700MHz auction on 19 November; government consults on spectrum transfers, amends tower sharing rules, updates spectrum policy

8 Mar 2013

Industry Canada has released its final timetable for the auction of the digital dividend 700MHz 4G mobile broadband spectrum band in November this year. The ministry’s ‘Licensing Framework for Mobile Broadband Services (MBS) — 700 MHz Band’ set the timetable as follows:

-Deadline for receipt of clarification questions, 27 March 2013.

-Publication of responses to clarification questions, 20 May 2013.

-Deadline for receipt of applications, 11 June.

-Publication of the list of applicants, 18 June.

-Publication of the list of provisionally qualified bidders, 26 July.

-Publication of final list of qualified bidders, 23 September.

-Opening of bidding, 19 November 2013.

-Announcement of provisional licence winners, within five business days following cessation of bidding.

As previously announced, Canada will award 700MHz mobile licences split into 14 geographical areas, each zone offering five blocks of paired spectrum and two blocks of unpaired spectrum, making a total of 98 licences on offer. A spectrum cap of two paired frequency blocks will apply to all licensees in each of the 14 zones, therefore allowing scope for new or less established entrants in the mobile market; the unpaired blocks will not be subject to a spectrum cap. Furthermore, a spectrum cap of one paired spectrum block from within certain blocks – B, C, C1 and C2 – will apply to all large wireless service providers – i.e. the nationwide operators Rogers, Bell and Telus.

Alongside the timetable, Industry Canada yesterday released the ‘Revised Frameworks for Mandatory Roaming and Antenna Tower and Site Sharing’, including conditions of licensing to prohibit exclusive site arrangements, which expand requirements to offer roaming to all licensees while encouraging more tower sharing. The measure is aimed at accelerating 4G mobile broadband expansion following the digital dividend auction.

In another move to ramp up 4G competition in all areas and facilitate widespread mobile broadband service rollouts, the ministry simultaneously launched a public consultation on ‘Considerations Relating to Transfers, Divisions and Subordinate Licensing of Spectrum Licences’, which is aimed at reviewing existing rules on spectrum transfers. Responses are due by 3 May 2013.

Christian Paradis, Canadian minister of industry – with ultimate responsibility for managing the use of spectrum in accordance with the provisions of the Radiocommunication Act as set out in the 2007 Spectrum Policy Framework – also presented the government’s new ‘Commercial Mobile Spectrum Outlook’. The purpose of the document is to provide stakeholders with an overview of Industry Canada’s overall approach and planned activities in order to ensure additional spectrum resources are available to help meet demand for commercial mobile services over the next five years. The Outlook will be updated again following the auction of spectrum in the 700MHz and subsequently the 2500MHz band as well as after the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference is held.

According to the Outlook, projections estimate that Canada will require at least 473MHz and as much as 820MHz of spectrum to be allocated to commercial mobile services by 2017. Based on these projections, Industry Canada has set an objective of allocating a total of 750MHz of spectrum to commercial mobile services by the end of 2017. Taking into account the already-announced auctions (including 700MHz and 2500MHz bands), Canada currently has plans in place to have a total of 528MHz of spectrum available for commercial mobile services. This means that an additional 222MHz of spectrum will have to be allocated to commercial mobile services over the next five years in order to meet this objective.

Taking into account action being taken by countries around the globe to identify additional spectrum for mobile, Industry Canada has identified 300MHz-415MHz of additional spectrum in the following bands that could potentially be allocated to commercial mobile services by 2017:

-AWS 2, 10MHz;

-AWS 3, 50MHz;

-AWS 4, 40MHz;

-WCS, 20MHz;

-600MHz, 80MHz-120MHz;

-3500MHz, 100MHz-175MHz.

Industry Canada will have separate and comprehensive consultations with industry stakeholders before making any specific decisions with respect to these bands. It is also recognised that not all of these spectrum bands will be available by 2017, and that the timing of specific decisions will be subject to international developments.

Industry Canada adds that Wi-Fi is playing an increasingly important role in the wireless networks by offloading data traffic from cellular networks onto wired networks. It is estimated that by 2015, Wi-Fi networks will carry half of all internet traffic. As a result, Industry Canada is taking steps to provide additional spectrum for licence-exempt equipment. Canada recently announced a decision to allow the use of TV white spaces, and is joining other countries in examining the potential of making additional spectrum available in the 5GHz range for use by licence-exempt equipment.

Further information on all the above announcements can be found at:

http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/smt-gst.nsf/eng/sf10580.html.

Canada, Industry Canada,

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