SAB-003-22 – Notice of Deadline to Apply for Transfers of 3500 MHz Spectrum Licences in Advance of the 3800 MHz Auction

November 2022

In Canada Gazette notice SPB-002-22, Policy and Licensing Framework for Spectrum in the 3800 MHz Band (the Framework), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) announced decisions regarding the auction of spectrum in the 3800 MHz band (3650-3900 MHz).

In the Framework, ISED announced that the 3800 MHz auction will include a 100 MHz cross-band cap across the 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz bands. The cross-band cap is applicable to a licensee’s total 3500 MHz and 3800 MHz spectrum holdings immediately following the issuance of 3800 MHz licences, and extends for a period of five years. In service areas where a licensee already holds spectrum licences in the 3500 MHz band equal to or in excess of this cap, that licensee would not be eligible to bid for additional licences in the 3800 MHz band auction in those service areas, but would not be required to divest any holdings of spectrum licences in the 3500 MHz band in order to fall within the spectrum cap. Further, ISED will not approve licence transfers requested before the issuance of 3800 MHz licences that would result in holdings that exceed the cross-band cap. For this measure, licences held by any affiliate of the licensee would count as part of the cross-band cap.

In advance of the 3800 MHz auction, licensees may apply to transfer 3500 MHz licences in accordance with their conditions of licence. However, any approved transfers would also affect a licensee’s potential eligibility under the cross-band cap, if they participate in the 3800 MHz auction. ISED is of the view that a moratorium on transfer requests for licences in the 3500 MHz band prior to the 3800 MHz auction is required to support the administration of the 3800 MHz auction and the transparency of participant eligibility under the cross-band cap.

As such, consistent with previous policy decisions regarding transfers of existing holdings prior to an auction, ISED is providing 3500 MHz licensees with notice that any 3500 MHz licence transfer requests must be received by ISED at least five months before the auction application deadline. This will allow ISED to process transfer requests and to publish updated spectrum holdings prior to the auction application deadline, providing all potential applicants with the same information on existing spectrum holdings in each service area. Note that the moratorium on transfers will also apply to licences in the 3500 MHz band acquired in accordance with SPB-004-22, Notice of Upcoming Auction of Residual Spectrum Licences.

Accordingly, licensees requesting to transfer any of their existing spectrum holdings in the 3500 MHz band must file all licence transfer applications prior to February 24, 2023. All transfer requests will be subject to review, based on Client Procedures Circular CPC-2-1-23, Licensing Procedure for Spectrum Licences for Terrestrial Services, including section 5.6.4, which incorporates decisions from DGSO-003-13, Framework Relating to Transfers, Divisions and Subordinate Licensing of Spectrum Licences for Commercial Mobile Spectrum. In addition, licensees who wish to return 3500 MHz licences for the purposes of updating their eligibility under the cross-band cap for the 3800 MHz auction must do so by May 26, 2023.

For the information of all licensees, ISED has published a current list of existing 3500 MHz holdings as of the publication of this Notice. ISED will publish an updated list of 3500 MHz holdings by June 30, 2023.

The moratorium on transfers of all 3500 MHz licences will remain in place until the application deadline indicated in the Table of Key Dates for the 3800 MHz auction. After the list of auction applicants has been published, the moratorium will no longer apply to transfers of 3500 MHz licences where neither the licensee nor the proposed transferee are participating in the 3800 MHz auction. In cases where either the current holder of the 3500 MHz licence or the proposed transferee is a participant in the 3800 MHz auction, the moratorium on transfers of 3500 MHz licences will remain in place until the publication of the 3800 MHz auction provisional results. For the purposes of the moratorium, the terms “licensee”, “proposed transferee” and “participant” include all affiliates, agents or representatives of those entities.