Canada could retain C-band without compensation

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Canada’s Innovation, Science & Economic Development (ISED) ministry has set out its proposals on how it will auction off satellite C-band frequencies in an 87-page document. Telesat, the current user of most of the C-band spectrum, had hoped to auction the spectrum itself in order to part-fund its expensive ‘Lightspeed’ Low Earth orbiting fleet of satellites.

The spectrum covered extends from 3650-4200 MHz. However, the Canadian government has already promised C$600 million to secure capacity on Lightspeed and Quebec’s provincial government is putting in about C$400 million.

The overall aim, says the government document, is to provide high-quality [5G] spectrum “available in every region of the country, and competitively priced. Furthermore, connectivity becomes even more critical during times of crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, a time when Canadians have relied even more on their wireless services to stay connected.”

“The development and deployment of 5G technologies is essential to Canada becoming a global centre for innovation and will bring Canada to the forefront of digital development and adoption through the creation and strengthening of a world-class wireless infrastructure,” adds the ISED document.

Telesat had proposed a reallocation of 400 MHz of spectrum with 200 MHz retained directly by Telesat. However, there were many objections including from two local cable giants (Rogers and Shaw) who indicated that a private sale would not be transparent and would have different objectives than an ISED led auction.

The ISED document added: “Eutelsat, SES and Intelsat raised concerns about the amount of spectrum (100 MHz) that would be available for FSS use after repurposing. They indicated that it would not be enough to continue providing current levels of service. While Intelsat and SES supported the part of Telesat’s proposal that would provide compensation to satellite service providers to cover the costs of the transition, they had concerns entrusting one provider (Telesat) with these responsibilities.”

Telesat then revised its proposals: “The main feature of Telesat’s revised proposal was that 4000-4200 MHz would remain for FSS use; Telesat would still retain 200 MHz (3700-3900 MHz); and ISED would retain 3650-3700 MHz and 3900-4000 MHz, which it could make available through a future auction or for shared use. This revised proposal would make the first 120 MHz available for new flexible use in urban areas by 2021 and the rest of the spectrum in all areas would be cleared by 2023.”

ISED determined otherwise. The ministry said: “From ISED’s point of view, a private auction by Telesat is not an ISED process, rather it creates a series of proposed licence transfers.”


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