Decisions on a Band Plan for Broadband Radio Service (BRS) and Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework to License Spectrum in the Band 2500-2690 MHz


Through the release of this paper, Industry Canada hereby announces the decisions from the consultation process undertaken in Canada Gazette Notice No. DGSO-001-10 – Decisions on the Transition to Broadband Radio Service (BRS) in the Band 2500–2690 MHz and Consultation on Changes Related to the Band Plan (see Part A of this paper). The Department is also taking this opportunity to initiate the consultation on a policy and technical framework to license spectrum in the band 2500–2690 MHz (the 2500 MHz band) in Part B of this paper.

Through a separate consultation initiated by SMSE-018-10 in November 2010, the Department launched its Consultation on a Policy and Technical Framework for the 700 MHz Band and Aspects Related to Commercial Mobile SpectrumFootnote 1 (hereinafter referred to as the "700 MHz consultation").

Developments in the 2500 MHz band and the 700 MHz band have shown that both bands are suitable for the deployment of advanced mobile/broadband networks/services to meet growing user demands. The Department notes that a number of policy-related issues could benefit from concurrent consideration of the development of these two bands, as well as the development of the wireless services market as a whole. Industry Canada is therefore seeking views in the 700 MHz consultation on issues related to spectrum demand and on the possible need for government intervention to promote competition in the wireless market in the upcoming licensing processes. Interested parties are therefore encouraged to submit their comments with regard to questions on spectrum demandFootnote 2 and competitionFootnote 3 through the 700 MHz consultation process. Comments for the 700 MHz consultation are due on February 28, 2011, and reply comments are due on March 30, 2011. The possible requirement and mechanisms to promote competition specifically applicable to the 2500 MHz will be addressed within the 2500 MHz consultation paper.


The 2500 MHz band, previously allocated to the fixed and/or broadcasting services, has been licensed to Multipoint Communication Systems (MCS) operators in the bands 2500–2596 MHz and 2686–2688 MHz, and to Multipoint Distribution Service (MDS) operators in the bands 2596–2686 MHz and 2688–2690 MHz.Footnote 4 The World Radiocommunication Conference in 2000 (WRC-2000) identified the band 2500–2690 MHz for International Mobile Telecommunications-2000 (IMT-2000) systems (also known as third generation mobile or 3G services). The International Telecommunication Union's (ITU) identification of this band created significant interest, as it is the only band identified by the ITU on a global basis for next generation mobile services. In November 2001,Footnote 5 Industry Canada indicated that the fixed and mobile services would be allocated throughout the band 2500–2690 MHz. At that time, the Department indicated that the use of the mobile service would be subject to the development of appropriate licensing considerations.

In 2004, the Department initiated a public consultation on the use of the 2500 MHz band through Canada Gazette notice DGTP-004-04, which considered the ongoing spectrum planning activities and the licensing approach for all services allocated in the band.

In 2006, in DGTP-002-06Policy Provisions for the Band 2500–2690 MHz to Facilitate Future Mobile Service (hereinafter referred to as "the 2006 Policy Decision"), the Department announced its policy on the use of spectrum in the 2500 MHz band, including the spectrum utilization policy which designates this band for mobile, fixed and broadcasting use. (The term adopted for policy, technological and licensing purposes in this band is Broadband Radio Service (BRS), where any of the mobile, fixed or broadcasting services may be deployed.) The 2006 Policy Decision also announced the policy to permit existing MCS and MDS licensees authorized to operate in the 2500 MHz band to apply for new BRS licences. Existing MCS or MDS licensees wishing to offer mobile service would apply to Industry Canada for a new BRS licence. The Department would issue a new BRS licence that would include approximately two thirds of the originally authorized spectrum in the 2500 MHz band. The remaining approximate one third of the spectrum under the former licences would be the subject of a future licensing process by the Department (referred to in this paper as "returned spectrum"). Although the 2006 Policy Decision provided some details in terms of the spectrum for the new flexible licences under BRS, it did not fully address the eligibility criteria for conversion of MCS and MDS authorizations to BRS licences, and it did not address whether site-specific MCS licences should be eligible for conversion to BRS spectrum licences.

Noting that the licence terms for MCS and MDS incumbents in the band (hereinafter referred to as "the incumbents") are coming to an end in 2011,Footnote 6 and in keeping with Industry Canada's policy of consulting two years prior to the end of a licence term, the Department published DGRB-005-09 – Consultation on Transition to Broadband Radio Service (BRS) in the Band 2500–2690 MHz (DGRB-005-09) in March 2009. The consultation requested comments on the Department's proposals regarding (1) a firm transition date to BRS licences, (2) the criteria to be used in determining which operations would be eligible for converting to BRS licences, (3) the geographic service area for converted BRS licences, and (4) the proposed conditions of licence for BRS spectrum licences until the policy and licensing framework for BRS has been finalized.

In June 2010, Industry Canada announced its decisions from the consultation initiated by DGRB-005-09 in DGSO-001-10 – Decisions on the Transition to Broadband Radio Service (BRS) in the Band 2500–2690 MHz and Consultation on Changes Related to the Band Plan (DGSO-001-10). In DGSO-001-10, the Department announced decisions on several issues, including (1) the establishment of March 31, 2011, as the firm transition date to BRS licences, (2) that all site-specific MCS licences in Manitoba would be grandfathered, (3) the eligibility criteria for conversion to BRS licences, (4) the geographic service areas for converted licences, and (5) licence conditions for converted licences. In DGSO-001-10, the Department also initiated the consultation on the band plan, including the mapping of incumbents into a new band plan. Comments and/or reply comments were received from 3G Americas LLC (3G Americas); Bell Canada, Inukshuk Wireless Partnership and Rogers Communications Partnership (collectively Inukshuk); Bragg Communications Inc. (EastLink); Ericsson Canada Inc. (Ericsson); GSM Association (GSMA); Intel Corporation (Intel); Motorola Canada Limited (Motorola); MTS Allstream Inc. (MTS Allstream); Pacomm Consulting Group (Pacomm); Quebecor Media Inc. (QMI); Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC); Saskatchewan Telecommunications (SaskTel); SSI Micro Ltd. (SSI); TELUS Communications Company (TELUS); and YourLink Inc. (YourLink).

Industry Canada hereby announces its decisions, including the adoption of a new band plan and the mapping of incumbents into the new band plan, in Part A of this paper. In Part B of this paper, the Department initiates a consultation on a policy and technical framework to further license spectrum in the 2500 MHz band.

Part A – Decisions on Band Plan and Mapping of Incumbents to the New Band Plan

1. Band Plan

1.1 General Discussion

At the WRC-2000, the band 2500–2690 MHz was globally identified for IMT-2000 systems. At the World Radiocommunication Conference in 2007 (WRC-07), identification was expanded to include IMT-Advanced.Footnote 7 Recent technological evolutions and market trends enabling multimedia applications over broadband access systems have resulted in a significant increase in spectrum demand for broadband wireless applications. As noted in DGSO-001-10, in order to support such growth in spectrum demand, the BRS band plan in the 2500–2690 MHz range should support:

  • harmonization of equipment specifications to the extent possible;
  • economies of scale and greater equipment availability;
  • orderly deployment of broadband radio systems, enabling efficient use of the limited radio spectrum;
  • deployment of systems with reduced capital and operational costs, enabling affordable services to consumers; and
  • international interoperability and roaming.

1.2 Adoption of Band Plan

In the 2006 Policy Decision, Industry Canada announced policy provisions associated with the conversion to BRS licences.Footnote 8 As discussed in the Decision, in formulating this policy, it was recognized that: (i) market demand should play a role in the development of new services for Canadians; (ii) mobile spectrum is very valuable; and (iii) there are numerous technological advances occurring in the 2500 MHz band. The Department also acknowledged that regulatory flexibility was necessary to permit mobile service in the band.

In particular, the Department adopted the policy to permit incumbents to apply for new BRS licences. The Department stated that each new spectrum licence would authorize the use of approximately two thirds of the spectrum associated with the former MCS/MDS licences in the 2500 MHz band, and the remaining spectrum under the former licence would be considered "returned spectrum." This latter spectrum would be the subject of a future licensing process, along with any other available unassigned spectrum.

At that time, as shown in Figure 1 below, 98 MHz of spectrum was designated for use by MCS licensees to operate in the band 2500–2596 MHz, as well as in the band 2686–2688 MHz. Ninety-two megahertz of spectrum was designated for use by MDS licensees to operate in the band 2596–2686 MHz, as well as in the band 2688–2690 MHz. The spectrum designated for MCS and MDS was unpaired. In the 2006 Policy Decision, the Department indicated that the bands 2535–2568 MHz (totalling 33 MHz) and 26572690 (totalling 33 MHz) would become returned spectrum once the incumbents obtained new authorizations which would allow them to provide mobile service.

In the Policy Decision, the Department also noted that it intended to harmonize the band plan to be compatible with the U.S. band plan, as appropriate. However, the Department indicated that it reserved the right:

  1. "to decide whether to implement a new band plan as contemplated in the policy;
  2. to decide when to adopt and to implement the new band plan; and
  3. to take any action to ensure that the new band plan is implemented and that the incumbents fully conform to the new band plan and the policy, at a date determined by the Department and after due notice."

The Department furthermore indicated that it would consult with the industry on the implementation of the new band plan.

Figure 1 – Current Spectrum Attribution for Band 2500–2690 MHz

Current Spectrum Attribution for Band 2500–2690 MHz  (the long description is located below the image)

In March 2009, a Stakeholder Proposal Development (SPD) process was initiated by DGRB-005-09, in which the Department held discussions with MCS and MDS incumbents. The goal of this process was to develop proposals to align the spectrum that incumbents would retain following the transition to BRS with a new internationally compatible band plan. In DGRB-005-09, the Department noted that, at that time, the band was divided into two large contiguous unpaired blocks of spectrum, along with two other small blocks, while many international band plans are based on the basic model of paired blocks, separated by an unpaired block of spectrum.

Subsequently, in 2010, through DGSO-001-10, Industry Canada initiated a public consultation to determine whether to adopt the U.S. Educational Broadband Service (EBS)/BRS band plan (the "U.S. band plan") or the international band plan based on the Frequency Arrangement C1 in the Report ITU-R M.1036 (henceforth referred to as the "ITU band plan").

The Department noted that the U.S. band plan (shown in Figure 2 below) encompassed the following characteristics:

  • the band is structured in 16.5 MHz blocks, except in the 2572–2614 MHz range, which is based on 6 MHz channels;
  • the band plan is technology-flexible, as there are no specific designations for frequency division duplex (FDD) or time division duplex (TDD) frequency ranges, and licences are issued in an unpaired configuration; and
  • the band starts at 2495 MHz (i.e. 5 MHz below the band designated for BRS in Canada).

Figure 2 – Option 1 – U.S. Band Plan ModelFootnote 9

Figure 2 – Option 1 – U.S. Band Plan Model