Spectrum outlook, 2023-2027

On Friday, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) released “Spectrum Outlook 2023 to 2027”, an outline for management of Canada’s radio spectrum over the next five years.

The last edition of ISED’s spectrum outlook was released in 2018. “The 2023 Outlook outlines ISED’s spectrum plans to support wireless telecommunications services in Canada, with a focus on commercial mobile services, satellite services, backhaul applications and licence-exempt applications.”

While there are a number of policy themes that informed the development of the Spectrum Outlook, 5 are highlighted in separate chapters of the report:

  1. Spectrum as an economic driver and enabler of Industry 4.0
  2. Rural connectivity in the wake of COVID-19
  3. Indigenous connectivity
  4. Spectrum, wireless technology and climate change
  5. Competition and wireless affordability

The department also said that it plans to “modernize” its fee policies. “Licence fees play an important role in incentivizing more efficient use of spectrum. Improvements to licence fee policies can potentially address growing demand while also supporting new and emerging licensing techniques such as dynamic spectrum access.”

The department sees increasing demand for data, as well as the number of connected devices, continuing to grow in the coming years, impacting the demand for spectrum. It sees low Earth orbit satellite technologies as transformative for the satellite market, driving demand for faster speeds and greater capacity in higher frequency bands.

The spectrum outlook also recognizes new applications and technologies emerging for Wifi, coupled with Internet of Things (IoT), driving demand for licence-exempt spectrum.

I noticed that ISED explicitly recognized the need for wireless technologies to be deployed in certain communities to reach the government’s target of 100% broadband access by 2030.

74. Most unconnected Indigenous communities are located in rural and remote areas that are challenging to connect using traditional wired solutions. In these areas, wireless solutions will be important to reach the Government’s target of 100% connectivity by 2030. To enable wireless solutions, access to spectrum is required.

77. Spectrum is also essential for satellite-based connectivity solutions. In many Indigenous communities in northern Canada, satellites not only play a vital role in providing telecommunications and broadcasting services, but also sometimes provide the only means to reach a community. ISED is considering the role that emerging technologies such as LEO satellite technologies can play in connecting communities where fibre lines may not be feasible.

The Outlook concludes with a caveat. “The 2023 Outlook reflects ISED’s current direction and efforts to provide additional spectrum for commercial mobile services, licence-exempt applications, satellite services and backhaul applications.”

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