Canada: Industry Canada Releases Auction Policy Framework for Advanced Wireless Services Spectrum

Last Updated: December 6 2007
Article by Fasken Martineau's Communications Law Group

On November 28, 2007 the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry, announced that the federal government is making 105 megahertz (MHz) of radio spectrum available by way of auction. The details on how the auction for Advanced Wireless Services (AWS) spectrum, expected to be held beginning May 27, 2008, will be conducted are contained in a paper entitled Policy Framework for the Auction for Spectrum Licences for Advanced Wireless Services and other Spectrum in the 2 GHz Range (the "Auction Policy Framework").1

This highly anticipated announcement follows a lengthy public consultation on how best to license and conduct an auction process for AWS spectrum, launched by the federal government on February 16, 2007. Following the release of a consultation paper entitled Consultation on a Framework to Auction Spectrum in the 2 GHz range including Advanced Wireless Services, interested parties were invited to submit comments on a number of spectrum utilization issues such as competition-related issues in the provision of high-mobility services and other technical and operational considerations for the use of the spectrum, including proposed conditions of licences, the size of spectrum blocks and geographic areas, licence terms, and conditions for licence renewal. The November 28th release of the Auction Policy Framework represents an attempt by the federal government to increase access to mobile spectrum for advanced services, and to foster greater competition in the wireless market.

As part of an ongoing effort to bring you up-to-date developments as they relate to the communications industry, the Communications Law Group at Fasken Martineau has prepared the following high level overview of the key aspects of the Auction Policy Framework and related publications.

Spectrum Set-aside

Of the 105 MHz of radio spectrum being made available to wireless service providers through the auction process, 40 MHz of AWS spectrum will be set aside exclusively for new entrants. This was a hotly contested issue in the preceding consultation. The set-aside is designed to ensure that one or more new entrants gain access to spectrum and to foreclose the possibility of the incumbent players acquiring all of it. The remaining

65 MHz will be made available to any and all interested bidders.

For the purposes of the Auction Policy Framework, a new entrant is defined as "[a]n entity, including affiliates and associated entities, which holds less than 10 percent of the national wireless market based on revenue". The new entrant designation will remain valid throughout the term of an entity’s spectrum licence even if the entity’s market share eventually exceeds this 10 percent threshold. In addition, spectrum licences obtained through the set-aside auction process may not be transferred to any party that does not meet the criteria of a new entrant for a period of 5 years from the date of issuance.

The spectrum auction will make available a total of 236 licences in regional service areas and a total of 28 licences in provincial and large regional service areas. Of the total number of available licences, 59 regional service area licences and all of the provincial and large regional service area licences will be reserved for new entrant bids in accordance with the spectrum set-aside. As a result, incumbents earning more than 10 percent of Canadian wireless revenue nationally will be excluded from bidding on any new provincial and large regional service area licences. The opening bids for each service area (for both the set-aside spectrum and non-set-aside spectrum blocks) are provided in the tables found in Annex 1 to the Auction Policy Framework.

The set-aside virtually guarantees that the wireless market will have more players following completion of the auction. Large communications companies such as Quebecor Media and Shaw Communications are likely to bid for spectrum in order to add wireless to their existing suite of communications services.

Mandated Roaming

In addition to setting aside spectrum for new entrants, the federal government has also chosen to mandate roaming in an attempt to promote competition, albeit at commercially negotiated rates. In general terms, "out-of-territory" roaming enables end users to obtain services from a wireless provider other than the subscriber’s primary network operator when travelling from one geographic area to another, and "in-territory" roaming refers to mandated roaming within a new entrant’s licensed service territory. Under the terms of the Auction Policy Framework, Industry Canada will require licencees to offer automatic digital roaming as follows:

  • to all cellular, personal communications services (PCS) and AWS licencees outside of their licensed area, for a minimum period of 10 years;
  • to all new entrants within their licensed areas for a period of 5 years from the date of issuance of their licence; and
  • to national new entrants2 having substantially met (as determined by Industry Canada) the 5-year roll-out requirements outlined in Annex 2 to the Auction Policy Framework for an additional 5-year period.

In the event carriers are unable to reach acceptable roaming arrangements within an established time frame (to be determined in a subsequent consultation process), the parties will be required to undertake binding arbitration to resolve the matter, the rules of which will also be determined in the consultation.

Mandated roaming means new entrants can offer services nationally using competitors’ facilities while they build out their networks on either a regional or national basis. Incumbents will be able to roam on a mandated basis (as opposed to by agreement) on the networks of other incumbents only in areas where they themselves are not licensed. As the only national GSM carrier, Rogers Wireless is likely to bear the initial brunt of the obligation to provide mandated roaming.

Antenna Tower and Site Sharing

In an attempt to alleviate concerns associated with the building of new antenna towers (e.g., environmental) and to address certain strategic and competition-related issues, Industry Canada has chosen to mandate antenna tower and site sharing and to prohibit exclusive site arrangements for all licencees, including those with broadcasting towers. Once again, if parties are unable to reach mutually agreeable sharing arrangements within prescribed time frames, they will be directed to binding arbitration.

The strategic and real estate value of towers vary significantly and, as additional investment is often required to strengthen towers to support more radio equipment, these negotiations are likely to be contentious.

Next Steps in the Auction Process

Industry Canada has set the following milestones in connection with the AWS spectrum auction:

  • the auction framework document setting out the auction application procedures, licensing parameters, technical considerations and anticipated targets with respect to timing is expected to be published in December 2007;
  • a supplementary public consultation on specific changes to the conditions of licence for existing licence holders to implement the policy measures announced in the Auction Policy Framework (specifically mandatory antenna tower/site sharing and mandated roaming) is scheduled to close on January 11, 2008;
  • following this supplementary public consultation, a final decision on the operation and wording of the conditions of licence is expected to be made public in February 2008;
  • the deadline for AWS spectrum auction applications is expected to occur in March 2008;
  • a mock auction intended to familiarize potential bidders with the auction process is expected to take place in May 2008; and
  • the auction for AWS spectrum is set to begin on May 27, 2008 and is expected to last between two and three weeks.

If you require further information with respect to the AWS spectrum auction, or if you wish to submit comments in the supplementary consultation, please feel free to contact a member of our Communications Law Group. Fasken Martineau advises on a wide range of regulatory and business issues in the communications industry.


1 The Auction Policy Framework is available on Industry Canada’s website and can be accessed at

2 For the purposes of the Auction Policy Framework, a national new entrant is defined as “a new entrant that has acquired licences for all Tier 2 or Tier 3 service areas, or a combination of Tier 2 and Tier 3 service areas, covering all of Canada in the AWS or PCS bands” and “includes a group of new entrants collectively holding all Tier 2 or Tier 3 service areas, or a combination of Tier 2 and Tier 3 service areas, covering all of Canada in the AWS or PCS bands and cooperating to provide a national service”.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.