SP 3400-3700 MHz — Spectrum Policy and Licensing Provisions for Fixed Wireless Access Systems in Rural Areas in the Frequency Range 3400-3700 MHz

This document has been supersceded by Policy and Licensing Procedures for the Auction of Spectrum Licences in the 2300 and 3500 MHz Frequency Bands, Revised 2004.

July 1998

Table of Contents

Amended by:

DGRB-003-03 Policy and Licensing Procedures for the Auction of Spectrum Licences in the 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz Bands (September 2003)

DGTP-006-03 Expansion of Spectrum for Fixed Wireless Access in the 3500 MHz Range (April 2003)

DGTP-002-03 Restructuring the Spectrum in the Band 3400–3650 MHz to More Effectively Accommodate Fixed and Radiolocation Services (February 2003)

Industry Canada
Radiocommunication Act

Notice No. DGTP-013-98

The purpose of this Notice is to announce the release of policy paper under the above mentioned title.

In August 1997, Industry Canada released a spectrum policy consultation paper, under Canada GazetteNotice DGTP-006-97, which addressed several new opportunities for usage of the radio spectrum in the 1–20 GHz frequency range including the introduction of fixed wireless access systems in the frequency range 3400–3700 MHz.

The Department has received significant interest from telecommunication service providers and equipment manufacturers to open new spectrum at 3.4 GHz for fixed wireless access systems. Wireless multipoint systems could offer an economical means to provide telephony and data services to business and residential customers. In particular, these systems could provide a promising technology in upgrading rural communications.

Based on the public interest shown, the Department agrees that there is a need to make spectrum available for wireless communications to advance telecommunications in rural areas. The spectrum policy provides for the licensing of radio systems in this band on a first-come, first-served basis in rural areas.

Comments on Spectrum Licensing Fees

Comments are invited on the proposed spectrum licensing fees for fixed wireless access systems (refer to Section 3.1.4. in the policy paper). The comments which will be made public, should be submitted on or before October 13, 1998 to the office of:

Director General
Radiocommunication and Broadcasting Regulatory Branch
Industry Canada, Jean Edmonds Building
300 Slater Street, Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0C8

The policy paper is available electronically via the Internet at the following address:

World Wide Web (WWW)
Spectrum Management and Telecommunications

or in hard copy, for a fee from:

Tyrell Press Ltd.
2714 Fenton Road
Gloucester, Ontario
K1T 3T7

Canada toll-free number: 1-800-267-4862
U.S. toll-free number : 1-800-574-0137
Worldwide telephone number : 613-822-0740
Fax number : 613-822-1089

Canada Communication Group
45 Sacré-Coeur Blvd.
Hull, Quebec
K1A 0S9

Toll-free number : 1-888-562-5561
Fax number : (819) 779-2858
Worldwide telephone number: 819-779-4335

Date at Ottawa, this 23rd of July, 1998.

Michael Helm
Director General
Telecommunications Policy Branch

1.0 Introduction

This spectrum policy addresses the introduction of fixed wireless access (FWA) systems operating in the frequency band 3400–3700 MHz. It also revises the policy provisions for point-to-point fixed systems operating in the band 3500–4200 MHz. An objective of this policy is to assist in facilitating improvements to telephone and data services in rural areas by providing spectrum for wireless access technology.

2.0 Background

In August 1997, Industry Canada initiated a review of the radio spectrum in the 1–20 GHz range. The consultation paper, entitled Proposals to Provide New Opportunities for the Use of the Radio Spectrum in the 1–20 GHz Frequency Range (DGTP-006-97), put forward a number of spectrum policy revisions to address the requirements of new wireless technologies and services.

The consultation paper dealt with many issues including the introduction of fixed wireless access technology in the band 3400–3700 MHz. This requirement had been brought to the attention of Industry Canada by telecommunication service providers and equipment suppliers. There was a clear indication of equipment availability and some service providers had embarked on field trials, particularly in rural areas, to assess the technical performance and market acceptance of fixed wireless equipment.

The Department indicated in the consultation paper that the promotion of reliable and affordable telecommunications services of high quality to rural regions of Canada has been a long standing policy objective. In this regard, fixed wireless access systems could play an important role in upgrading rural local telecommunication systems, including the provision of single line telephone service and improved data communication capabilities. In the consultation paper the Department asked a number of questions which address spectrum policy issues related to the use of the band 3400–3700 MHz by FWA systems including:

  1. The policy provisions needed to ensure rapid implementation of FWA systems in rural areas.
  2. A frequency band plan to suit a number of FWA equipment types and system characteristics.
  3. The matter of frequency block-area versus site licensing of FWA systems.
  4. The treatment of incumbent point-to-point systems operating in the 3500–4200 MHz band.
  5. The possible uses and spectrum requirements of FWA systems in urban areas.

3.0 Discussion

Nearly all of the 26 responses to the consultation paper announced in Canada Gazette Notice DGTP-006-97 provided comments regarding the opening of the 3400–3700 MHz band for fixed wireless access systems. It was clear from the comments received that there was substantial support for the development and deployment of FWA systems in this frequency range. Indications are that manufacturers are ready to supply, or in the process of developing, equipment and certain service providers have taken a strong interest in using FWA facilities in their public networks. In addition, the Department is aware of a number of other countries such as United Kingdom, Australia, Mexico and Brazil which have adopted FWA band plans in this frequency range and have, or are currently, authorizing FWA systems.

3.1 Deployment of Fixed Wireless Access Systems in Rural Areas

One of the challenges facing telecommunication service providers and government is to address the growing disparity between urban and rural telephony/data services.There remains close to 200,000 multi-party telephone lines in rural areas and many rural subscribers cannot, or have difficulty receiving Internet and electronic mail services due to transmission performance of existing rural lines. With new local distribution networks being implemented in the large urban centres, the communication gap between rural and urban areas is growing. In order to foster the benefits of improved communication facilities to rural residents, Industry Canada believes FWA system operators in this spectrum should consider offering upgraded telephone and data services.

Wireless technology can provide economical solutions for high cost rural communications provided there is sufficient spectrum to build cost effective systems.Permitting initially services which require large bandwidth, for example carriage of multiple video programs, could result in the depletion of the available spectrum in this frequency range, possibly leaving little opportunity for telephony and data service providers. In addition, by fostering the use of this spectrum for telephony and data applications, equipment suppliers could benefit from a larger, more focussed market, which could result in more variety of products and lower equipment costs. The success of FWA systems in this frequency band is dependant on a number of factors including the need to have low cost customer terminals. The Department recognizes this point and therefore encourages potential FWA licensees in this band to focus on the provision of telephone and data services.

3.1.1 Definition of Rural Service Areas

For the purposes of this policy, and as a first step in opening spectrum in this frequency band, rural service areas are defined as those areas having low telecommunication density (teledensity). Typically these areas are high cost service areas due to extensive wireline facilities required to serve relatively few customers. Presently, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is in the process of defining tariff bands which would apply in the various teledensity areas, including low teledensity, throughout Canada. Industry Canada will initially focus the licensing of FWA systems in high cost, low teledensity areas. As an interim measure, for the purposes of defining rural areas for licensing FWA systems in the 3.4 GHz band, the Department will use the tariff band definitions granted interim approval by the CRTC and described in the telephone companies General Tariffs1 and certain interrogatory responses. Annex 1 provides details on the low teledensity local telephone exchanges or locations where FWA operators may initially offer service to rural subscribers. The local telephone exchanges in Annex 1 are to be used as a guide and the Department will consider applications for FWA service in other local telephone areas and small communities of less than 4000 households where there is clear evidence that the consumers could benefit from improved or new telecommunication services.

In addition, it should be noted that the operation of FWA systems offering public correspondence service will be required to comply with the telecommunication regulatory requirements (e.g. CRTC, provincial authority).Applicants should take note of the CRTC's findings in Telecom Decision CRTC 97-8, Local Competition regarding, among other things, contribution, portable subsidy mechanisms and requirements to unbundle essential services and the ongoing proceeding regarding service in high cost areas as briefly outlined in Annex 2.

3.1.2 Frequency Band Structure

Industry comments on the structure of the band, channel block size, transmit/receive spacings varied considerably. Manufacturers and service providers are currently working together to address these issues through the Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC). However, given the importance of rapid deployment of FWA systems in rural areas of Canada and the need to accommodate several service providers and technologies, Industry Canada is prepared to provide an interim frequency plan based on the characteristics of the currently available equipment. Hence, a total of 150 MHz is being opened now, six 25 MHz blocks, in the band 3400–3550 MHz and this spectrum is available immediately for licensing FWA systems in the rural areas.

The channel block arrangement plan will support a variety of transmit/receive spacings and guard band requirements. To ensure service provision opportunities for a number of operators, the Department will limit any service provider, including affiliates, to one paired block, or a single spectrum block, depending on the requirements of the technology.

Initially, it is anticipated that a limited number of technologies may be available and some demand for early deployment of certain technology may be concentrated in one or two frequency blocks. For this reason, spectrum blocks will be assigned on a shared basis in rural areas. Operators will be assigned to specific channels within a 25 MHz block, or paired blocks, with the objective to ensure implementation opportunities for two to three users. Although the spectrum blocks may be assigned on a shared basis, individual channels within the blocks will be assigned only once in a given area. At the request of a service provider, this sharing requirement may be reviewed, at some point in the future, by Industry Canada. In these cases, the Department may award more spectrum in the 25 MHz block(s) to the incumbent operator, in certain service areas, if specific conditions exist such as a demonstrated need for the additional spectrum and equipment is readily available in other spectrum blocks for additional operators.

3.1.3 Frequency Assignment and Licensing Considerations

From the consultation process, interested parties supported the need to ensure rapid implementation of FWA systems in rural areas. Respondents suggested that block-area licensing would be preferred as it is envisaged that operators will typically serve large areas requiring multiple FWA hub stations.Respondents also suggested that site licensing of hub stations, at least initially, would also be required in order to permit early deployment of FWA systems.

The Department concurs with the view of industry, particularly with the need to initiate service in the rural areas. Since there is a large supply of spectrum in this band, certainly enough to support competitive service providers and a range of technology, the Department will initiate licensing of FWA systems in the rural areas on a first-come, first-served basis. Industry Canada will issue spectrum licences to authorize the use of frequency assignments in spectrum block(s) within a defined geographical service area for FWA systems that will be brought into service within a period not greater than six months from receipt of an approval-in-principle/licence. In addition, the Department will not entertain requests for wide area authorization, for example, large regions of a province.

Based on an application and following acceptance by the Department, a spectrum licence will be issued for a specific service area. Licensees will be expected to take measures to minimize radio frequency coverage into non-rural areas. Where actual radio frequency coverage overlaps a non-rural area, which given the non-cellular shape of the defined rural telephone exchange areas, licensees will generally not be permitted to serve any customers in those non-rural areas. While the Department will not reject applications based on such incidental coverage, actual licences will not authorize such additional coverage on the spectrum licence. Further licensees may be required to abide by urban/rural border and/or co-existence criteria as they are finalized and when such adherence is required, possibly when urban areas are available for licensing. In the interim, licensees will be required to successfully coordinate with existing FWA systems before systems are implemented.

The complete licensing procedure will be published in a Client Procedures Circular (CPC) following the release of this spectrum policy and licensing provisions for the band 3.4 GHz.

In licensing certain public wireless access facilities, Industry Canada has in the past provided for the requirements of law enforcement agencies to have the capability to continue their lawful interception activities. The Solicitor General of Canada has to this end released a set of assistance capability requirements that encompass police agency needs. Industry Canada intends to continue this practice through its conditions of licence for FWA systems offering public commercial services in the band 3400–3700 MHz by requiring that such licensees provide for and maintain lawful interception capabilities. As in past practice, Industry Canada will consider requests for forbearance from certain of these capabilities for a limited period where, in the opinion of the Minister of Industry and in consultation with the Solicitor General, the requirement(s) is (are) not reasonably achievable. Interested parties should contact the offices of the Solicitor General to obtain a copy of their document entitled Solicitor General's Enforcement Standards for Lawful Interception of Telecommunications which defines their requirements for lawful interception.

1 Under the CRTC General Tariff: Bell Canada, Item 60; Manitoba Telecom Services Inc., Item 460; BC TEL, Item 30, NewTel Communications Inc., Item 50. Response to CRTC Interrogatories: TELUS Communications Inc., TCI (CRTC) 14 July 97 1510; The New Brunswick Telephone Company Limited, Maritime Tel. & Tel., Island Telecom Inc., ITC MTT NB Tel (CRTC) 14 July 97 1510 (PCII).