CPC-2-1-28 — Voluntary Licensing of Licence-Exempt Wireless Microphones in the TV Bands

Issue 2
December 2019


Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-1-28, issue 2, Voluntary Licensing of Licence-Exempt Wireless Microphones in the TV Bands, replaces CPC-2-1-28, issue 1, Voluntary Licensing of Licence-Exempt Low-Power Radio Apparatus in the TV Bands, dated February 5, 2015.

Comments and suggestions may be directed to the following address:

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
Spectrum Management Operations Branch
235 Queen Street
Ottawa ON  K1A 0H5

Attention: Spectrum Management Operations

Email: ic.spectrumoperations-operationsduspectre.ic@canada.ca

All spectrum-related documents are available on the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications website.

1. Principle

The Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, through the Department of Industry Act, the Radiocommunication Act and the Radiocommunication Regulations, with due regard to the objectives of the Telecommunications Act, is responsible for spectrum management in Canada. As such, the Minister oversees the development of national policies and goals for spectrum resource use and ensures effective management of the radio frequency spectrum.

2. Mandate

Section 5 of the Radiocommunication Act (the Act) specifies that the Minister may issue radio licences in respect of radio apparatus. Further, section 6 of the Act states that the Governor in Council may exempt radio apparatus from the requirement to be licensed.

3. Background and scope

This document focuses on voluntary licensing of “wireless microphones.” This term is used generically and is meant to include wireless microphones, cue and control communications, synchronization of video camera signals and FM transmitters operating within the VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) TV broadcast bands and in a select range within the 600 MHz band (657-663 MHz).

In October 2012, Industry Canada (now Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED)) released decision paper SMSE-012-12, Framework for the Use of Certain Non-broadcasting Applications in the Television Broadcasting Bands Below 698 MHz, approving a new type of licence-exempt radio service designed to operate on unassigned TV broadcast channels. These unassigned channels, also known as “white space,” could be used by this new radio service on a no-interference, no-protection basis with respect to licensed radio systems.

Subsequently, through its August 2015 Decision on Repurposing the 600 MHz Band, the Department repurposed the 600 MHz band to include commercial mobile use. Given the potential for mutual interference between wireless microphones and mobile broadband systems, wireless microphones that operated on a no-interference, no-protection basis would need to relocate to other frequencies. However, the continued use of licensed wireless microphones was permitted until the licensing of the new mobile broadband systems, as detailed in SAB-003-17, Low-power Radio Apparatus, Including Wireless Microphones, in the Band 614-698 MHz.

In March 2019, ISED released decision paper SMSE-003-19, Decision on the Technical, Policy and Licensing Framework for Wireless Microphones, as a result of a public consultation initiated in November 2017 to update the regulatory framework regarding wireless microphones with a view to facilitating their continued use. Among key decisions was the introduction of additional spectrum for wireless microphone use and new licensing eligibility requirements. As a result of this publication, the moratorium on licensing of wireless microphones was lifted in the TV broadcasting bands (54-72 MHz, 76-88 MHz, 174-216 MHz, 470-608 MHz) and a portion of the 600 MHz band, specifically from 657-663 MHz.

4. Related documents

5. Licensing policy

The requirement to obtain a licence for a wireless microphone depends on the Radio Standards Specification (RSS) under which the wireless microphone has been approved for use in Canada:

  • wireless microphones certified under RSS-123 require radio licences granted by the Minister subject to the Radiocommunication Act (refer to CPC-2-1-11)
  • wireless microphones certified under RSS-210 are exempt from licensing requirements

Although wireless microphones approved under RSS-210 and operating within the TV broadcast bands and portions of the 600 MHz band (614-616 and 653-663 MHz) do not require a radio licence, specific users of wireless microphones may voluntarily obtain a radio licence within the TV broadcast bands and from 657-663 MHz in order to minimize the likelihood of radio interference from white space devices. For further licensing and operational information, refer to section 6.

Note that licensing requirements do not apply to low-power announcement service (LPAS) devices that allow operators to communicate informative or commercial messages to the general public by means of ultra-low-power transmitters (e.g. “talking signs”). These types of LPAS are exempt from the requirement to obtain a licence.

5.1 Permissible TV broadcasting bands for wireless microphones

Table 1 lists the frequency bands for use by wireless microphones that have been certified under RSS-210 and the maximum bandwidth and power allowed for the operation of these devices.

Table 1: Frequency bands for wireless microphones certified under RSS-210*
Frequency band
Transmit e.i.r.p.**
Maximum bandwidth
54-72, 76-88, 174-216
50 200
250 200
600 MHz Band
614-616, 653-663
20 200

* In case of any discrepancies with this table, refer to the most recent issue of the RSS.

** Equivalent isotropically radiated power

6. Operational requirements and licensing

Wireless microphones certified under RSS-210 operate on a secondary (no-interference, no-protection), licence-exempt basis within the TV broadcasting bands and in portions of the 600 MHz band (614-616 and 653-663) across Canada. Wireless microphone users should be aware that the TV broadcasting bands are shared with primary services (e.g. TV broadcasting) and other non-primary systems, including remote rural broadband systems (RRBS) and white space devices (WSDs).

Wireless microphone users can voluntarily obtain radio licences to protect themselves from radio interference from WSDs; however, these licences do not afford protection from any other services. Users must register their geographic coordinates, operating parameters and intended period(s) of operation with an ISED-designated white space database (WSDB), as detailed in section 6.4. Questions regarding licensing requirements should be directed to the nearest ISED Spectrum Management office (refer to RIC-66 for contact information).

The WSDB provides lists of available TV channels to WSDs, while ensuring the protection of all licensed services operating within the same white space bands, including voluntarily licensed wireless microphone systems. Prior to operation, WSDs must register with a database. The registration information will then be shared among all designated WSDBs, and WSD users will be notified of the existence of voluntarily licensed wireless microphones within a certain geographic area. This reduces the likelihood of interference caused by WSDs. WSDs cannot claim protection from radio interference caused by any licensed radio systems, including voluntarily licensed wireless microphones.

A complete list of ISED-designated white space databases is provided in the List of Designated White Space Databases.

For technical parameters related to the sharing of registration information among designated WSDBs, refer to DBS-01.

6.1 Licensing of wireless microphones

Voluntary licences for wireless microphones may be issued to broadcasters and other program producers, large venue operators/owners and professional sound and touring companies, theatre, music and sporting events/similar organizations that require high quality audio wireless microphones as part of their productions/events. Existing holders of voluntary licence(s) for wireless microphones who do not qualify under the new eligibility criteria mentioned earlier (e.g. churches, schools; see section 6 of SMSE-003-19) are permitted to replace or renew their current voluntary licence(s). The replacement or renewal of licence(s) must be within spectrum shared with white space devices.

A single base-mobile radio licence will be issued for the wireless microphone system, including all microphones under the mobile section, and a single fixed base representing the associated system monitors.

For simplex (one-way) wireless microphone systems: The mobile section of the licence will indicate all the authorized transmit frequencies and the fixed base will indicate all of the authorized receive frequencies. Licence fees will be charged for a single frequency regardless of bandwidth and the number of authorized channels.

For duplex wireless microphone systems (not very common): Both the mobile and base sections of the licence will indicate all the authorized transmit and receive frequencies. Licence fees will be charged for a duplex channel regardless of bandwidth and the number of authorized channels.

Fees for voluntary wireless microphone licences are charged according to RIC-42, Guide for Calculating Radio Licence Fees. For additional information, please contact your local district office via RIC-66.

The area of operation for most voluntarily licensed wireless microphones will be limited to the actual geographic coordinates or area(s) of operation where the associated mobile or land station is located. Normally, the licence will also specify a particular frequency of operation for the wireless microphone. This requirement will be most relevant for voluntarily licensed wireless microphones used on a regular basis at specific addresses or locations (theatres, fixed entertainment venues, annual music events, etc.).

For licensed wireless microphones that “roam,” associated areas of operation may be indicated as being within a defined metropolitan area, “province-wide” or even “Canada-wide.” Associated radio licences may also list multiple TV-band frequencies for potential use. Except as noted in section 6.3 (i.e. for roaming electronic news gathering (ENG) wireless microphones), requests for such licences will be assessed on a case-by-case basis, where a licensee can demonstrate a justifiable need to use the wireless microphone at a series of locations across a wide area (e.g. travelling concerts and shows), and knows in advance where and when the wireless microphone will be in operation.

As noted in table 1 (above), RSS-210 permits the operation of voice and data wireless microphones in the VHF and UHF TV broadcasting bands, as well as in portions of the 600 MHz band (614-616 MHz and 653-663 MHz). Eligible users who wish to voluntarily license their wireless microphones operating within the TV broadcasting or 657-663 MHz bands may apply for the maximum bandwidths for these devices, i.e. 200 kHz.

Frequencies for voluntarily licensed wireless microphones operating in the TV broadcasting bands must be carefully selected so that they are not too close to the visual, colour and sound carrier frequencies of analog television broadcast channels. These frequencies are respectively 1.25 MHz, 4.829545 MHz and 5.75 MHz away from the lower band edge of each television broadcast channel.

6.2 Licence conditions

The maximum service radius of voluntarily licensed wireless microphones operating in a fixed location (e.g. concert hall) is typically 500 metres. However, some licensees (e.g. those associated with outdoor music festivals and sporting events) may provide multiple geographic coordinate points to form extended, polygon-shaped venues of operation. Moreover, broadcasters and other program producers could be authorized for wireless microphones that roam within metropolitan areas, a province or even across the country.

Licences will indicate that authorization is granted on a no-interference, no-protection basis vis-à-vis the primary radio services and it is the licensee's responsibility to resolve any interference problems caused to primary users, even to the point of ceasing operation if another suitable channel cannot be found.

All licensees, except for those operating electronic news gathering (ENG) systems (as indicated in section 6.3), must register their wireless microphones' actual geographic coordinates, operating parameters and intended period(s) of operation with an ISED-designated WSDB to obtain protection from WSDs (see section 6.4 for details). Otherwise, the licensee must accept any potential interference problems caused by WSDs.

6.3 Licensing and registration of roaming electronic news gathering wireless microphones

Electronic news gathering (ENG) systems are a special category of wireless microphones, where licensing and WSDB registration requirements can differ from those of typical wireless microphones. Whereas many wireless microphone licences indicate the use of only a specific frequency at a defined location on a permanent basis, ENG systems may be authorized for multiple frequencies over large areas (e.g. province-wide, Canada-wide).

As well, due to the “short-notice” nature of their business, it is often difficult to know in advance specifically when, where or for how long ENG systems may need to operate, or which of their assigned TV band frequencies are most suitable in a given area.

Regardless of these factors, ENG-type wireless microphone licences may continue to indicate metropolitan, provincial or Canada-wide areas of operation, as appropriate, and have the authority to operate on allocated TV broadcasting bands or from 657-663 MHz.

In order to minimize potential interference, licensed ENG-type wireless microphones are encouraged to register their actual location and operational frequency parameters with an ISED-designated WSDB. Note that, as with other types of voluntarily licensed wireless microphones, only prior registration can ensure that interference is not caused to ENG operations by WSDs.

Despite this, due to the short-notice situations that ENG operations often face, prior registration of licensed ENG system parameters may not always be feasible. To address this issue, voluntarily licensed ENG operators may consider other frequency use alternatives, as appropriate, including the following:

  • Using frequencies in TV channels first-adjacent to local TV broadcast stations. Note that personal/portable and fixed WSDs can operate in the 470-608 MHz band in low-power mode within the broadcast TV contour. Similarly, only fixed WSDs can operate in the 54-72 MHz, 76-88 MHz, 174-216 MHz bands, in low-power mode, within the broadcast TV contour.
  • Using frequencies 602-608 MHz, which are immediately below TV channel 37 (608-614 MHz) and are unused by TV broadcasters. Although not mandatory, WSDB registration of ENG operations on these channels is still encouraged, as these channels may also be used by WSDs. Should short-notice ENG operations be registered, no new WSDs within the ENG system's intended area of operation will be permitted within approximately 15 minutes of registration.

In addition to the above alternatives, voluntarily licensed ENG operators may also consult ISED-designated WSDBs to help identify other channels that may meet their short-notice ENG operational criteria.

It is important to remember that in all cases where short-notice frequency use alternatives are pursued by voluntarily licensed ENG operators, interference must not be caused to other licensed radio systems. As well, since such short-notice operations often use frequencies not listed on an ENG's radio licence, protection from other radio services and WSDs alike cannot be assured.

Whether licensed/registered frequency parameters or short-notice options are utilized, in all cases, same-site frequency coordination by multiple ENG operators will be solely the responsibility of the ENG operators.

6.4 ISED-designated WSDB registration information

As noted above, except in ENG-type wireless microphone cases, voluntarily licensed wireless microphone service area(s) and intended period(s) of operation must be registered with an ISED-designated WSDB.

This will allow WSDBs to know when and where licensed wireless microphones will be operating and, thereby, minimize the likelihood of radio interference. Without registration, protection from potential interference caused by WSDs on shared frequencies cannot be assured.

Registration of voluntarily licensed wireless microphones can be done by directly accessing one of the WSDBs provided in the List of Designated White Space Databases. Registration needs to be done only once, and may be done with any ISED-designated WSDB, since data is synchronized amongst them.

The following information shall be provided:

  1. name of the individual or business responsible for the wireless microphone
  2. contact address
  3. email address for contact person
  4. phone number for contact person
  5. geographic coordinates (NAD83) of the location or area(s) of operation where the wireless microphone will be used
  6. frequencies to be used by the wireless microphone at the indicated site(s)
  7. specific hours, days, weeks and/or months when the wireless microphone will be used (note that on dates and times when wireless microphones are not in use, the site will not be protected from WSDs)
  8. wireless microphone licence number

With regard to item (vi) above, note that since protection is based on TV channel use, this level of precision is required. The WSDB will only permit registration of wireless microphones for the frequency specified on the wireless microphone licence (typical for a wireless microphone operating in a fixed location).

With regard to item (v) above, the following parameters should be noted:

  1. The area of operation for a wireless microphone may be defined as a point and radius area. Multiple registrations that specify more than one point in the facility may be entered for very large sites.
  2. Under the point and radius, the operational location(s) of the wireless microphone can be defined using up to 25 geographic points at any one time, with a maximum radius of operation of 500 metres around each point.

6.5 Scheduling

In order to populate the WSDB with the most up-to-date information, a minimum 24-hour advance notice for voluntarily licensed wireless microphone registration is recommended. Conversely, where it is anticipated that licensed wireless microphone operations in a specific area will take place at regular intervals (e.g. annual music festivals), pre-registration cannot be made more than one year in advance.

Operators of fixed-venue or extended-venue wireless microphones used on a routine basis at permanent addresses or locations may, if applicable, register their related hours of operation as “continuous” or may indicate a regular, ongoing schedule. If no specific period of operation is indicated by the wireless microphone licensee, 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week operation at the licensee's indicated area/location of operation will be presumed.

With regard to voluntarily licensed ENG systems, interference protection from WSDs is only afforded during the period for which such ENG operations are actually registered.

To ensure that specified areas of operation are not inadvertently rendered unavailable for use by WSDs for extended periods of time, licensed/registered ENG operations can use a frequency (or set of frequencies) at a stated location (or given set of geographic coordinates) for a maximum 10-day period.

Should further ENG operation at the area(s) be required, subsequent re-registrations for the exact same site and frequency(ies) would be permitted for a maximum of two additional 10-day intervals (i.e. 30 days in total). Should operation still be required beyond these stated periods, other locations and/or frequency alternatives should be pursued.