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Spectrum Regulation & Legislation


Responsibility for the managing spectrum resources in Canada falls to Industry Canada, more specifically the Spectrum Management and Telecommunications department. Industry Canada is guided by the Telecommunications Act, Radiocommunication Act, and Department of Industry Act. Industry Canada is also guided by the policy objective of the Spectrum Policy Framework for Canada (2007), which is to maximize the economic and social benefits that Canadians derive from the use of the spectrum.

While Industry Canada plays the foremost role in provisioning carriers and network operators with spectrum, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act and Broadcasting Act play vital roles in regulating behaviour by telecommunications and internet service providers (ISPs) on both a retail and wholesale level. In part, this is due to the vertical integration and ownership rules, as telecommunication carriers in Canada with less then 10% market share can now be foreign-owned but the Broadcasting Act mandates broadcasters must be Canadian-owned and controlled. Related to vertical integration, the CRTC, which regulates content in Canada, has ruled that carriers that also own TV channels must offer all their content on fair market terms to competing mobile telecommunication providers.

Sister organizations in other countries include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the US, Ofcom in the UK and the Australian Communications and Media Authority. The FCC and Industry Canada have a long-standing collaborative relationship in dealing with cross-border issues, as spectrum does not respect geopolitical boundaries. As our largest trading partner, and with the size of the US market, actions taken by the FCC often can have significant impact on Industry Canada decisions. As an example, spectrum blocks reserved by the FCC in the 700 MHz band for emergency responders were also reserved by Industry Canada to improve interoperability of emergency services.

The FCC provides a useful service it calls the Spectrum Dashboard that allows individuals to explore how spectrum is being used, who owns spectrum licences around the United States, and what spectrum is available in various counties.  This innovative resource does not currently exist in Canada.


Along with other national organizations, several international bodies play a key role in global spectrum management, regulatory issues, and technical standards.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a specialized body within the United Nation that helps coordinate the global use of the radio spectrum (ITU-R) for all purposes (satellite, cellphones, television, etc), among other competencies dealing with the telecommunications and ICT industries such as standardization of telecommunication equipment (ITU-T) and telecommunications development (ITU-D). The ITU-R has three regulatory regions: Region 1, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, the CIS, and Mongolia; Region 2, North and South America and the Pacific (east of the International Date Line); and, Region 3, Asia, Australia and the Pacific (west of the International Date Line). The ITU-D has six regional focuses: Africa, Americas, Arab States, Asia and Pacific, CIS, and Europe.

ITU-R – Map of Regions
Source: ITU, Radio Regulations, Edition of 2012

The Canadian National Organization for the International Telecommunication Union – Telecommunication Standardization Sector (CNO/ITU-T), comprised of members of the Canadian public and private sector telecommunications communities, was established in 1973 to coordinate Canadian participation in international telecommunication standardization.

The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) was originally established to help develop global standards and protocols for GSM 3G technology but has since expanded its scope, continuing to develop GSM towards. The 3GPP is made up of six organizational partners: 1) Association of Radio Industries and Businesses (ARIB), Japan; 2) Alliance for Telecommunications Industry Solutions (ATIS), USA; 3) China Communications Standards Association (CCSA), China; 4) European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI), Europe; 5) Telecommunications Technology Association (TTA), Korea; and 6) Telecommunication Technology Committee (TTC), Japan.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) also contributes to relevant wireless technologies. The IEEE is a standards-body that, among others, oversees guidelines for the IEEE 802.11 standard for WiFi, coordinating changes and additions that have increased the speed from 1Mbp/s in early versions to over 800Mbp/s. IEEE 802.16 is the standard for WiMax, a 4G wireless technology overseen by the WiMax Forum.

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