additional certainty for stakeholders, ISED will continue with the following timelines for the application of licence fees:
- For licences allocated through a competitive bidding process, such as an auction, bids received are accepted in lieu of spectrum licence fees for the initial licence term.
- Stakeholders should expect ISED to apply fees for licences assigned through a competitive bidding process after the initial licence term.
- For licences allocated through other licensing processes, stakeholders should expect ISED to apply fees in the initial licence term.
135. The introduction of new fees for any licence will be preceded by a consultation.
11.4 Next steps
136. ISED expects to make ongoing improvements in Canada’s radio and spectrum licence fee regime in the coming years. ISED is seeking comments on the above policy objectives, guiding principles, and timelines. These comments will inform the finalization of a fee policy framework to guide the development of specific radio and spectrum licence fee proposals going forward.
12. Spectrum demand
137. Multiple factors affect spectrum demand, including growth in traffic, technological changes and changes in network design. ISED monitors and assesses trends in these areas and considers various approaches to making spectrum available to meet the needs of Canadian businesses and consumers.
138. Annexes A to D contain a detailed assessment of these trends as they pertain to demand for spectrum to support commercial mobile, satellite, backhaul and licence-exempt services. This section summarizes the key considerations and conclusions of the 2022 Outlook related to spectrum demand.
139. Overall demand for data and the number of connected devices will continue to experience significant growth. Demand for data continues to grow rapidly in Canada, with the average traffic per capita forecast to grow from 74 GB per month in 2017 to 155.5 GB per month in 2022 (see CISCO’s VNI Complete Forecast Highlights [PDF: 103 KB]). Given the variety of network designs and devices, the impact of this growth in demand for data will affect all wireless services unevenly. The number of networked devices is also expected to increase, from 6.6 per capita in 2018 to 10.9 by 2023 (see the Cisco Annual Internet Report Highlights Tool). This growth is a significant factor in assessing spectrum requirements over the next five years.
140. Demand for commercial mobile services is increasing, but existing and planned spectrum releases and consultations are likely to be able to meet this demand. The evolution of mobile communications continues to affect all sectors of the economy, and traffic is expected to increase significantly. By 2022, Canadian mobile data traffic is forecast to reach four times its 2017 level, almost twice the growth rate for data traffic as a whole (see CISCO’s VNI Complete Forecast Highlights). Demands for faster speeds, lower latency and more data-intensive applications are contributing to this growth. Growth is also being driven by increasing take-up of machine-to-machine connectivity by business users for innovative applications in areas such as health services, autonomous vehicles and connected cities.
141. 5G continues to be the next major advancement in mobile telecommunications standards, and 5G services continue to be deployed across Canada. New use cases enabled by 5G are expected to drive increased data usage, including ultra-fast mobile broadband, ultra-low latency communications and massive machine-type communications.
142. The growth in data traffic and the uncertain impact of 5G are key factors in assessing spectrum requirements for commercial mobile. In the 2018 Outlook, ISED outlined its plan to make spectrum in low (600 MHz), mid (3500 MHz and 3800 MHz) and high (mmWave) bands available for 5G services. The continued repurposing of these bands is expected to ensure sufficient availability of commercial mobile spectrum between 2022 and 2026. ISED also indicated it would closely monitor developments in the 1427-1518 MHz (L-band), 24 GHz, 3737.6 GHz, 40-43.5 GHz and 47.2-48.2 GHz bands and determine whether releases and/or consultations are appropriate or necessary during this time period.
143. Work is underway at the Radiocommunication sector of the ITU (ITU-R) to develop the IMT vision for 2030 and beyond, and this work is expected to be the basis for 6G. Although this vision work is outside the scope of the 2022 Outlook, in ISED’s view the large amount of commercial mobile spectrum being released will also support future 6G services. ISED will continue to monitor ongoing domestic and international developments, and will seek to identify opportunities to release and/or initiate consultations on additional bands for commercial mobile use to ensure sufficient spectrum is available in a timely manner. Annex A contains further information on demand for commercial mobile spectrum.
144. New applications and technologies for Wi-Fi and the IoT continue to drive demand for licence-exempt spectrum, and ISED’s plans will enable Canadians to take full advantage of this spectrum. Over the past few decades, the use of licence-exempt devices has grown significantly due to the low barriers to entry, such as easy access to spectrum and the low cost of devices. WiFi is expected to see increases both in the number of devices and in data traffic, including from mobile offloading, as commercial mobile and Wi-Fi technologies converge and integrate to meet wireless and mobile communications needs. The IoT is also expected to see rapid growth over the next five years and beyond, and will evolve to address demand for faster speeds, shorter latency and constant connectivity.
145. New technologies and equipment are also having an impact on licence-exempt spectrum requirements. A healthy equipment ecosystem is emerging for RLAN technologies in the 6 GHz band, with two existing RLAN technologies currently considered candidates to use the band, namely Wi-Fi 6E and 5G NR-U. The next generation of RLAN, likely to be designated as Wi-Fi 7, as well as next-generation 5G NR-U technologies, are expected to function across the main licence-exempt frequencies and support speeds in excess of 30 gigabytes per second (Gbps). The standard for Wi-Fi 7 is expected to be published in 2024, after which compatible equipment will be available.
146. ISED recognizes that technology advancement alone cannot meet the increasing demand for licence-exempt applications. Therefore, in addition to updating its technical and equipment standards to keep pace with developments, additional spectrum is needed to allow Canadians to take full advantage. ISED has begun to address this need by making the 6471 GHz band available for licence-exempt use, in line with the plan outlined in the 2018 Outlook. Additionally, ISED has opened the 6 GHz band for licence-exempt use, and has consulted on the 5.9 GHz band and on frequencies above 95 GHz, for licence-exempt use.
147. Over the next five years, ISED will continue to monitor the development of licence-exempt technologies and devices and may seek to identify opportunities to release and/or initiate consultations on additional bands for licence-exempt use if demand for capacity continues to increase. Annex B contains further information on demand for licence-exempt spectrum.
148. NGSO and LEO satellite technologies are transforming the satellite market, and demands for faster speeds and greater capacity are shifting focus to higher frequency bands. Satellite systems play a vital role in rural, remote and northern communities, where they often provide the backbone for essential communications services such as basic telephony, broadcasting and Internet connectivity. In addition to consumer services, satellites are also used for a wide range of applications, such as monitoring the impacts of climate change and connecting industrial IoT devices. Broadly speaking, there has been a trend towards convergence between previously disparate sets of satellite services, with more applications communicating by Internet Protocol than by any other means. Overall, demand for satellite services in North America is forecast to have a compound annual growth of 8.5% through 2029.
149. The re-emergence of NGSO fixed satellite services, specifically LEO satellites, has already begun to transform the satellite market, enabling the provision of high-speed, low-latency services with full global coverage at potentially lower costs than traditional satellites. The high-throughput satellite is another emerging development in satellite technology, allowing significant improvements to data capacity without requiring additional spectrum, resulting in lower costs per bit.
150. As mentioned in the 2018 Outlook, increasing demand for data continues to drive a trend towards higher-frequency bands. ISED will work to accommodate this shift, while recognizing the importance of protecting existing services, including passive services. In mmWave, ISED continues to work on rules to facilitate the coexistence of satellite and flexible-use systems, noting the importance of both services to Canadians. With increasing usage of the Ku- and Ka-bands, ISED is observing greater interest in the Q- and V-bands (47.2-50.2 GHz and 50.4-51.4 GHz) for future GSO and NGSO deployments. At World Radiocommunication Conference 2019, member countries developed rules to enable shared use of these bands between satellite and other services.
151. ISED will continue to monitor international developments and position Canada to benefit from the availability of this additional spectrum for satellite services. Annex C contains further information on demand for satellite services.
152. The emergence of new backhaul technologies and network designs will help operators mitigate growing demands for capacity, but additional spectrum may also be required. Backhaul facilities are an essential part of the communications infrastructure that enable the delivery of Internet, data and voice traffic by fixed and mobile broadband networks.
153. Backhaul is also used to interconnect remote sites and buildings for corporate, health, broadcasting and educational purposes. As overall demand for data increases, so too does demand for backhaul, with the capacity and deployment associated with 5G expected to play a significant role in the short to medium term.
154. In Canada, backhaul is largely delivered over fibre and terrestrial wireless networks, with satellites chiefly used in remote areas where terrestrial solutions may not be cost-effective. While the emergence of higher-speed and lower-latency NGSO and LEO satellites may increase the satellite share of backhaul, the shift is expected to be marginal.
155. New technologies and network designs associated with 5G will also affect the planning and use of backhaul. Increased data use will drive more backhaul capacity demand, but there will be an offsetting reduction from the use of mobile-edge computing, which will set up processing and analytical capabilities closer to the source of the data. In a continuation of long-term trends, more systems employing dual-channel cross-polarization and higher-order modulation techniques are being deployed.
156. At the same time, research is continuing on the application of multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technologies to line-of-sight communications, promising increased spectral efficiency. Integrated access backhaul allows multiband configurations of a single system by bonding wide bandwidths at higher frequencies with narrow bandwidths at lower frequencies. This bonding allows operators to use their spectrum assets in various bands to increase the capacity and range of their backhaul systems.
157. While these new and emerging solutions and technologies for backhaul are expected to offer a wider range of options for operators and some improvements to spectral efficiency, ISED recognizes that additional spectrum may be required.
158. Since the 2018 Outlook, ISED has assigned commercial mobile spectrum on a flexible-use basis, which enables licensees to use the spectrum for either mobile or fixed deployments in accordance with their needs. The first example of flexible use was the 600 MHz band, followed by the 3500 MHz band, but further releases of flexible-use spectrum in the 3800 MHz, 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 38 GHz bands will also provide additional mid-band and high-band spectrum for backhaul.
159. In terms of dedicated backhaul spectrum, since the publication of the 2018 Outlook, ISED made licensed backhaul spectrum available in the 12.7-13.2 GHz band in May 2020 and in the 31.8-33.4 GHz band in March 2021. ISED also made the entire 57-71 GHz band available for a variety of applications on a licence-exempt basis, with backhaul being a common application due to the high capacity and low cost of using this spectrum.
160. ISED is also consulting on making additional dedicated backhaul spectrum available in frequency ranges above 95 GHz. ISED will continue to review and update its policies and rules to incentivize more efficient use of existing spectrum and ensure that licensees are able to deploy the latest technologies. Annex D contains further information on demand for backhaul spectrum.
13. Potential frequency bands for future release and/or consultation
161. This section of the 2022 Outlook provides stakeholders with an overview of ISED’s overall approach and planned activities related to ensuring appropriate spectrum resources are available to meet future demand. ISED evaluates its approach based on currently available information, and may alter the priorities and spectrum plans to accommodate new uses. Future decisions regarding the use of these proposed bands will be subject to separate and comprehensive consultations with stakeholders and will take into account the proposed principles discussed in section 4.
162. Canada, along with most other countries, participates in the global coordination and harmonization of spectrum use through the ITU. The ITU-R serves to facilitate the equitable, efficient and effective use of spectrum among all radiocommunication services. The ITU-R maintains the international Radio Regulations, which define the allocation of spectrum bands to various radiocommunication services through the International Table of Frequency Allocations. The Radio Regulations are reviewed and amended at each ITU World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), an event that is typically held every three to four years. The last WRC was held in 2019, and the next is scheduled for 2023.
163. Canadian operators and consumers benefit from economies of scale for equipment when spectrum use is harmonized either regionally or internationally. As such, ISED takes into consideration WRC decisions as well as frequency bands that other countries have released or are in the process of releasing for various services and for which equipment is expected to be made available.
164. When considering potential frequency bands that could be made available between 2022 and 2026, ISED examined the following:
- bands allocated or identified at WRC-19
- bands that will be considered at WRC-23
- bands that have been released or are being considered for release in other countries
- equipment that could be made available during the next five years
165. Table 1, below, outlines the bands ISED has identified for release, consultation and/or monitoring between 2022 and 2026, placing each in one of three priority groups. These groups broadly indicate ISED’s planned approach to each band. In determining the priority for release, ISED has taken into account the factors discussed above, as well as the policy objectives outlined in section 2.
166. ISED plans to release and/or initiate a consultation on Priority 1 bands between 2022 and 2026. These are generally bands that have established international standards and for which equipment is available or is expected to be available. In some cases, work to make these bands available in Canada is already under way.
167. ISED expects to begin work on Priority 2 bands between 2022 and 2026. The work will include policy or technical standards development, review of existing and potential uses and international coordination. Priority 2 bands could be released and/or consulted on between 2022 and 2026, subject to international developments such as WRC-23 and equipment availability.
168. ISED will regularly monitor Priority 3 bands between 2022 and 2026. Based on currently available information, there is uncertainty about the international developments or potential equipment available for these bands. Therefore, changes to the use of the bands in this group are not expected to commence until there is more clarity regarding these issues. ISED will re-evaluate its assessment of these bands, as with all bands discussed in this document, should new information become available or international developments warrant.
169. Within the list of bands for release and/or consultation, most were previously mentioned in the 2018 Outlook. The exceptions are the 3900 MHz band, which is a new addition to the Priority 1 group, and the following new additions to the Priority 3 group: the 1675-1680 MHz band, the 2020-2025 MHz band and the 4940-4990 MHz band.
Table 1: Frequency bands for future release, 2022 to 2026
ATC = ancillary terrestrial component
C-V2X = cellular vehicle-to-everything
DSRC = dedicated short-range communications
MSS = mobile satellite service
|Status||Potential service / Application||Band||Current status||Next steps|
|In progress (upgraded)||Flexible use||3650-3900 MHz (3800 MHz)||ISED published the SPB-002-22 decision, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3800 MHz Band, in June 2022.||ISED will be holding the auction for the 3800 MHz band in 2023.|
|In progress (upgraded)||Flexible use||3900-3980 MHz |
|In SLPB-002-21, ISED designated 80 MHz of spectrum for shared use in the 39003980 MHz band. ISED published SPB-003-22, Consultation on a Non-Competitive Local Licensing Framework, Including Spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band and Portions of the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, in August 2022, and proposed that 3900 MHz be the first band to be licensed under this framework.||ISED is currently consulting on the licensing framework for these bands.|
|In progress (upgraded)||Licence-exempt||5850-5925 MHz (5.9 GHz)||ISED published SMSE-004-22, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for Radio Local Area Network Devices in the 5850-5895 MHz Frequency Band and for Intelligent Transportation Systems in the 5895-5925 MHz Frequency Band, in February 2022.||ISED is currently writing the decision related to the consultation launched in February 2022 on the technical and policy framework for this band.|
|In progress (upgraded)||Licence-exempt||5925-7125 MHz (6 GHz)||Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 designated the 6 GHz band as Priority 3. In April 2020, the FCC released a report and order for 1200 MHz of licence-exempt spectrum in the 6 GHz band, and many other countries have released or are consulting on the release of spectrum in this frequency range. Therefore, ISED designated the 6 GHz band as Priority 1. ISED published SMSE-014-20, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band, in November 2020. ISED published SMSE-006-21, Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band, in May 2021.||ISED is developing the applicable technical standards.|
|In progress||Flexible use||26.5-27.5 GHz (26 GHz), 27.5-28.35 GHz (28 GHz), 37.6-40 GHz (38 GHz) (mmWave)||ISED published SLPB-003-19, Decision on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G, in June 2019, establishing a policy framework for the 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 38 GHz bands and enabling them for flexible use. This decision also deferred to a later date the development of a band plan in the 37-37.6 GHz portion of the 38 GHz band, pending US developments. Because the timing for the 37-37.6 GHz portion of the band may not align with the timing for the 37.640 GHz portion, ISED is treating the former portion separately. ISED published SPB-001-22, Consultation on Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, in June 2022.||ISED is currently consulting on the licensing framework for these bands.|
|In progress (upgraded)||Backhaul, licence-exempt||92-114.25 GHz, 116122.25 GHz, 122.25123 GHz, 130174.8 GHz, 174.8182 GHz, 185-190 GHz and 244246 GHz (above 95 GHz)||Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 designated the above 95 GHz band as Priority 3. Due to increased international interest in this range, including developments in the US and the UK, ISED has designated the above 95 GHz band as Priority 1. ISED published SMSE-005-22, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for the Frequency Bands Above 95 GHz, in February 2022.||ISED is currently writing the decision related to the consultation launched in February 2022 concerning the technical and policy framework for these bands.|
HDFSS = high-density fixed satellite service
IMT = international mobile telecommunications
WRC-19 = World Radiocommunication Conference 2019
|Status||Potential service / Application||Band||Current status||Next steps|
|In progress||Flexible use||897.5-900.5 MHz / 936.5-939.5 MHz (900 MHz)||Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 specified the 900 MHz band as the 896960 MHz range. Since then, ISED has published the Decision on the Technical, Policy and Licensing Framework for Wireless Microphones, which allows for the operation of wireless microphones in the 941.5-952 MHz and 953960 MHz frequency bands on a licensed, no-interference, no-protection basis. ISED is exploring approaches to making this spectrum available for wireless broadband services in rural and remote areas without impacting existing users in SLPB-004-21, Consultation on New Access Licensing Framework, Changes to Subordinate Licensing and White Space to Support Rural and Remote Deployment, published in August 2021.||ISED is currently writing the decision related to the consultation launched in August 2021.|
|In progress||Flexible use||1427-1518 MHz (Lband)||ISED is monitoring the equipment ecosystem and reviewing feasibility for deployment in Canada.||ISED will continue its review of this band, including the potential to allow for commercial mobile services.|
|In progress||Backhaul||21.2-21.8 GHz and 22.4-23 GHz (extended 23 GHz)||ISED has undertaken internal studies on regulatory options and issues identified in the Spectrum Outlook, such as the possible impact of backhaul on the other services currently using this band and adjacent bands.||ISED will consider the results of its internal studies and initiate a consultation if warranted.|
|In progress||Flexible use||24.25-26.5 GHz |
|The 24 GHz band was identified for the terrestrial component of IMT worldwide at WRC-19, where Resolution 242 was adopted with coexistence requirements. ISED will assess when, for which services, and under which conditions these bands could be made available. In 2019, the 24.25-24.45 GHz and 24.75-25.25 GHz portions were auctioned for 5G in the US.||ISED will assess whether these bands would be appropriate to support 5G.|
|In progress||Flexible use||37-37.6 GHz||ISED published SLPB-003-19, Decision on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G, in June 2019, establishing a policy framework for the 26 GHz, 28 GHz and 38 GHz bands. This decision deferred to a later date the development of a band plan in the 37-37.6 GHz portion of the 38 GHz band, pending US developments. ISED has designated the 37-37.6 GHz portion of the 38 GHz band as Priority 2.||ISED will continue to monitor US developments and will release a consultation on a band plan for the 3737.6 GHz portion of the 38 GHz band once there is greater certainty regarding the international, and in particular the US, use and ecosystem.|
|In progress||Flexible use||47.2-48.2 GHz||Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 specified the band as 45.5-50.2 GHz; however, only the 47.2-48.2 GHz band was identified for the terrestrial component of IMT at WRC-19 in Region 2 and in some countries of Regions 1 and 3. WRC-19 adopted Resolution 243 with coexistence requirements. In early 2020, this band was auctioned for 5G in the US.||ISED will assess when and for which services the 47.2-48.2 GHz band could be made available.|
|In progress||Backhaul||71-76 GHz, 81-86 GHz, 92-95 GHz (70/80/90 GHz)||These bands are currently available for backhaul use through site licensing. ISED is initiating internal studies and will consider whether changes to the licensing framework are required.||ISED may publish a consultation on an updated licensing framework for these bands, based on the outcome of other consultation processes.|
|Removed||Flexible use||806-824 MHz / 851869 MHz (800 MHz)||ISED is progressing with internal studies on regulatory options and issues identified in the Spectrum Outlook, such as the possible impacts of a potential repurposing on the other services currently using the band.||ISED is of the view that the amount of low-band spectrum is sufficient at this time, and will focus on making mid-band and high-band spectrum available, as well as decreasing the amount of unused spectrum across all bands.|
|Removed||—||50.4-52.6 GHz||Based on discussions at WRC-19, ISED does not expect the 50.4-52.6 GHz band to be used internationally for commercial mobile services since it was not identified for IMT; the band is therefore no longer being considered for review in Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026.||—|
ATC = ancillary terrestrial component
AWS = advanced wireless services
HDFSS = high-density fixed satellite service
IMT = international mobile telecommunications
MSS = mobile satellite service
WRC-19 = World Radiocommunication Conference 2019
WRC-23 = World Radiocommunication Conference 2023
|Status||Potential service / Application||Band||Current status||Next steps|
|Monitoring||Satellite/ATC||1525-1559 MHz paired with 1626.5-1660.5 MHz (1500 MHz ATC) and 1610.51626.5 paired with 2483.5-2500 MHz (1600 MHz ATC)||The bands are currently available for MSS operators to implement ATC as needed. ISED published the Notice of Application Received from Globalstar Canada Satellite Co. for Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) Authority in the 2.4 GHz Band (2483.5-2500 MHz, in December 2019, followed by SMSE-009-20, Decision on Globalstar Canada’s Application for Ancillary Terrestrial Component (ATC) Authority in the 2.4 GHz Band (2483.52500 MHz), in November 2020.||ISED will consider developments as they occur and assess its approach to the bands as new information becomes available.|
|Monitoring||Satellite (ATC/MSS)||1675-1680 MHz||The 1675-1680 MHz band has been newly designated as Priority 3. ISED is monitoring the equipment ecosystem and developments in the US for this band. ISED is of the view that this band has the potential to be used for ATC/MSS. In May 2019, the FCC consulted on whether the band should be opened for non-federal flexible wireless use; a decision is pending.||ISED will consider developments as they occur and assess its approach to the band as new information becomes available.|
|Monitoring||Flexible use||1695-1710 MHz |
|Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 designated AWS-3 unpaired / AWS-2 as Priority 3.||ISED will consider developments as they occur and assess its approach to the band as new information becomes available.|
|Monitoring||Flexible use||1915-1920 MHz / 19952000 MHz (AWS-2)||Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022 designated AWS-3 unpaired / AWS-2 as Priority 3. Due to some advances in the equipment ecosystem for the 1695-1710 MHz band, ISED has decided to separate the bands and leave the AWS-2 portion as Priority 3.||ISED will consider developments as they occur and assess its approach to the band as new information becomes available.|
|Monitoring||Satellite (MSS)||2020-2025 MHz||The 2020-2025 MHz band has been newly designated as Priority 3. This band is currently allocated to the fixed and mobile services in Canada, and is designated for AWS. To date, the ecosystem for AWS in this band has not yet evolved, and ISED does not currently have plans to consult on this band for AWS. The band remains largely unused at this time. As part of WRC-23, agenda item 1.18 will consider studies relating to spectrum needs and potential new allocations for narrowband MSS, and identifies 2010-2025 MHz among the bands to study for MSS. ISED understands that there may be interest in using this band, both in Region 2 and globally, for MSS in both the space-to-Earth and Earth-to-space directions.||ISED will monitor the Canadian and international developments for future satellite use of this band and may consult on its use as necessary.|
|Monitoring||Flexible use||4940-4990 MHz||The 4940-4990 MHz band is currently designated for public-safety mobile use in Canada. ISED has newly designated this band as Priority 3 after considering the current usage of this band in Canada as well as related developments in the US, such as the report and order on the 4.9 GHz band published by the FCC in September 2020.||ISED will monitor international developments for this band and assess its approach to the band as new information becomes available.|
|Monitoring||Flexible use||40-43.5 GHz||The 40-43.5 GHz band was identified for the terrestrial component of IMT at WRC-19 for use worldwide, noting the use in Region 2 of HDFSS in the 40-42 GHz band. WRC-19 adopted Resolution 243 with measures to ensure the coexistence with HDFSS.||ISED will monitor relevant international developments, in particular those in the US. ISED will then assess which part of the 40-43.5 GHz range, if any, could be made available for 5G, and when, taking HDFSS in 40-42 GHz into account.|
|Removed||—||5150-5850 MHz (5 GHz)||Discussions at WRC-19 led to some changes that allowed limited outdoor use in the 51505250 MHz portion of the range. Canada did not agree with the imposed limits and took a reservation on this decision. No changes were made to the other bands within this range. ISED is no longer considering this band for review in Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026.||—|
|Removed||—||31.8-33.4 GHz (32 GHz) (commercial mobile)||This band was not identified for IMT at WRC-19, given its use for fixed/backhaul. ISED does not expect this band to be globally harmonized for commercial mobile use and is therefore no longer considering this band for potential commercial mobile use in Spectrum Outlook 20222026.||—|
|Removed||—||71-76 GHz (70 GHz) |
|Based on discussions at WRC-19, ISED expects this band to be used internationally for backhaul and is therefore no longer considering this band for potential commercial mobile use in Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026.||—|
|Removed||—||81-86 GHz (80 GHz) |
|Based on discussions at WRC-19, ISED expects this band to be used internationally for backhaul and is therefore no longer considering the band for potential commercial mobile use in Spectrum Outlook 2022-2026.||—|
|Status||Potential service / Application||Band||Current status|
|Completed||Flexible use||614-698 MHz (600 MHz)||The auction for flexible-use spectrum licences in the 600 MHz Band was completed on April 4, 2019.|
|Completed||Flexible use||3450-3650 MHz (3500 MHz)||The auction for flexible-use spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band was completed on July 23, 2021.|
|Completed||Backhaul||31.8-33.4 GHz (32 GHz)||ISED published Standard Radio System Plan SRSP-331.8, Technical Requirements for Fixed Radio Systems Operating in the Band 31.8-33.4 GHz, in March 2021 to enable licensing of backhaul systems.|
|Completed||Licence-exempt||64-71 GHz (mmWave)||ISED published SLPB-003-19, Decision on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G, in June 2019, establishing a policy framework for the 64-71 GHz band. Radio Standards Specification RSS-210, Licence-Exempt Radio Apparatus: Category I Equipment, published in December 2019, enabled the band for licence-exempt use.|
14. Priority and timing of spectrum plans (2022 to 2026)
170. This section of the 2022 Outlook summarizes ISED’s priority for each band identified in section 13 as a frequency band for potential future release. The section also provides the anticipated timing for those bands that are designated as Priority 1.
171. Figure 1 illustrates the priority group of each band discussed in table 1. In deciding on a priority for each band, ISED has taken into account the policy objectives and guiding principles of spectrum release outlined in section 4. It should be noted that ISED regularly monitors domestic and international developments and may alter its priorities and spectrum plans accordingly.
Figure 1: ISED spectrum priorities, 2022 to 2026
172. Figure 2 illustrates ISED’s anticipated timing for each Priority 1 band and its current assessment of the expected timing, which may change based on the considerations outlined in the Spectrum Outlook.
Figure 2: Projected timelines for Priority 1 bands
173. Due to uncertainty regarding various considerations, such as international developments and equipment availability, ISED has not committed to time frames for the Priority 2 and 3 bands.
174. The 2022 Outlook reflects ISED’s current direction and efforts to provide additional spectrum for commercial mobile services, licence-exempt applications, satellite services and backhaul applications. ISED may update its plans from time to time in light of changing priorities, significant technological changes and/or international developments.
175. ISED will have separate and comprehensive consultations before making any specific decisions with respect to these bands. ISED will assess, at the same time, any competing requirements for spectrum before any decision is made. The timing of specific decisions is also subject to domestic and international developments.
176. The observations and conclusions expressed in the 2022 Outlook are based on the current situation in Canada and abroad, and are therefore subject to change. The 2022 Outlook is not intended to be a substitute for separate, comprehensive consultations with stakeholders on specific spectrum management issues. For a complete list of recent and ongoing public consultations, please refer to ISED’s Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website.
15. Submitting comments
177. Please provide comments in electronic format (Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF) to the following email address: email@example.com.
178. To ease review, please specify the question number and provide a supporting rationale for each response.
179. Send written submissions to the following address:
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
c/o Director, Corporate Policy, Planning and Results
235 Queen Street
Ottawa ON K1A 0H5
180. All submissions should cite the Canada Gazette, Part I, the publication date, the title and the notice reference number (SPB-005-22).
181. Respondents should submit their comments no later than November 21, 2022, to ensure consideration.
182. Soon after the end of the comment period, all comments received will be posted on ISED’s Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website. Consequently, respondents are asked not to provide confidential or private information in their submissions.
183. After the initial comment period, ISED may, at its discretion, request additional information to clarify significant positions or new proposals.
184. ISED will review comments received and incorporate them, as appropriate, into the final version of Spectrum Outlook 2022 to 2026.
Annex A: Demand for commercial mobile services
1. The evolution of mobile communications continues to significantly impact all sectors of the economy. Canadians demand high-quality services, coverage and affordable prices from their telecommunications providers. The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the clear contribution of mobile communications to the economic and social well-being of Canadians.
2. For a large segment of the population, the commercial mobile service is the preferred way to communicate. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) 2021 Communications Market Report, there were 32.4 million mobile phone subscriptions in Canada in 2020. While many Canadians still own and use wireline phones, they continue to steadily move away from this technology in favour of wireless services. The CRTC also reported that in 2020, wireline voice subscriptions decreased to 13.3 million.
3. Consumers in Canada and around the globe are increasingly demanding extended coverage, faster data transmission rates and more advanced, data-intensive mobile applications. In response, service providers are deploying ubiquitous, high-capacity radio networks based on state-of-the-art technologies. The CRTC’s 2021 Communications Market Report reported that wireless network coverage continues to increase across Canada, with 99.5% of Canadians having access to a Long-Term Evolution (LTE) network by the end of 2020. The CRTC report also stated that 88.5% of major roads and highways (classified by Statistics Canada as having a street rank code of 1, 2 or 3) were covered by LTE.
4. Commercial mobile spectrum requirements are based on the total amount of traffic and the number of subscribers accessing the network at peak periods, as well as the network design. In addition, commercial mobile networks are often comprised of a mix of technologies (e.g. 2G, 3G, LTE) that can each carry a different amount of traffic over a particular bandwidth. The growing demand for commercial mobile will be more challenging to address due to innovative uses for mobile spectrum, including the Internet of Things (IoT), more bandwidth-intensive applications like gaming and streaming, and privacy and security concerns.
5. In recent data on the telecommunications industry, Statistics Canada found that the percentage of Canadians with a smartphone increased by 4.1%, from 80.3% in 2018 to 84.4% in 2020. According to the CRTC’s 2021 Communications Market Report, there were more than 32.4 million mobile phone subscribers in Canada in 2020.
6. As mentioned in the 2018 Outlook, other sectors have begun to rely on commercial mobile services. Machine-to-machine (M2M) connectivity is enabling innovative uses and applications in many areas, including health and smart cars, and in connected homes and cities.
7. In its Annual Internet Report, Cisco estimates that M2M connections will account for 50% of global connections by 2023, 2.4 times the number of connections in 2018 (from 6.1 billion to 14.7 billion). Traditionally, the traffic from M2M connections has been less than that from end-user devices, such as smartphones, PCs and televisions. However, Cisco estimates that the amount of M2M traffic is growing faster than the number of M2M connections, due to the increased deployment and use of video, telemedicine, and smart car navigation applications, all of which require greater bandwidth and lower latency.
A2. Traffic growth
8. According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index 2017–2022 (the Cisco VNI) [PDF: 2 MB], global Internet Protocol (IP) traffic will have tripled by the end of 2022, from 122 exabytes (about 122 trillion GB) per month in 2017 to 396 exabytes per month. Specifically, global mobile data traffic will reach 77 petabytes (77 million GB) per month, up from 12 petabytes per month in 2017.
9. Globally, smartphones account for about 97% of the mobile data traffic, according to the Ericsson Mobility Report, November 2021. Canada will continue to see a substantial increase in demand for commercial mobile data in the coming years. According to CISCO’s VNI Complete Forecast Highlights [PDF: 103 KB], Canadian monthly data traffic will reach 186 petabytes per month by 2022, up from 43 petabytes per month in 2017. The Ericsson report suggests that North America will have the highest monthly data usage rates per device in 2027, reaching about 52 GB per month per device, up from 8.5 GB per month in 2019. Future monthly data use in North America will greatly depend on the rate of adoption of 5G services. With a smartphone-savvy consumer base and the wide use of video applications with large data plans, 5G subscription will be the major driver of traffic growth. Ericsson reports that the 5G subscription penetration in North America is set to be the highest of all regions, at 90% in 2027.
A3. Implications of technological advancements
10. 5G continues to be the next major advancement in mobile telecommunications standards. Forecast use cases include enhanced/ultra-fast mobile broadband, massive machine-type communications and ultra-reliable low-latency connections. Together, these are predicted to drive increased data usage and facilitate the continued deployment of 5G for integrated verticals, such as health care, transportation and smart cities, while leveraging significant IoT growth. A number of other new technologies to support these use cases are emerging or are being researched as part of 5G standards development and are expected to further improve spectral efficiency and increase network capacity. These technologies include, among others, dynamic spectrum sharing, the use of massive multiple-input multiple-output technology, full duplexing, and carrier aggregation techniques.
11. According to Cisco’s Annual Internet Report, 5G devices and connections will make up more than 10% of global mobile devices and connections by 2023, with a total of 1.4 billion devices being 5G-capable.
12. To be realized, the new applications and services that are expected to be made available through 5G technologies will need spectrum bands in a variety of frequency ranges. 5G networks require a combination of low-range frequency bands to provide coverage, mid-range frequency bands to provide coverage and capacity, and high-range frequency bands to provide large bandwidths that allow high broadband speeds. Consequently, the type and amount of spectrum necessary to deliver 5G services will vary based on usage requirements.
A4. Future commercial mobile spectrum requirements in Canada
13. Network densification, deployment of more efficient equipment and more sophisticated traffic management techniques will enable mobile operators to optimize their networks to support increasing traffic demands. However, data traffic continues to grow, generated by an increasing number of users, new uses in various sectors (e.g. augmented and virtual reality) and data-intensive applications running on mobile networks. ISED recognizes that this increased data traffic stands to overburden current commercial mobile spectrum and the associated technologies.
14. Even though mobile technology is constantly evolving and able to make more efficient use of spectrum to meet increasing traffic demands, some technological advancements will require new spectrum to meet demand.
15. ISED recognizes that additional spectrum may be required to further enhance mobile network capabilities to provide the coverage, capacity and speeds required for advanced technologies and applications. Since the publication of the 2018 Outlook, ISED has taken the following steps to release additional spectrum for commercial mobile use:
- In 2019, ISED auctioned the low-frequency 600 MHz spectrum band.
- In 2021, ISED auctioned the 3500 MHz band.
- In June 2022, ISED published SPB-002-22, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3800 MHz Band, and an auction is planned for 2023.
- Also in June 2022, ISED published SPB-001-22, Consultation on a Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, and an auction is planned for 2024.
16. ISED intends to continue with these and similar processes to ensure additional spectrum is released for commercial mobile services in the next five years, while taking into account the various frequency ranges needed to deploy new networks.
Annex B: Demand for licence-exempt spectrum
1. In recent decades, the use of licence-exempt spectrum has increased significantly, due to low barriers to entry, such as free access and the growing availability of low-cost devices. Consumer devices that use licence-exempt spectrum, such as baby monitors and garage door openers, first appeared in the 1980s and now include mobile devices such as smart speakers, health trackers, tablets and remote-control drones.
2. Licence-exempt spectrum is a critical enabler of connectivity in the digital economy. ISED anticipates that Wi-Fi and the Internet of Things (IoT) will continue to drive demand for licence-exempt spectrum, including for advanced gaming, augmented and virtual reality, and 8K video. ISED expects that emerging licence-exempt technologies will drive innovation and advanced mobile connectivity in the years to come.
B1. Demand for Wi-Fi
3. Wi-Fi is the most widely used Radio Local Area Network (RLAN) technology to provide wireless access with a high data rate over a local area. Wi-Fi allows Canadians to connect to the Internet at low cost using a wide range of licence-exempt consumer devices. WiFi also supports commercial wireless service providers, who rely on it to offload traffic from their commercial mobile cellular networks. According to a recent ABI Research white paper on the future of Wi-Fi, annual unit shipments of Wi-Fi-enabled devices are set to increase from 3.3 billion in 2019 to more than 4.5 billion by 2024.
4. The rapid growth of Wi-Fi-enabled devices is putting pressure on current Wi-Fi spectrum bands. With the increase in commercial broadband traffic, service providers are also deploying Wi-Fi hot spots to offload some of the traffic from their networks. The number of publicly available Wi-Fi hotspot locations (free and for-pay) across Canada grew from 46,609 in 2018 to 51,001 in 2019, according to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s 2020 Communications Monitoring Report. Further, Cisco’s Annual Internet Report predicts that there will be five times more public Wi-Fi hotspots in Canada by 2023 than there were in 2018 (increasing from 2.7 million to 14.0 million).
5. According to the Cisco report, by 2023, of all the devices in North America, 25% will be mobile and 75% will be wired or connected over Wi-Fi. In addition, North America will have 329 million mobile users (88% of the population), up from 313 million (86% of the population) in 2018. The Cisco report also notes that machine-to-machine (M2M) connections (also referred to as IoT connections) will account for half of the global connected devices and connections by 2023. The share of M2M connections will grow from 33% in 2018 to 50% by 2023. There will be 14.7 billion M2M connections by 2023.
6. This steep increase in data traffic is driven by new uses, including those associated with the IoT, the need to keep up with the increasing speeds of wireline Internet connections, and the reliance on Wi-Fi to support commercial mobile systems through data offload. The proliferation of IoT devices, home and office Internet connectivity improvements, and the increasing need to offload broadband traffic are expected to continue in the coming years.
B2. Demand related to the Internet of Things
7. IoT devices, which make extensive use of licence-exempt spectrum to communicate, are found in areas such as health care monitoring, industrial applications, automotive uses and consumption tracking by public utilities. There will be rapid growth over the next five years and beyond in IoT devices, accompanied by faster speeds, shorter latency and constant connectivity. Cisco predicts that M2M modules will account for 64% (270.9 million) of all networked devices in Canada by 2023, compared to 48% (117.4 million) in 2018.
B3. Implications of technological advancements
8. Convergence and integration of commercial mobile and Wi-Fi technologies will likely continue, as both evolve to meet wireless and mobile communications needs. According to Cisco VNI, in 2016, 60% of the world’s mobile data traffic was offloaded onto fixed networks through Wi-Fi or femtocells (low-power, low-range cellular base stations). By 2022, the traffic on fixed networks is forecast to increase to 71%.
9. In addition to offloading, mobile operators can aggregate licence-exempt spectrum for small-cell deployments with their licensed spectrum to help increase capacity where large numbers of users are expected (e.g. sporting events). The proliferation of wireless applications that require low latency and high data rates, such as augmented and virtual reality, and 8K video, will also drive the development of new wireless network technologies.
10. In particular, two RLAN technologies are considered candidates for use in the 6 GHz band, namely Wi-Fi 6E and 5G New Radio-Unlicensed (NR-U), while other technologies could be developed to operate in this band. Release 2 of the Wi-Fi 6 (IEEE 802.11ax) standard developed by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) introduces wider channel bandwidths (up to 160 MHz) and introduces new performance features that provide lower latency and higher throughput rates.
11. Many Wi-Fi device manufacturers are already shipping Wi-Fi 6 equipment for operation in the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. At the beginning of 2021, the low-power variant of the standard-compliant Wi-Fi 6E device operating in the 6 GHz band became available. Standard-power devices operating under the control of an automated frequency coordination system are expected to become available later this year. Meanwhile, the standards development body of the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standardized licence-exempt NR-U technology in the 3GPP’s Release 16, published in July 2020. The availability of NR-U devices is yet to be confirmed by major device vendors.
12. Further, the IEEE has already begun to develop the next generation of RLAN technologies through its 802.11 working group. The new standard, IEEE 802.11be, designated as Wi-Fi 7, will be focused on extremely high throughput (EHT) applications. These technologies are expected to function across the main licence-exempt frequencies and support speeds in excess of 30 Gbps and bandwidths of up to 320 MHz. The new standard for Wi-Fi 7 is scheduled to be published in 2024, after which compatible equipment will be available.
13. ISED recognizes that wireless technology development continues to evolve and that there are new technologies and techniques being developed, such as dynamic spectrum access (DSA), that will provide new opportunities for improving efficiency for spectrum access. DSA may be enabled by using, for example, radio-environment sensing or a geolocation database to perform automated frequency coordination. Enabling efficient spectrum access in this manner may facilitate the sharing of spectrum between multiple services, including facilitating opportunistic access to licensed spectrum.
14. To maximize the use of spectrum and make it available for a variety of services and applications, ISED is committed to further enabling technologies and approaches that will support the increased sharing of spectrum.
B4. Future licence-exempt spectrum requirements in Canada
15. ISED continues to support existing licence-exempt spectrum technologies, such as Long-Term Evolution (LTE) in licence-exempt spectrum, LTE-Licence Assisted Access. ISED also facilitates the introduction of new technologies, such as Wi-Fi 6, Wi-Fi 7 and 5G NR-U. These technologies are becoming increasingly smart, multiband and based on the Internet Protocol, and industry is developing more advanced interference-mitigation approaches and more sophisticated spectrum-sharing techniques. ISED expects that technology will continue to evolve to allow devices to function more effectively in licence-exempt bands.
16. Recognizing the importance of the licence-exempt ecosystem and the opportunities it enables, ISED will amend its technical equipment standards in a timely fashion to reflect the latest technological developments, and some of the traffic demand will likely be alleviated as spectrum is used more efficiently. ISED may create new technical equipment standards to support the entry of innovative products in Canada. ISED will also apply timely and effective enforcement measures when devices are found not to comply with equipment standards.
17. ISED recognizes that technology advancement alone cannot fully support the growth of licence-exempt devices. In the 2018 Outlook, ISED concluded that demand for spectrum in licence-exempt bands would continue to grow and that more spectrum for licence-exempt applications was required. Since then, ISED has moved forward with a number of spectrum initiatives aimed at making more licence-exempt spectrum available in Canada.
18. ISED released the 64-71 GHz bands in December 2019. In May 2021, SMSE-006-21, Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz band, made the 6 GHz band available for licence-exempt use. In February 2022, ISED published SMSE-004-22, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for Radio Local Area Network Devices in the 5850-5895 MHz Frequency Band and for Intelligent Transportation Systems in the 5895-5925 MHz Frequency Band, which proposed to allow the use of licence-exempt RLAN devices in the 5850-5895 MHz band. ISED will continue to monitor the development of licence-exempt devices and seek to identify opportunities to release additional bands for licence-exempt use should demand for capacity continue to increase.
Annex C: Demand for satellite services
1. Due to Canada’s vast landmass and widely dispersed population, satellite systems play a vital role in providing communications capabilities in rural, remote and northern communities, where terrestrial facilities are limited or non-existent. In these communities, satellite systems provide the backbone for essential services such as basic telephony, broadcasting and Internet. In urban areas, satellites provide direct-to-home television; however, satellite TV services are declining, as more consumers are opting for on-demand services.
2. In addition to facilitating consumer services, satellites support a wide range of applications, such as those that monitor the impacts of climate change, manage natural resources and enable emergency telecommunications during disasters.
3. A notable development in the satellite world is the emergence of large non-geostationary orbit (NGSO) satellite constellations for commercial services. Although geostationary orbit (GSO) systems have functioned for decades and require only a few satellites for global coverage, NGSO satellites are closer to the Earth, offering the lower latency essential for applications that depend on timing.
4. NGSO satellites occupy a range of altitudes: low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites, for example, are typically located between 400 km and 2,000 km above the Earth, while medium Earth orbit satellites are typically located between 8,000 km and 20,000 km above the Earth.
5. GSO satellites appear to be stationary when viewed from Earth and orbit at about 36,000 km above the Earth. This distance results in higher latency compared to NGSO satellites, meaning that the delay resulting from the signal’s having to travel to a GSO satellite and back can be significant, hindering applications such as voice communication, video conferencing, remote medicine and unmanned aircraft.
6. Although lower latency is of great benefit in many instances, the operating environment is still developing for large NGSO satellite constellations that provide ubiquitous connectivity, and significant commercial deployments are few. However, the number of deployments may increase as the technologies for both the space and ground segments evolve.
C1. Overall demand for satellite services
7. In North America, satellite services are well-established and have a significant customer base. Satellite services are expected to grow at an 8.5% compound annual growth rate by 2029. ISED expects that demand for satellite capacity in Canada, using new NGSO satellites as well as GSO satellite systems, will continue to increase over the next five years to deliver broadband Internet in rural, remote and northern areas beyond the reach of terrestrial networks.
8. One of the main drivers of demand for satellite spectrum is the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, satellite services will be key to next-generation agricultural efficiencies made possible by the IoT and precision farming. The IoT is also expected to drive operational improvements, including in health and safety, and in the mining, oil and gas industries. Since these industries are often located in remote areas, satellite-based solutions will help to meet the demand for IoT.
9. On the supply side, according to the International Telecommunication Union’s Regulation of Global Broadband Satellite Communications, new satellite technology such as high-throughput satellites provides 2 to 20 times the data capacity of traditional fixed satellite services (FSS) using the same amount of spectrum. This efficiency allows for a much lower cost per bit of data transmitted and enables satellite service providers to offer higher data levels at lower prices.
C2. Demand for fixed and broadcast satellite services
10. Telecommunications services offered over FSS include broadband Internet and backhaul. FSS bands are used for feeder links to other types of satellite services. (A feeder link is a radio link that connects an earth station at a given location to a space station, or vice versa, conveying information for a space radiocommunication service other than the FSS.)
11. Broadcast satellite service applications include direct-to-home services such as satellite television and satellite radio. When assessing how much spectrum would be required over the next few years to meet demand for these services, ISED considers the types of applications and services that would be offered and the type of satellite systems (traditional versus high-throughput) being used to deliver these services.
12. With high-throughput satellites being able to provide up to 20 times more throughput than traditional fixed satellites with the same amount of spectrum, each new satellite can offer dramatically increased bandwidth and effectively deliver higher performance at a lower cost. Increasing take-up of the former may be driving reduced demand levels for spectrum for the latter. Northern Sky Research’s Global Satellite Capacity Supply and Demand, 17th Edition predicts that high-throughput satellites will see significant growth in the coming years, especially after 2021, when, for example, demand for satellites to monitor air traffic may begin to increase as the effects of the pandemic diminish.
13. Demand for broadcast satellite services has continued to decline because Canadians are increasingly consuming television programming in digital on-demand format rather than in the traditional format satellites make possible. In recent years, the services and applications delivered using spectrum allocated for fixed, broadcast and even mobile satellite services have begun to converge. For example, Internet-based video services are displacing traditional broadcasting services, while Earth stations in motion communicating with fixed satellite networks are being deployed to meet growing demand for ubiquitous broadband services in the mobility market. As such, ISED has received requests to use bands allocated to fixed and broadcast satellite systems, and is of the view that there is merit in providing greater flexibility to maximize the use of the spectrum. To that end, ISED has recently changed certain satellite allocations.
14. Three major frequency bands support fixed and broadcast satellite services in Canada: C-band (3.5-7 GHz), Ku-band (10-18 GHz) and Ka-band (18-30 GHz). ISED examined the demand for each band to provide a better understanding of where there will be future demand growth.
15. In Canada, some communities where terrestrial backhaul is not available depend on Cband satellites for voice, video and data services. Satellites operating in the C-band are well placed to provide back-up communication services in emergencies, when the terrestrial telecommunications infrastructure is no longer functional. The majority of licensed C-band Earth stations in Canada communicate with three satellites operated by Telesat. The expected endoflife date for each of these stations varies: Anik F2 (2023), Anik F3 (2024), Anik G1 (2032); this date may be extended.
16. The C-band is less susceptible than other bands to rain attenuation (also called “rain fade”), which allows for much more stable signals to receivers. However, the C-band requires larger, more costly antennas, and is less useful for bandwidth-intensive applications, i.e. higher capacity Internet services, high-resolution images and video. Northern Sky Research’s Global Satellite Capacity Supply and Demand, 17th edition forecasts a decline in revenue for C-band data applications over the next 10 years due to the transition to higher bands and high-throughput satellite technology. Video applications made possible by the C-band are also expected to decrease in number, given the increase of film and television content provided by high-speed Internet.
17. With the overall trend towards higher frequencies to better accommodate data-intensive applications that require larger bandwidths, and in the context of increasing demand for terrestrial fixed and mobile services, ISED issued SLPB-002-21, 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. This decision made C-band spectrum available for fixed and mobile 5G services while maintaining satellite services in remote areas.
18. The Ku-band is mostly used for video-related applications (e.g. direct-to-home television), enterprise data services, such as network connectivity for oil and mining companies, and point-of-sale terminals for gas stations and post offices. Signals carried over this band can suffer from some rain fade in heavy downpours, but interruptions are generally short. Compared to the C-band, the Ku-band allows for smaller antennas well-suited to consumer use. The spectrum in the Ku-band is allocated exclusively to fixed and broadcast satellite services, and can therefore support bandwidth-intensive applications such as broadband Internet and high-definition video.
19. Direct-to-home service subscribership dropped by 7.4% between 2019 and 2020, according to information on the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s Open Data portal. Despite this drop, the Ku-band remains in heavy use for satellite services, and there is continued interest in further use of portions of the band for NGSO satellite user terminal downlinks, as well as Earth stations in motion. With regard to the latter, the World Radiocommunication Conference 2023 (WRC-23) includes an agenda item on harmonizing the use of the 12.75-13.25 GHz band (Earth-to-space) for aeronautical and maritime applications.
20. The Ka-band is mainly used to deliver broadband Internet access directly to homes and businesses. The Ka-band also requires smaller antennas than those used for lower band consumer satellite services, making installation easier and less expensive. Although this band is more susceptible to weather-related outages than the C- and Ku-bands, it currently provides much higher capacity and is a preferred band for many LEO satellite constellations. Northern Sky Research’s Global Satellite Capacity Supply and Demand, 17th edition indicates that demand for broadband access in North America is expected to continue to grow, with many more subscribers being added in the coming years. Many NGSO satellite providers have begun using or plan to use the Ka-band to meet this demand, specifically as uplink spectrum for gateways and user terminals.
21. ISED released a decision regarding the Ka-band in June 2020 that granted co-primary status to GSO and NGSO fixed satellite services in portions of the Ka-band to provide an equal opportunity for both types of systems to use this spectrum, and to facilitate new and innovative services in rural and remote areas.
22. With growing use of the Ka-band, there is also greater interest in eventual deployments of NGSO satellites in what are known as the Q- and V- bands: the 37.5-42.0 GHz band for downlink, and the 47.2-50.2 GHz and 50.4-51.4 GHz bands for uplink.
C3. Technology advancements for fixed and broadcast satellite systems
23. Since the 2018 Outlook, the NGSO satellite industry has seen significant growth, and the launch of some mega-constellation systems is well under way. The Satellite Industry Association’s Satellite Communications Capacity Trends forecast that up to 4,000 NGSO satellites will be built between 2020 and 2024, with an aggregate data capacity in excess of 25 terabytes per second (about 100 times the capacity of NGSO satellites in 2019). This anticipated growth in capacity over the next five years will likely lead to a decline in the costs of deployed capacity.
C4. Demand for mobile satellite services
24. Mobile satellite services can operate through either GSO or NGSO satellites, with both having the ability to offer global coverage. Mobile satellite services continue to play a key role in enabling communication in challenging circumstances, such as to and from vessels in extremely remote locations at sea. Fortune Business Insights’ 2020 market research report predicts that the global demand for mobile satellite services will grow only slightly (by about 4%) between 2020 and 2027.
25. Mobile satellite service systems could support IoT connections using small LEO satellites. Demand for narrowband mobile satellite spectrum for this purpose is growing and will be under discussion at WRC-2023, with the 20102025 MHz band being among the bands identified for study.
C5. Technology advancements for mobile satellite services
26. Satellite phones, which transmit and receive data directly to and from satellites, fill a niche role, since they offer limited services, and can be bulky and expensive. However, companies are exploring the option of building a constellation of shoebox-sized satellites using a modified version of terrestrial tower software to provide 4G communication from space. The satellites would operate at a relatively low frequency compared to other communication satellites. This new technology could help provide high-bandwidth mobile data anywhere on Earth, including possibly extending coverage to rural, remote and Indigenous communities.
C6. Demand for Earth observation applications
27. Earth observation (EO) satellites allow for surveillance and imaging that provides essential information on the Earth’s land, oceans, climate and atmosphere. In doing so, these satellites enable environmental monitoring and protection, and natural resources management; they also support the safety and security of Canadians by helping first responders and search and rescue teams.
28. Technology advancements in data analytics and artificial intelligence are driving growing interest in satellite imagery, according to the Satellite Industry Association’s State of the Satellite Industry Report, using artificial intelligence, for example, to identify objects in satellite images that can provide supply chain information and to track the movement of goods or people. Radio frequency mapping, a new capability, will serve a variety of commercial applications, such as maritime ship-tracking, communications spectrum analysis and emergency response.
29. Before World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), the bands above 275 GHz were largely identified for use by passive services such as Earth exploration satellite services (EESS) and the radio astronomy service for spectral line observation. At the conference, the 275-296 GHz, 306313 GHz, 318-333 GHz and 356-450 GHz bands were identified for land mobile and fixed service applications, while maintaining various passive services. Protecting passive services will become more important as more and more active services are identified for spectrum above 275 GHz.
30. The move away from a few large, complicated and costly EO satellites towards constellations of numerous small and low-cost satellites is progressing rapidly. Today, satellites as small as SIM cards, and costing as little as $2,000, can send terabytes of images of the planet every day, according to a Geospatial World article on key trends in EO. EO activities, which once were restricted to a limited number of highly trained users, are becoming more accessible and ubiquitous as new users emerge, including universities doing research. The focus of industry efforts is changing from increasing image resolution to searching for better coverage and revisit time, with the aim of providing near-real time EO. This change of focus puts pressure on the spectrum to accommodate the needs of these small satellites and it prompted the International Telecommunication Union’s Radiocommunication Sector to allocate new frequency bands around 137-138 MHz and 148-149.9 MHz at WRC-2019.
C7. Technology advancements for EO applications
31. Several recent technology advancements have helped develop EO applications.
C7.1 EO radar
32. Recent advancements in EO radar technologies and their resulting spectrum needs led to the development of a Wide Swath High Resolution radar instrument. New technologies such as Multiple Azimuth Aperture and Digital Beamforming enable broader coverage and high resolution simultaneously. These technologies increase the demand for spectrum used for synthetic aperture radar in the EESS active allocations of the X- and C-bands. Moreover, the increase in the amount of data generated puts additional pressure on the already crowded EESS spectrum in the X- and Ka-bands to downlink the data to the ground.
33. Downlink data rates for high-resolution radar missions can exceed one gigabyte per second. Two sensor bandwidths are associated with these technological advancements:
- X-band to 1.2 GHz bandwidth, occupying the full extended EESS active band from 9.210.4 GHz
- C-band, the full 300 MHz bandwidth available to synthetic aperture radar in the 5.2505.570 GHz band
34. According to experts at the Canadian Space Agency, low-cost constellations of micro-satellite synthetic aperture radar are being developed. These constellations typically use X-band radar sensors in the core 9.3-9.9 GHz EESS active band. Most are planning to use the EESS data downlink bands in the X-band (8.0-8.4 GHz), with some possibly using Ka-band downlinks. The potential proliferation of this type of radar may result in increased demand for downlink capacity and may cause increased interference in the already crowded EESS X-band downlink band.
35. As future EO missions strive for higher and higher resolution, which will require ever-increasing bandwidth for synthetic aperture radar sensors and generating science data rates in excess of two to three gigabytes per second, there may be a need to relay downlink data through LEO communication satellite constellations (e.g. Telesat, SpaceX Starlink) and GSO Earth orbit relay satellites. Although relaying off SatCom satellites has not yet been developed, it may play a bigger role in future EO projects.
C7.2 Optical EO advancements
36. Optical EO missions often carry payloads such as multispectral sensors, hyperspectral sensors and Fourier transform spectroscopy sensors. Given the high data rates these sensors require, the data downlink typically uses the X-band and the Ka-band. However, several suppliers are focusing on developing X-band transmitter solutions with the CubeSat form factor in mind and are optimizing the power, mass and size constraints of their transmitters to align with the structure, volume and power consumption of CubeSats. A CubeSat is a type of miniaturized satellite that is made up of multiple cubic modules measuring 10 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm. The small size of the satellite may result in lower-cost missions downlinking high volumes of data over the same EESS X-band spectrum, with other more expensive (larger) spacecraft targeting optical EO data downlinks over the Ka-band.
C8. Future satellite spectrum requirements in Canada
37. Based on its examination of demand projections and technical advances for fixed, broadcast and mobile satellite systems, ISED has observed an overall trend towards NGSO and LEO satellites using higher-frequency spectrum bands (e.g. Ka-, Q- and V-bands). Those bands are better able to accommodate data-intensive applications that require larger bandwidths, i.e. broadband Internet services, high-resolution images and video. ISED is also considering that additional spectrum may be required to meet the increasing demand for higher-resolution EO systems.
Annex D: Demand for backhaul
1. Terrestrial backhaul facilities are an essential part of the communications infrastructure and help support the delivery, by fixed and mobile broadband networks, of some satellites, as well as Internet, data and voice traffic. Backhaul can connect remote sites and buildings for corporate, health and educational purposes, and broadcasters rely on backhaul to transmit news footage.
2. There are multiple ways of providing backhaul, including fibre optics, wireless microwave and satellites. In Canada, service providers tend to favour a mix of fibre and wireless microwave for backhaul. The composition of a particular backhaul mix depends on a variety of factors, including technical performance, environmental performance, ease of deployment, capacity, cost, accessibility and competition.
3. According to a 2020 article on microwave backhaul in the 2020 Ericsson Technology Review, microwave backhaul will remain a highly attractive complement to fibre for 5G data transport. Differing economic returns in high- and low-density areas have led to wireless microwave backhaul being used more in remote and rural areas, especially those with terrain that is difficult to excavate. The density-dependent economics of fibre optics make fibre better suited to high-traffic urban cell sites, given its greater data capacity, lower operating costs, and the availability of already-deployed fibre by commercial mobile carriers.
4. That said, wireless microwave backhaul also works well for the rapid deployment of small cells in metropolitan markets, where it would be time-consuming or disruptive to dig up streets and sidewalks. Microwave backhaul solutions are often cost-effective, scalable and easy to deploy to support microcells that complement existing cell sites.
D1. Changes since the publication of Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022
5. Before April 1, 2021, licence fees for fixed point-to-point systems, as set out in the Radiocommunication Regulations, were capacity- and apparatus-based, with separate fees for each transmit and receive frequency. Where a link is a means of communication between two stations located at fixed points, capacity-based fees were calculated by converting the throughput transmitted and received over a link into its equivalent number of voice channels.
6. With the publication of DGSO-004-19, Decision on the Licence Fee Framework for Fixed Point-to-Point Systems, in July 2019, and subsequent regulatory implementation, fees for fixed point-to-point systems are now calculated according to a consumption-based model that looks at the amount of spectrum used (bandwidth) per link. This new way of calculating fees provides an economic incentive to use spectrum more efficiently and bring the pricing mechanism into alignment with other spectrum bands.
7. In SMSE-008-22, Decision on Updates to the Licensing and Fee Framework for Earth Stations and Space Stations in Canada, ISED modernized the fee framework for certain satellite licences. This decision simplified the licensing approach and fee structure, while reducing fees overall to support the evolution of the satellite industry and facilitate the deployment of innovative satellite solutions, including those for broadband connectivity. This decision will also reduce the cost of providing satellite backhaul to satellite-dependent communities.
D2. Demand for wireless backhaul
8. Historically, a large share of wireless backhaul facilities supported long-haul links connecting one city to another, but that became less important in the 1990s because of fibre deployment. As a result, wireless backhaul shifted to middle-mile, going from the edge of a city to the centre, or to supplementing areas where it did not make sense to lay fibre. Growth in demand has historically been predictable and linear; however, ISED expects to see a significant increase in demand for wireless backhaul over the coming years.
9. This increased demand is expected because of an anticipated shift from middle-mile to last-mile connectivity, for example, short-range backhaul supporting the deployment of commercial mobile small cells. Although anticipated for a number of years but slow to materialize, the shift to last-mile connectivity may happen more quickly once the deployment of commercial mobile cell sites using millimetre-wave (mmWave) spectrum begins in earnest. Whether or not this shift will take place is unclear, but the economics of wireless backhaul are particularly favourable to this deployment scenario. In addition, ISED has seen a small increase in the take-up of wireless backhaul with the implementation of DGSO-004-19, the decision on fees for fixed point-to-point systems. This decision improved the relative cost of wireless backhaul systems compared to fibre optic systems.
10. The demand for wireless backhaul is linked to both the supply of wireline backhaul (a substitute for wireless) and the demand for other services, including commercial mobile, licence-exempt and satellite services. In particular, the various use cases and high data rates anticipated for 5G commercial mobile services, and the potential for increased deployment of small-cell sites in dense urban areas are expected to have a significant impact on future backhaul spectrum requirements.
11. Despite the expected increases in demand for wireless backhaul, ISED still anticipates that overall, fibre will continue to outpace growth in wireless because of long-term trends resulting from a variety of non-regulatory factors.
12. Traditional backhaul facilities have generally been situated in the 3.7-24.0 GHz spectrum range. ISED anticipates that these facilities will mostly shift to the 10.7-24.0 GHz range as lower bands are repurposed for mobile services. Exceptionally, the 6 GHz band is a lower band that will remain an important band for long-range backhaul.
13. In light of the strong global momentum of commercial 5G services, the October 2019 Ericsson Microwave Outlook, forecast that some backhaul frequency bands would transition to 5G access, while the E-band (57-95 GHz) and 32 GHz band will be essential for the backhaul of 5G.
14. For traditional wireless backhaul that supports medium- and long-distance connectivity, the current spectrum allocations are likely sufficient. However, ISED is studying issues such as the possible impact of backhaul on the 21.2-21.8 GHz and 22.4-23 GHz (extended 23 GHz) bands (see table 1) and will consider initiating a consultation if warranted. Much of the demand will likely be for deployments above 24 GHz and the existing bands above 24 GHz will likely be sufficient for longer-range transmission where fibre is not an option.
15. ISED understands that mobile operators have, to date, preferred to use flexible-use bands to provide mobile services and that they have not made significant use of in-band backhaul. However, this preference could change in the case of mmWave bands since the very narrow beam widths and high-antenna directivity associated with such high frequencies could enable the use of the same spectrum for both mobile and backhaul in the same base station.
D3. Evolution of 5G
16. ISED remains uncertain of the precise manner in which 5G technology will evolve. For example, 5G may usher in networks composed of many high-density small cells, and this infrastructure may require more wireless backhaul to help the cells connect with one another economically. New cell sites deployed more closely with each other could lead to increased reliance on wireless backhaul; however, it is still too early to see to what extent 5G will drive an increased reliance on small-cell architecture.
D4. Low Earth orbit satellites
17. Large constellations of low Earth orbit (LEO) satellites will likely provide backhaul service to cell sites in some rural and remote locations where other forms of backhaul are impractical, especially in Canada’s North. For example, it may be possible to place a cell tower in a remote location where no terrestrial backhaul is needed and have it be completely served by LEO satellites. This use of LEO satellites is unlikely to affect the overall demand for wireless or fibre backhaul. Since these two systems will continue to provide superior cost and capacity where they are available, they will not generally compete with each other. However, LEO satellites could be significant enablers of commercial mobile and Internet services for currently unserved communities.
D5. Technological advancements that may affect backhaul
18. Several new technological advancements are being developed that may affect backhaul.
D5.1 Multiple-input multiple-output technology
19. Ongoing research and development is exploring how to adapt commercial mobile multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) technologies to line-of-sight backhaul communications systems, using multiple antennas on a tower to increase the spectral efficiency. An effective solution could double backhaul capacity on a given link, using no more spectrum than is used today. Continued shifts to dual-channel cross-polarization systems and higher order modulation techniques will also improve the spectral efficiency of wireless backhaul systems.
20. These trends will enhance the economics of wireless backhaul, in effect increasing the practical supply of spectrum for backhaul. Increased supply would alleviate some of the constraints currently affecting wireless backhaul in high-density areas and would reduce the need for further spectrum allocation for backhaul in congested locations. It is important to note, however, that MIMO and other technological improvements are part of a multi-decade trend towards improved spectral efficiency for backhaul systems. Consequently, ISED views these improvements as incrementally helpful in addressing demand pressure, rather than being “gamechangers.”
21. Since MIMO technology for backhaul typically requires higher frequency bands and shorter hop lengths, it is not as well-suited to rural deployments. However, although some rural backhaul corridors may be starting to see some congestion, it is important to note that there is little need for increased backhaul supply in rural and remote areas, where spectrum is typically uncongested, resulting in less demand for more bandwidth.
D5.2 Multiband backhaul
22. Similar to carrier aggregation in commercial mobile systems, microwave backhaul systems can employ radio-link bonding to increase available capacity by combining multiple channels to simulate a single, wider channel. This approach has so far been limited to channels in the same frequency band. However, backhaul systems are evolving to include multiband configurations that would allow higher capacities over longer distances by bonding large bandwidths at higher frequencies with narrow bandwidths at lower frequencies.
23. In a 2020 article on microwave backhaul in the Ericsson Technology Review, Ericsson projected that this technology will allow operators to increase the capacity of a microwave backhaul network up to tenfold. The capacity increase would not improve spectral efficiency; however, it would allow a single system to use more spectrum than might be available in any one band.
24. According to the Ericsson article, the best overall performance of wireless backhaul at the lowest total cost of ownership is achieved by using mmWave in combination with spectrum assets below 6 GHz. These assets can be used to increase the density of networks with multiband radio sites at street level and facilitate the fast deployment of mmWave backhaul for these sites, with an easy migration to fibre-based backhaul if and when needed.
25. The Ericsson article also notes that an innovative type of wireless backhaul with 5G, integrated access and backhaul, could also contribute to increasing the density of networks with multiband radio sites at street level.
D5.3 Edge computing
26. As the use of Internet of Things (IoT) devices increases, so does the amount of data produced. Edge computing and mobile-edge computing is the practice of setting up processing and analytical capabilities closer to the source of the data, which has the potential to improve end-to-end latency, data security, availability and scalability. These capabilities are particularly important as private industrial networks are established and more sectors expand their use of IoT devices. The added benefit of edge computing is that it reduces the need to transfer all the generated data to traditionally centrally located data centres, which may reduce the demand on backhaul networks. Reducing the demand could present a cost savings for rural and remote applications, and could in turn reduce the demand for additional backhaul spectrum.
D5.4 Licence-exempt bands
27. Manufacturers already have wireless backhaul equipment available for some licence-exempt bands, notably 57-71 GHz and above 95 GHz. However, some customers may not be inclined to take up free-to-use unlicensed backhaul because it offers no protection in cases of interference.
D6. Future backhaul spectrum requirements in Canada
28. Demand for backhaul will be driven by the demand for greater capacity in broadband Internet, mobile bandwidth, video on demand, the Access Licensing framework, non-competitive licensing, licence-exempt backhaul above 95 GHz, and many other services.
29. ISED is of the view that current technical and policy changes, in conjunction with advances in backhaul technology, will help operators respond to some of this demand. However, the expected capacity requirements of and deployment scenarios for 5G will require that some new spectrum be made available in the next five years.
30. Redeployment of previous backhaul spectrum in the bands that support commercial mobile deployment will, with some exceptions, increasingly push backhaul to the 6-24 GHz and above 57 GHz bands. For example, ISED published SMSE-005-22, Consultation on the Technical and Policy Framework for the Frequency Bands Above 95 GHz, which included questions on backhaul in this range. That said, in March 2021, ISED made 32 GHz of spectrum available for backhaul through the publication of Standard Radio System Plan SRSP-331.8, Technical Requirements for Fixed Radio Systems Operating in the Band 31.8-33.4 GHz.
31. Congestion in backhaul frequency bands may continue to be experienced in some urban and rural areas as operators expand backhaul capacity to support the demand generated by commercial mobile service.
32. The areas of high usage in the 6, 7, 8 and 11 GHz bands in Ontario are primarily along major highways (e.g. 400-series highways), in major population centres, and in some major hub areas. For example, areas of heavy congestion and usage appear along the corridors of the major highways, such as highway 401 (Windsor to Cornwall), the Queen Elizabeth Way (QEW) (from Toronto to the US border at Niagara Falls), highway 400 heading north of Toronto along the Trans-Canada Highway (especially from Toronto to Parry Sound), and in major population centres, such as Toronto, Mississauga, Burlington, Hamilton, Ottawa, Kitchener-Waterloo, London, Windsor and Kingston.
33. The 6, 7, 8 and 11 GHz bands are also critical in connecting more northern population centres. The number of installations in these bands is increasing along the Trans-Canada Highway up to the extreme northwest corner of Ontario, in Kenora, and at the Ontario-Manitoba border. Links will typically branch off these main areas or corridors to adjacent populated areas. To explain this high demand in more detail, areas with relatively small populations, such as Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury and Fort Frances, are areas of high congestion in these lower bands. For example, Thunder Bay is a central hub for northwestern Ontario, with high congestion in the lower linking bands.
Annex E: Spectrum sharing
1. Given the finite supply of spectrum, regulators are always looking for ways to maximize its use. Traditionally, regulators have chosen to move existing services to other bands in order to free up spectrum for new uses. However, moving existing services is becoming more difficult, given increases in mobile data traffic, coupled with steadily growing demand for ubiquitous and faster broadband services, which is putting pressure on spectrum supply.
2. New applications relying on faster and ultra-reliable mobile broadband and the IoT, supported by 5G and evolving Wi-Fi technologies, are driving the demand for spectrum and thus, competing for access to spectrum that is already in use. Repurposing spectrum bands, which means moving existing services to other spectrum bands, has proven difficult. Related research has focused on finding other ways for various services and users to share spectrum more efficiently when it is technically feasible and practical to do so.
E1. Spectrum policy and management factors
3. Regulators use a variety of mechanisms to ensure spectrum is used efficiently. Flexible-use licensing allows a licensee to deploy fixed or mobile services, or a combination of the two, as they see fit. This type of licensing enables new technology and innovation without overly prescriptive requirements. Licensees can extend their existing service offerings in a number of ways. For example, mobile spectrum can be used to provide wireless broadband in rural areas.
4. As outlined above, spectrum sharing refers to an approach regulators can use to better optimize spectrum use. Multiple services share the same frequency bands through geographical separation, management of power and/or the use of databases and control systems to coordinate access, thus allowing various spectrum users to share frequencies without causing or experiencing interference. Both spectrum sharing and flexible-use licensing also allow regulators to make spectrum available for new services when a band of existing services cannot be fully cleared.
E2. International examples
5. A number of other countries have adopted various approaches to spectrum sharing as a way of encouraging innovative uses of spectrum and increasing available services. In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has applied a spectrum-sharing mechanism that uses databases to manage access by multiple users. The 3500 MHz Citizens Broadband Radio Service band, for example, has been operational since late 2019. The FCC has also introduced database-driven spectrum access in the form of automated frequency coordination in the 6 GHz band for sharing spectrum between incumbent services and licence-exempt Wi-Fi users.
6. The communications regulator of the UK, Ofcom, has applied spectrum sharing using careful coordination of power levels and locations instead of a spectrum access database. Ofcom has recently introduced shared access and local access licences [PDF: 1.12 MB]. Their shared-access licensing allows users to obtain licences for spectrum that was previously licensed to a variety of users, such as the Ministry of Defence, amateur users, satellite earth stations and fixed wireless access systems, among others.
7. Ofcom’s local access licences allow for the use of auctioned mobile bands in areas where there are no commercial mobile deployments (e.g. rural and remote areas). This licensing model supports the demand for small area licensing, such as for private networks, or for rural coverage as a complement to regional or national licensing. Ofcom may move to a fully automated database approach in the future. Ofcom also permits shared access for Wi-Fi users in the 6 GHz band by limiting power levels, to avoid interference with incumbent fixed wireless users in the band.
E3. Canadian spectrum sharing
8. Since the publication of Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022, ISED has implemented new approaches, such as flexible-use licensing, and database-led sharing when assessing potential changes to spectrum allocations. ISED has made progress towards spectrum-sharing approaches in the following significant areas.
9. Television white space (TVWS) bands: TVWS refers to spectrum that is not being used by licensed radio services in certain geographic areas and is therefore available for use by other services. ISED has taken the following steps to manage TVWS spectrum:
- In 2019, ISED released the Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for White Space Devices, allowing additional access to TV portions of the spectrum while eliminating access to the 600 MHz mobile use band. Decisions relating to the use of wireless microphones are addressed separately and can be found in the Decision on the Technical, Policy and Licensing Framework for Wireless Microphones.
- ISED revised its technical standards to align more closely with those of the US in order to simplify the implementation of the database for Canada. The 2021 issue of Database Specification DBS-01, White Space Database Specifications, sets out the updated technical requirements for designating a database capable of identifying available channels for use by white space devices in the white space frequency bands. Further improvements to these technical rules are underway.
10. Millimetre wave bands: In 2019, ISED released SLPB-003-19, Decision on Releasing Millimetre Wave Spectrum to Support 5G, indicating that this spectrum would be made available for flexible use, including a policy to facilitate sharing between satellite and flexible-use services in these bands.
11. 6 GHz band: In May 2021, ISED released SMSE-006-21, Decision on the Technical and Policy Framework for Licence-Exempt Use in the 6 GHz Band. This decision allowed for sharing between incumbent services and licence-exempt services in the band, along with the implementation of a database-driven spectrum-sharing approach under the control of an automated frequency coordination system for higher-power licence-exempt users.
12. Local licensing: In August 2022, ISED released SPB-003-22, Consultation on a Non-Competitive Local Licensing Framework, Including Spectrum in the 3900-3980 MHz band and Portions of the 26, 28 and 38 GHz Bands, which will make spectrum available on a shared basis to a variety of users who will benefit from a flexible approach to spectrum access through the use of local or smaller area licensing.
E4. Opportunities for future spectrum sharing
13. ISED is of the view that spectrum sharing will be a key enabler for meeting the anticipated high demand for spectrum. ISED intends to continue to develop database-driven spectrum-sharing models that support its policy objectives and to leverage modern spectrum-management automation technologies.
14. ISED recognizes that intelligent decision-making solutions and geographic/operational awareness of the radio environment are being developed through tools such as cognitive radio and DSA, and will change the way spectrum is accessed. However, these new sharing paradigms are still in early stages of development and may take time to effectively implement.