3800 MHz Transition Manual and Licence Exchange Process for Flexible Use Licensees in the 3500/3800 MHz Bands

DGSO-006-23
August 2023

 

  • April 26, 2024:

    As per Section 4.1, the transition status of earth stations are described by the SMS field values below:

    • Site approved earth station – “Filtration Installed” Field: PB0 = Non-transitioned/transitioning earth station, PB1 = Transitioned earth station, PB2 = New earth station (in operation after May 21, 2021)
    • Generic earth station – “Physical Cell ID” Field: 0 = Non-transitioned/transitioning earth station, 1 = Transitioned earth station, 2 = New earth station (in operation after May 21, 2021)
Expand all content / collapse all content  WBS Licensing Moratorium Maps  
 

1. Intent

1. Through the release of this document, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), on behalf of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (the Minister), is outlining coexistence requirements between flexible use operations in the 3450-3900 MHz band and transitioning licensees in the 3650-4000 MHz band, as well as procedures for exchanging flexible use licences between 3450-3900 MHz, following the 3800 MHz auction as announced in Canada Gazette notice 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 (the 2021 Repurposing Decision). This document consists of the following:

  • Part 1: Coexistence between flexible use and incumbent services until the applicable transition deadlines as set out in the 2021 Repurposing Decision
    1. Fixed Satellite Service (FSS) earth station operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band
    2. Wireless Broadband Service (WBS) operations in the 3650-3700 MHz band
    Part 2: Exchanges of spectrum licences between 3450-3900 MHz (the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands)

2. This manual only provides the coexistence requirements between flexible use and incumbent services that are applicable until the relevant transition deadlines. For all other technical requirements, including the coexistence between flexible use and FSS earth station operations in the 4000-4200 MHz band after the FSS transition deadline, or coexistence with new or FSS earth stations that have transitioned to the 4000-4200 MHz band before the FSS transition deadline, please refer to Standard Radio System Plan SRSP-520, Technical Requirements for Fixed and/or Mobile Systems, Including Flexible Use Broadband Systems, in the Band 3450-3900 MHz and SRSP-102, Band-Specific Technical Requirements for Earth Stations in the Fixed-Satellite Service.

2. Legislative mandate

3. The Minister, 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 is responsible for developing national goals and policies for spectrum utilization and for ensuring effective management of the radio frequency spectrum resource.

3. Background

4. This section provides background information on the 2021 and 2022 decisions.

3.1 The 2021 and 2022 decisions

5. In May 2021, ISED published 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 (the 2021 Repurposing Decision). This decision added primary allocation to the mobile service and adopted a flexible use licensing model for fixed and mobile services in the 3650-4000 MHz band. The decision also confirmed that the 3650-3900 MHz range would be made available through an auction process and set out an approach to transition the band to flexible-use, including the treatment of incumbent licensees. In June 2022, ISED published the Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3800 MHz band (The 2022 Decision).

6. The 2021 Repurposing Decision included three transition deadlines that respect the needs of WBS urban users, FSS non-satellite dependent users, and WBS rural users, and outlined new moratorium rules. These set transition deadlines provide certainty for existing licensees, allowing them to plan transitions to other bands or to apply for new licences using other spectrum.

7. The 2021 Repurposing Decision also included a commitment to provide additional information related to the transition in a future document. As such, this document provides the technical requirements for the coexistence of flexible use operations with FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band and WBS stations in the 3650-3700 MHz band until their respective transition deadlines, as outlined in 4.1 and 4.2 below.

4. Part 1: Coexistence between flexible use and incumbent services until the applicable transition deadlines

8. Coexistence with other radio service licensees, both in-band and adjacent-band, is required. In this context, specific requirements are provided below, and in some cases, coordination may also be required. Coordination involves consultation between licensees to ensure coexistence with other systems including wireless broadband services (WBS), and fixed-satellite services (FSS) systems.

9. Where an interference conflict occurs, licensees are directed to resolve the conflict through mutual arrangements between the affected parties following consultation and coordination.

10. When potential conflicts between systems cannot be resolved in a timely fashion, ISED shall be so advised, whereupon, following consultations with the parties concerned, ISED will determine any necessary course of action.

4.1 Coexistence between flexible use systems in the 3450-3900 MHz range and fixed-satellite service earth station operations in the 3700-4200 MHz range

11. As set out in the 2021 Repurposing Decision and the 2022 Decision, the applicable transition deadline for FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz range is as follows:

Table 1: Transition deadline for fixed-satellite services earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz range
Transition deadline Applicable areas
March 31, 2025 Non-satellite dependent tiers. However, consolidated gateway sites in Weir, Quebec and Allan Park, Ontario (as listed in Table A2 of Annex A) and Government of Canada site in the North Bay tier (4-097) are not subject to transition.

12. As set out in the 2021 Repurposing Decision, satellite dependent areas are defined as Tier 4 service areas where FSS earth stations may remain licensed in the entire 3700-4200 MHz band (as listed in Table A3 of Annex A). Tier 4 service areas not contained in Table A3 are considered non satellite dependent.

13. Further to SMSE-008-22, Decision on Updates to the Licensing and Fee Framework for Earth Stations and Space Stations in Canada, for earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz range:

  • site-specific radio licences will be converted to site-approved earth station spectrum licences
  • interim authorizations will be converted to generic earth station spectrum licences

14. Prior to March 31, 2025 (the FSS transition deadline), coexistence between flexible use and existing earth stations differs depending on the frequency range in which a flexible use base station operates. Specific provisions for each relevant flexible use band apply and are described in the sub sections below.

15. In addition, for the purposes of this manual, existing earth stations that are allowed to operate in the full 3700-4200 MHz range before the FSS transition deadline are defined as:

  1. site-approved earth stations in all areas (including the consolidated gateway sites listed in Table A2 in Annex A) that were licensed before the publication of the 2021 Repurposing Decision (May 21, 2021);
  2. generic earth stations in all areas that were uploaded to ISED’s Spectrum Management System under an interim authorization before October 22, 2021; and
  3. site-approved earth stations operated by the Government of Canada at various locations (see Table A1 in Annex A for tier-4 areas impacted).

16. For locations of existing earth stations, licensees are required to consult the list of licensed FSS earth stations in the 3700-4200 MHz band using ISED’s Spectrum Management System Data search tool.

17. Further, station information for Government of Canada operations identified above are not available to the public. As such, licensees operating in tiers identified in Table A1 shall use ISED’s Protected Microwave Frequency Information Search to obtain operator contact information of these non transitioning Government of Canada earth stations.

18. The coexistence requirements between flexible use systems with site-approved or generic FSS earth stations licensed to only operate in the 4000-4200 MHz band (which include those that have transitioned to the 4000-4200 MHz band or those that are newly licensed and operating after May 21, 2021) are specified in SRSP-520.

19. An earth station is considered transitioned if its corresponding satellite operates only in the 4000-4200 MHz band.

20. Technical and operational requirements for earth stations in the 4000-4200 MHz band will be addressed in SRSP-102, Band-Specific Technical Requirements for Earth Stations in the Fixed-Satellite Service.

4.1.1 Coexistence between flexible use systems in the 3450-3700 MHz band and site-approved existing fixed-satellite service earth station operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band

21. Prior to the FSS transition deadline, only site-approved existing earth stations will be protected from interference from flexible use operating in the 3450-3700 MHz band.

22. Flexible use licensees of a fixed or base station in the 3450-3700 MHz band (this does not include fixed or base stations with an authorized bandwidth that extends into the frequency range 3700-3900 MHz for which section 4.1.2 would apply) planning to exceed the coordination trigger levels set out in items a) or b) below at a site-approved existing earth station’s antenna in the 3700 4200 MHz band are required to coordinate with the affected FSS operator prior to deployment. Coordination is required if the fixed or base station:

  1. exceeds a pfd coordination trigger level set out in Table 2 at an existing site-approved earth station’s antenna, where ɵ is the elevation angle of the earth station antenna (the pfd coordination trigger level applies to all emissions within the earth station’s authorized band of operation, 3700-4200 MHz); or
  2. exceeds a pfd coordination trigger level of -87.72 dBW/m2/MHz at a site-approved existing earth station antenna, regardless of proximity to such earth station (this pfd coordination trigger level applies to all emissions within the fixed or base stations’ authorized bandwidth).
Table 2: PFD coordination trigger levels at an earth station’s antenna based on its elevation angle
Earth station antenna elevation angle (𝛉) Pfd coordination trigger level (dBW/m2/MHz) at the earth station’s antenna
θ ≤ 5° -158
5° < θ ≤ 10° -140
10° < θ ≤ 15° -133
15° < θ ≤ 20° -128
20° < θ ≤ 25° -125
25° < θ ≤ 30° -123
θ > 30° -121

23. During coordination, it is expected that the coexistence assessment consider actual deployment parameters and equipment specifications for the successful sharing of these frequency bands. Moreover, both parties are expected to cooperate and jointly resolve any issues in a timely manner to ensure equitable access and use of the spectrum.

24. In the absence of a coordination agreement and in the event of interference (irrespective of fixed or base station meeting the above technical rules), it is the responsibility of the flexible use licensee to mitigate the interference (e.g. reduce power, adjust antennas, etc.) to any site approved existing earth stations.

4.1.2 Coexistence between flexible use systems in the 3700-3900 MHz band and existing fixed-satellite service earth station operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band

25. Prior to March 31, 2025:

  1. Existing FSS earth station operations in the 3700-4200 MHz band will be protected from flexible use operations in the 3700-3900 MHz band.
  2. Fixed or base stations planning to exceed the applicable pfd coordination trigger levels set out in table 2 above, at an existing earth station’s antenna, where ɵ is the elevation angle of the earth station antenna, are required to coordinate with an affected earth station operator prior to deployment (these pfd coordination trigger levels apply to all emissions within the earth station’s authorized band of operation, 3700-4200 MHz).

26. During coordination, it is expected that the coexistence assessment consider actual deployment parameters and equipment specifications for the successful sharing of these frequency bands. Moreover, both parties are expected to cooperate and jointly resolve any issues in a timely manner to ensure equitable access and use of the spectrum.

27. In the absence of a coordination agreement and in the event of interference (irrespective of fixed or base stations meeting the above technical rules), it is the responsibility of the flexible use licensee to mitigate the interference (e.g., reduce power, adjust antennas, etc.) to any existing licensed FSS earth station.

4.2 Coexistence between flexible use and wireless broadband service

28. For WBS technical and operational requirements, please refer to SRSP-303.65, Technical Requirements for Wireless Broadband Services (WBS) in the Band 3650-3700 MHz.

29. As set out in the 2021 Repurposing Decision and the 2022 Decision, the applicable deadlines for WBS licensees are as follows:

Table 3: Displacement deadlines for WBS licensees
Displacement deadline Applicable tier areas
March 31, 2025 All metropolitan and urban Tier 5 service areas
March 31, 2027 All remaining Tier 5 service areas (rural and remote)

30. Prior to the applicable WBS displacement deadlines, flexible use licensees in all areas operating in the 3450-3650 MHz band and WBS licensees in the 3650-3700 MHz band are required to coordinate with each other prior to the deployment of any new or modified flexible use or WBS stations (where permitted as per section 10.1.3 of the 2021 Repurposing Decision).

31. Prior to the applicable WBS displacement deadlines, flexible use licensees are permitted to operate in the 3650-3700 MHz band. However, as specified in the 2021 Repurposing Decision, flexible use operations in the 3650-3700 MHz band and 3700-3900 MHz band must protect from interference:

  1. Existing WBS Stations, in areas subject to the moratorium as set out in the 2021 Repurposing Decision, being those uploaded to ISED’s Spectrum Management System on or before December 25, 2020, which are included in a list found in Annex B of this document. All information contained in Annex B are provided by the licensees. These stations are allowed to also make modifications.
  2. New or modified WBS stations that have been deployed in Tier 5 areas that are not subject to a moratorium. Flexible use licensees must identify and protect these WBS stations found in the SMS site database until their respective displacement deadlines.

32. ISED notes that the moratorium on existing WBS stations was modified in the 2021 Repurposing Decision to include additional tier areas and allow for deployment of additional stations where the licensee had applied for licences prior to the date of that decision. ISED’s records show no further stations were added as a result of this change that would be subject to protection from new flexible use systems.

33. Should a licensee believe that one of their stations in the areas subject to moratorium should be considered “existing” based on the 2021 Repurposing Decision but is not found in Annex B, the licensee may contact ISED by email at spectrumoperations-operationsduspectre@ised-isde.gc.ca to review and add to the list of protected stations, if appropriate.

34. Before the WBS displacement deadline, flexible use base stations in the 3650-3900 MHz band must not generate a power flux density (pfd) of -126 dBW /m2/MHz at the protected WBS station antenna, unless otherwise agreed upon by the affected WBS station operators. The pfd limit applies to all emissions within the WBS station’s authorized bandwidth. For instances where a WBS station is deployed (where permitted, as per section 10.1.3 of the 2021 Repurposing Decision) after a flexible use base station in the 3650-3900 MHz band is deployed, flexible use base stations may be required to adjust their operation, including the possibility of adjustments to its operations to meet the pfd level set forth, in order to not cause interference to the WBS station until such WBS station is transitioned out of the band.

35. In addition, flexible use base stations operating in the 3700-3900 MHz range should consider coordinating with existing, new, or modified WBS operations (where permitted as per section 10.1.3 of the 2021 Decision) when their emissions within the 3700-3900 MHz range exceed a pfd limit of -74 dBW /m2/MHz at the protected WBS station antenna, as appropriate. This pfd limit applies to all emissions within the flexible use base station’s authorized bandwidth.

36. In the absence of a coordination agreement and in the event of interference, irrespective of meeting the above technical rules in paragraphs 34 and 35, it is the responsibility of the flexible use licensee operating in the 3650-3900 MHz band to not cause interference to the protected WBS station operations until the applicable displacement deadlines.

4.3 Voluntary agreements

37. All parties must respect the transition deadline and coexistence requirements set out in this document. However, flexible use licensees have the ability to coordinate and negotiate mutually beneficial commercial agreements with existing licensees including WBS and earth station operators, which could enable them to deploy or deviate from coexistence rules in advance of the transition deadline and to reduce the level of encumbrance. Such arrangements may be beneficial, as they could provide an opportunity to establish mutually agreeable timelines and foster good working relationships between licensees, thereby facilitating the transition process. Agreements for early deployment allow flexible-use licensees in the 3650-3900 MHz frequency range to operate their systems before the transition deadline and deviate from the coexistence rules in section 4. All technical requirements outlined in SRSP-520 must be respected at all times.

38. Similarly, voluntary agreements between the new flexible use, WBS or FSS licensees may be established to support mutually agreeable alternate coexistence agreements prior to the FSS transition deadline.

5. Part 2: 3500 MHz/3800 MHz licence exchanges

39. This section provides information on 3500 MHz and/or 3800 MHz licence exchanges.

5.1 Intent

40. As set out in the 2022 Decision, ISED will permit the exchange of licences representing equal amounts of 3500 MHz and/or 3800 MHz spectrum within the same licence area, through a transfer request.

41. Permitting such exchanges through a streamlined transfer process will promote the efficient use of spectrum and help alleviate the regulatory administrative burden on licence holders.

5.2 Timing

42. The 3800 MHz auction is currently planned for October 2023. To ensure that licensees and ISED have all the required information to process licence exchanges efficiently post-auction, licence holders are to submit licence exchange applications only once all licences in question have been issued. Thereafter, ISED will accept applications for a streamlined licence exchange under this section until ISED chooses to no longer accept such applications. ISED will advise licensees at least two months in advance.

5.3 Definition

43. To meet the criteria for a licence exchange between the 3500 and 3800 MHz bands, the subject of the transfer request must be licences:

  • covering the same licence area
  • of the same bandwidth
  • in the 3500 MHz or 3800 MHz bands

Licences with encumbrances will be eligible for licence exchange. However, the encumbrances will remain with the original licence.

44. Exchanges can include licences in the two different bands (3500 MHz and 3800 MHz) or licences within the same band.

45. All proposed transfers remain subject to the relevant provisions of section 5.6 of Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-1-23, Licensing Procedures for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services. However, given that licence exchanges by definition have no effect on spectrum concentration:

  • section 5.6.4, “Commercial Mobile Spectrum”, of CPC-2-1-23 will not apply
  • licence exchange applications are not required to include any material addressing the factors outlined in section 5.6.4
  • notices of decision on proposed licence exchanges will not be published on ISED’s Decisions on Licence Transfers of Commercial Mobile Spectrum web page

5.4 Process

46. Licence holders wishing to exchange licences in the 3500 MHz or 3800 MHz bands are required to jointly submit the following information to spectrumoperations-operationsduspectre@ised-isde.gc.ca:

  • an email that clearly includes the terms “3500/3800 licence exchange request” in the subject line and body of the email message
  • a completed spectrum licence transfer application form (Annex A of CPC-2-1-23)

47. ISED may request further details or clarification. If the request does not meet the criteria stated above for a licence exchange, ISED will not proceed with the request and will advise the applicants as appropriate.

5.5 Deployment requirements and pro-competitive measures

48. Licences in both bands are subject to two types of deployment requirements:

  • General requirements that apply to all licences and will continue to apply to any entity that becomes the new licence holder (i.e. the requirements will “follow” the licence).
  • More stringent LTE-based requirements that are attached to the licensee and will not “follow” the licence.

49. There are also competitive measures in place for these bands, which include limits on transferability and a cross-band cap.

50. For both types of deployment requirements, and for any competitive measures, milestone timing will remain based on the original issuance date of the licence, rather than the exchange date. The onus is on the applicants to determine if it is in their interest to conduct the exchange, in consideration of the time remaining to meet the required deployment targets.

51. Given that only licences of equal bandwidth will meet the exchange criteria, ISED will allow the exchange of equal amounts of spectrum within the same licence area between a set-aside-eligible entity and a set-aside-ineligible entity. However, the additional provisions that apply to set-aside licences defined in D26 of the Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3500 MHz Band would continue to apply to an equal amount of the set-aside-eligible licensee's received holdings following the transfer. For any transfer of set-aside holdings, ISED will continue to apply these additional provisions for set-aside licences based on the initial issuance date of the 3500 MHz licences. As part of the application for a transfer between a set-aside-eligible entity and a set-aside-ineligible entity, the set-aside-eligible entity will be required to indicate what spectrum will be subject to the additional provisions that apply to set-aside licences. ISED will require that these new set-aside licences be contiguous in bandwidth and in the same frequency blocks in all service areas, wherever possible.

Annex A: List of consolidated gateways and tiers impacted by Government of Canada’s Fixed-Satellite Service operations

Table A1: List of tier-4 areas impacted by Government of Canada earth stations
Tier Service area name
4-005 Labrador
4-097 North Bay
4-098 Parry Sound
4-066 Chibougamau
4-100 Sudbury
4-117 Creighton/Flin Flon
4-118 Thompson
4-130 Northern Saskatchewan
4-170 Yukon
4-171 Nunavut
4-172 Northwest Territories
Table A2: Consolidated gateway sites in the 3700-4200 MHz band
Licensee information Latitude Longitude
Allan Park (Telesat) 44° 10' 25.32" N 80° 56' 7.98" W
Weir (Inmarsat) 45° 56' 40.67" N 74° 32' 0.97" W
Table A3: Tier 4 satellite dependent areas
Tier Service area name
4-005 Labrador
4-062 Val-d'Or
4-066 Chibougamau
4-103 Kapuskasing
4-104 Kenora/Sioux Lookout
4-105 Iron Bridge
4-107 Marathon
4-109 Fort Frances
4-112 Lac du Bonnet
4-115 Portage la Prairie
4-117 Creighton/Flin Flon
4-118 Thompson
4-130 Northern Saskatchewan
4-147 Peace River
4-157 Powell River
4-161 Ashcroft
4-164 Williams Lake
4-165 Quesnel/Red Bluff
4-166 Skeena
4-168 Smithers
4-169 Dawson Creek
4-170 Yukon
4-171 Nunavut
4-172 Northwest Territories

Annex B: List of existing Wireless Broadband Service sites in Tier 5 areas listed in Table E1 of the 2021 Repurposing Decision – Available to be downloaded in excel format

 The list of existing Wireless Broadband Service sites in Tier 5 areas listed in Table E1 of the 2021 Repurposing Decision can be downloaded here [Excel sheet: 132 KB].