The Canadian telecoms ministry – Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada (ISED) – has launched a consultation on a licensing framework for the auction of mobile spectrum licences in the 614MHz-698MHz (600MHz) band, aiming to boost competition, investment and business opportunities in all regions of the country. Interested parties – including telecoms providers, consumer groups and the general public – have until 2 October 2017 to comment on the proposals outlined in the government consultation paper (see link).
Minister of ISED Navdeep Bains highlighted that the 600MHz auction will improve mobile services in both rural communities and urban centres, stressing that ‘Canadians need improved wireless service to participate in the digital economy, expand their businesses and learn new skills, which create new opportunities and build stronger communities’. Low band spectrum such as the 600MHz band is well suited to carrying signals over long distances, and is also less affected by building structures than higher frequency bands, making it ideal for urban and rural next-generation mobile services.
ISED is now seeking comments on the technical, policy and licensing considerations including auction format, rules, processes and licence conditions for spectrum in the 614MHz-698MHz band. The band plan includes seven paired blocks of 5+5MHz totalling 70MHz, a duplex gap from 652MHz to 663MHz, and a guard band from 614MHz to 617MHz. ISED believes that demand is likely to exceed supply for these licences, and has proposed to adopt competitive measures in the form of a 30MHz ‘set-aside’, reserved for active mobile network operators with less than 10% of national wireless subscriber market share (a category which would include Freedom Mobile, Videotron and SaskTel, whilst excluding Rogers, Telus and Bell). ISED states that the set-aside would provide the smaller operators with an opportunity to increase their low-band spectrum holdings to a level closer to that of the national incumbent service providers. The remaining 40MHz would be open for all bidders.
Existing over-the-air television (OTA TV) broadcasting service providers in the 600MHz band are permitted to continue using their current channels and modes of operation (analogue or digital) until the spectrum is needed for the deployment of mobile broadband services, ISED’s consultation document states. Earlier, ISED indicated that an auction of 600MHz mobile licences would not be completed until 2019.