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Canada Seeks to Redesignate DAB’s L-Band Allocations for Shared Uses

Channels 5 and 6 suggested as potential fix to spectrum squeeze

A change is afoot that may signal the end of the Eureka-147 DAB technology used for digital radio in Canada (see related story). It is the government’s drive to find more spectrum for broadband. Sound familiar?

I don’t believe this has received much attention in the U.S., however it’s notable that Canada too is wrestling with the growing demand for broadband access.

The discussion is timely in light of tomorrow’s FCC meeting about heavy topics like repacking the television spectrum to carve out more frequency allocations for broadband use.

The portion of the L-band Canada designated for DAB extends from 1452 to 1492 MHz.

In January, Industry Canada, which handles frequency assignments, released a proposal for re-purposing its L-band frequencies for other uses, rural broadband access and aeronautical mobile telemetry. Specifically, it proposed rescinding the designation for DAB in the middle of the band, to be replaced by a designation for flexible use licenses (fixed, mobile and broadcasting.)

Industry Canada stated in its proposal: “As noted in the May 2007 letter to the CRTC, Industry Canada is developing technical standards and operational parameters for hybrid digital HD Radio services in the FM bands. Recently, the department published technical guidelines to allow experimental authorizations of hybrid digital HD Radio in the FM band. It is to be noted that the CRTC has expressed its willingness to license HD Radio when the department eventually issues technical certificates.”

Comments on the L-band changes (PDF) were due March 31 of this year.

The Canadian Association of Broadcasters, which dissolved recently because its TV and radio members couldn’t get along, opposed the plan. The CBC conditionally okayed it if all or a portion were reserved for new types of broadcasting services, such as mixed media.

CBC stated: “CBC/Radio-Canada conditionally supports Industry Canada’s proposed policy of making the frequency range 1452–1492 MHz available for the delivery of multi-media services by broadcasters – but it opposes making mobile and fixed wireless uses co-primary with broadcasting uses in the same frequency range.”

It continued: “CBC/Radio Canada urges the department to recognize that co-primacy with fixed and mobile radio will effectively foreclose use by broadcasting undertakings in this range, thereby giving rise to the need to make other comparable spectrum available for their use.”

The broadcaster suggested that other spectrum might be re-purposed for digital radio in Canada. It said “one possible alternative would be to make [analog TV] Channels 5 and 6 on the analog band available to broadcasters to be used for digital radio.”

The CAB said the current L-band frequencies designated for digital radio should remain exclusive to broadcasters. It held low expectations that a Channel 5 and 6 solution could be achieved anytime soon, stating: “It would be impractical for Canada to proceed unless the U.S. agrees to remove its existing DTV services from Ch. 5 and 6, which could take years to negotiate.”

I’m intrigued that at least some Canadian broadcasters support re-purposing analog TV Channels 5 and 6 for radio and wonder if that gives more gravitas to the Broadcast Maximization Committee proposal that we’ve been telling you about; CBC specifically mentioned using those for FM as well as AM frequencies.