Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada (ISED) has issued a decision on a Non-Competitive Local (NCL) Licensing Framework for spectrum in the 3900MHz-3980MHz band and portions of the mmWave 26GHz, 28GHz and 38GHz bands. ISED declared that ‘in addition to facilitating access to new and non-traditional users [NTUs], releasing this spectrum though an NCL licensing framework will support the development of 5G services by existing users, and can enable wireless broadband services (WBS) [licensees] and WISPs [wireless ISPs] to bolster connectivity in various regions across the country’, including rural and remote areas. New and NTU spectrum users are expected to span a wide range of industry verticals and could include private broadband networks on enterprise campuses, such as universities, stadiums and shopping centres.

ISED designated 80MHz of spectrum in eight unpaired 10MHz blocks for shared use in the 3900MHz-3980MHz range, with the 3940MHz-3980MHz portion reserved for small operators including small commercial mobile service providers, NTUs and WISPs; any entity with 100,000 or more retail mobile phone subscriptions is ineligible for licensing in that block. A spectrum limit of 20MHz per licensee within any geographic area will apply to 3900MHz spectrum, while ISED will implement licence area size limits varied by licence type, with specific base station deployment requirements per licence.

ISED is adopting an ‘early access application window’ allowing existing WBS licensees to apply for 3900MHz-3980MHz NCL licences, giving them until 7 July 2023 to upload their site information into ISED’s Spectrum Management System. ISED will issue early NCL licences in the 3900MHz band ‘prior to 31 March 2025, the first WBS displacement deadline’, to those who have submitted payment for their licence. For all other applicants, an automated NCL licensing system is expected to be made available in 2024.

ISED has decided to prioritise the licensing of the 3900MHz band by making it available for NCL licensing ahead of mmWave band NCL licensing availability; further announcements on mmWave NCL licensing timing will follow.

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