Ottawa Will Reclaim Unused Wireless Spectrum In March 2014

by Istvan Fekete on November 15, 2013

Wireless carriers that held spectrum in the 2500 MHz and 3500 MHz bands but failed to use it will lose their licenses early next year, Industry Minister James Moore announced yesterday. The news comes as wireless industry players are lining up for the next spectrum auction in January 2014.

The spectrum is owned by the Canadian public and controlled by the government on their behalf. Licenses in the 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz bands have been auctioned between 2004 and 2009. They were originally designated for broadband, high-speed Internet.

James Moore’s announcement reveals that the government won’t turn a blind eye to carriers that have won spectrum during the auction, but failed to deploy the much-needed rural coverage of broadband Internet.

According to the Globe and Mail, some countries have adopted a new strategy for the 3500 MHz spectrum, saying that this band in particular should be repurposed for mobile use, due to the rapid adoption of smartphones.

The Industry Minister’s statement doesn’t clarify whether Canada is aligned with the aforementioned position, it only clarifies that carriers that met all their license conditions qualify for renewals. The rest would be forced to return spectrum.

“Beginning in March 2014, 2300 MHz and 3500 MHz spectrum licences will be subject to renewal. These spectrum licences contained conditions requiring that the spectrum be used for fixed wireless access, which represents the most affordable high-speed Internet access for many rural Canadians. Our government will only renew spectrum licences for those holders that have met all conditions of licence. Those that have not used the spectrum will lose it.

Rogers and Bell collectively license about 75% of the 3500 MHz spectrum through a joint venture called Inukshuk Wireless, but have failed to meet the license conditions, despite Ottawa giving them license extensions.

Inukshuk Wireless quickly responded to Ottawa’s announcement, denying allegations of spectrum hoarding and saying that LTE will serve Canadian subscribers more effectively. In two separate statements, both Rogers and Bell reassured the government that they will meet all the conditions specified in the license agreement.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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