Indigenous, rural connectivity, climate change and competition at the forefront of ISED’s new spectrum plans

On Friday, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) released the 2023-2027 Spectrum Outlook report, highlighting the new guidelines and objectives for increasing the availability of spectrum in Canada.

Since the publication of the Spectrum Outlook 2018 to 2022, ISED has hit several milestones, it said, including auctions for spectrum bands for 5G services, including the 600 MHz and 3500 MHz bands, as well as the 3800 MHz auction scheduled for October 2023. 

For the next five years, the government says it particularly seeks to focus on commercial mobile services, satellite services, and backhaul applications, as well as licence-exempt applications, as demands for faster speeds, lower latency, and more data-intensive applications skyrocket.

The demand for spectrum is notably accelerated with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, a key policy theme this year, which ISED says will see various industry sectors, such as advanced manufacturing, precision agriculture, transportation, and public safety, increasingly rely on wireless technologies.

“Continued careful management of spectrum will be necessary to realize the benefits of innovative wireless services,” the report reads. “Careful management includes coordinating the use of spectrum domestically and internationally, as well as ensuring spectrum is used fairly and optimally. Specifically, ISED is committed to supporting innovation through competitive (e.g. auctions) and non-competitive (e.g. first-come, first-served) licensing processes. These processes will make spectrum available to a wide range of new and existing users across a range of service areas, including in rural and remote regions of the country.”

Accordingly, ISED underscored rural and Indigenous connectivity as other policy themes for the next five years. 

“Improving connectivity in rural, remote and Indigenous communities will always be a core objective of the government’s spectrum policies,” said Minister of Infrastructure Gudie Hutchings. “By making more spectrum available with the right rules, we can continue to improve access to high-quality services and ensure that Canadians, no matter where they live, benefit from the latest wireless technologies and innovations.”

So far, the government has put in place the Canada Connectivity Strategy and the Universal Broadband Fund to address the digital divide in Canada. 

Further, it introduced, among other measures, smaller geographic areas called Tier 5 areas to make it easier for smaller regional service providers to acquire spectrum and serve rural and remote areas.

The government will also advance  its “use it or lose it” approach, requiring spectrum to be used to provide service to increasing percentages of the population of a particular service area within a series of deadlines. Licensees could typically meet these requirements by serving urban areas, but ISED has strengthened these deployment requirements to encourage the delivery of services in underserved areas.

Moreover, the report sets out various views on the potential impacts of 5G technology on climate change, as well as the potential risks and benefits to be considered as ISED seeks to support sustainable economic recovery plans.

The government also highlighted its continued focus on improving competition in the telecom sector, noting, “ISED plans to continue consulting stakeholders on the use of competitive measures in future spectrum auctions, in addition to exploring broader initiatives, such as non-competitive local licensing models, to meet its telecommunications policy objectives of quality, coverage and affordability.”

ISED also outlined the spectrum bands it has identified for release, consultation and/or monitoring, for the next five years.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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