The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has recently made changes affecting the Amateur Radio Service in the United States and this has also raised concerns among Canadian Amateurs.
The FCC has ruled that it will withdraw US Amateur privileges at 3300-3500 MHz (the 9 cm Microwave band) in order to make the band available to 5G Mobile and Internet Service Providers. The dates when this is to take final effect have not yet been decided.
This FCC action does not directly affect Canadian Amateurs who continue to have a secondary allocation on this band.
In June 2019, our regulator Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) published “Gazette Notice SLPB-001-19: Decision on Revisions to the 3500 MHz Band to Accommodate Flexible Use and Preliminary Decisions on Changes to the 3800 MHz Band”.
In that document ISED announced changes to the primary allocations to the Radiolocation, Fixed and Mobile services at 3450-3500 MHz removing Radiolocation, maintaining the Fixed services (used primarily for rural internet), and adding Mobile to 3450-3475 MHz in line with its policy objective to “foster innovation, investment and the evolution of wireless networks by enabling the development and adoption of 5G technologies”. This is the latest step in realigning allocations in this band that began with changes announced in December 2014. At that time, as in the June 2019 announcement, the secondary allocation to Amateur Radio was not changed.
The frequencies on which Amateurs may operate in Canada are listed in Schedule I of “RBR-4 – Standards for the Operation of Radio Stations in the Amateur Radio Service”. This Schedule includes the following footnote relating to this band (and many other UHF and microwave bands):
“…transmissions shall not cause interference nor be protected from interference from stations licensed in other services operating in that band…”.
Because the 3300-3500 MHz band is listed in Schedule I of RBR-4 with a reference to the footnote described above, Canadian Amateurs continue to have access to that band on condition that Amateur signals do not cause interference to existing or future licensees in the Radiolocation, Fixed and Mobile services (including 5G service providers), and on the understanding that Amateurs will be given no protection against interference from those services.
As the 5G rollout advances, maintaining compliance with the “no interference, no protection” requirements for secondary services is likely to impose increasingly severe restrictions on the ability of Amateurs to use this band, even as the secondary allocation to the Amateur Service remains in place.
The next World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) in 2023 will include an agenda item to consider worldwide allocations to Mobile internet services in several frequency bands, among them 3300-3400 MHz and 10.0-10.5 GHz. The International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) will be vigorously defending Amateur interests in both of these bands at WRC-23 and RAC representatives in Canadian working groups preparing the Canadian positions for WRC agenda items will be doing likewise.
The American Radio Relay League (ARRL) has issued a news release in response to the FCC announcement. You can find the complete text at the link provided below.
ARRL: FCC Orders Amateur Access to 3.5 GHz Band to “Sunset”
FCC Seeks to Facilitate 5G in the 3.45-3.55 GHz Band
RBR-4 Schedule I:
Gazette notice SLPB-001-19: