Canada Gazette, Part I, December 18, 2014, Notice No. SLPB Consultation on Repurposing the 600 MHz Band Eastlink s reply comments

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1 March 26, 2015 Senior Director Spectrum Licensing and Auction Operations Industry Canada 235 Queen Street Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5 Dear Sir/Madam: Re: Canada Gazette, Part I, December 18, 2014, Notice No. SLPB Consultation on Repurposing the 600 MHz Band Eastlink s reply comments Please find attached the reply comments of Bragg Communications Inc., carrying on business as Eastlink ( Eastlink ), in response to Canada Gazette Notice SLPB Consultation on Repurposing the 600 MHz Band (Part I, December 18, 2014). We appreciate the opportunity to provide our views to the Department. Sincerely, Denise Heckbert Manager, Wireless Regulatory, Eastlink Young Street Halifax NS B3K 5M3 Box 8660, Station A, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 5M3 T (902) F (902) E 1

2 INDUSTRY CANADA CONSULTATION ON REPURPOSING THE 600 MHz BAND CANADA GAZETTE, PART I, DECEMBER 18, 2014 (SLPB ) REPLY COMMENTS OF BRAGG COMMUNICATIONS INC., OPERATING AS EASTLINK 26 MARCH

3 1. Bragg Communications Inc., carrying on business as Eastlink ( Eastlink ), appreciates the opportunity to provide reply comments on the issues raised under SLPB Consultation on Repurposing the 600 MHz Band (the Consultation ). 2. Under the Consultation, Industry Canada (the Department ) seeks comments on its proposed repurposing of the 600 MHz spectrum band for commercial mobile use, its proposal to align with the US band plan, and its proposed transition plan for the band s current occupants. Eastlink has reviewed the comments submitted by other participants under the Consultation and we herein provide our reply comments. We note that a failure to respond to any particular comment or proposal should not be interpreted as agreement where such agreement would be contrary to our position herein or our business interests. Supporting mobile wireless competition 3. Eastlink fully agrees with the Department s proposal to repurpose the 600 MHz spectrum band for commercial mobile services. Mobile wireless services are becoming increasingly important in the daily lives and businesses of all Canadians. It is no surprise that recent forecasts have predicted mobile data traffic to grow nearly ten-fold between 2014 and More and more, Canadians are watching video content online, and they want the flexibility to do so from places without Wi-Fi and/or wireline Internet connections. The 600 MHz band is critical for providing Canadians with the mobile wireless service they need as its propagation characteristics provide broad coverage and penetrate buildings, so that consumers can access mobile wireless networks from more places. 4. The 600 MHz spectrum is further critical to sustainable wireless competition. Eastlink appreciated the Department s policies under the 700 MHz auction, which made it possible for new entrants to acquire one MHz block of sub-1 GHz spectrum. This spectrum is critical to our ability to compete in rural areas and to provide in-building coverage throughout our serving area. However, our sub-1 GHz spectrum holdings continue to be dwarfed by those of the incumbents, which hold 100% of the 850 MHz band and 85% of the 700 MHz band. For Box 8660, Station A, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3K 5M3 T (902) F (902) E

4 example, in the Sudbury, Ontario area, a key market for Eastlink, the incumbents continue to hold the vast majority of sub-1ghz spectrum. Table 1. Sub-1 GHz spectrum holdings in the Sudbury, Ontario area Bell/Telus Rogers Eastlink 850 MHz 50 MHz 25 MHz 0 MHz 700 MHz 46 MHz 12 MHz 10 MHz Total sub-1 GHz spectrum 96 MHz 37 MHz 10 MHz 5. Eastlink requires additional sub-1 GHz spectrum to provide competitive data speeds indoors and to build into rural areas efficiently. Currently we must overlay our 700 MHz spectrum with AWS spectrum throughout most of our serving area to ensure that we are providing competitive wireless data speeds. Eastlink s access to additional sub-1ghz spectrum would allow us to provide our rural licensed areas with the same high quality network coverage for roughly a third of the cost, due to infrastructure savings. We could then pass these savings on to Canadians, via lower-priced rate plans, while we continue deployment of our leadingedge network into new areas. 6. At the same time, the incumbents sub-1 GHz spectrum is better spectrum than that held by new entrants, as the device ecosystem has matured for the lower-band of the 700 MHz band and the 850 MHz band, which the incumbents will re-farm for LTE in the near future. Meanwhile, there is not yet a mature device ecosystem for the AWS MHz upper band configuration that new entrants must deploy. This makes 600 MHz spectrum additionally important for new entrants, so that Canadians can enjoy the full benefit of wireless competition. 7. As a result, Eastlink supports the Department s proposal to repurpose the 600 MHz spectrum for commercial mobile use, as it will improve Canadians ability to benefit from the technology improvements, expanded coverage, and lower prices that stem from wireless competition. We submit that the Department s primary objective should be to make as much 600 MHz spectrum available for commercial mobile wireless services as possible, while aligning with the US band plan to ensure a strong device ecosystem for consumers. 4

5 Department questions 8. Eastlink has provided reply comments on the Department s proposals. Question #1: Industry Canada is seeking comments on the overall proposal of repurposing the band to include commercial mobile broadband and the initial step of participating in a joint repacking process with the United States. 9. Eastlink reiterates that we support the Department s proposal to repurpose the 600 MHz band to include commercial mobile broadband services. This spectrum is critical to sustainable mobile wireless competition because of its propagation characteristics, which allow the spectrum to penetrate buildings and which enable efficient and timely deployment of competitive mobile wireless services to rural areas, so that all Canadians can benefit from the lower prices and technology improvements rooted in competition. Question #2. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the future spectrum requirements for OTA TV broadcasting, taking into consideration the overall changes to the broadcasting industry, and noting that the CRTC Let s Talk TV hearing recently closed. 10. Eastlink does not have a position on future OTA spectrum needs, except to reiterate that mobile wireless spectrum needs in the coming years are clear. Specifically, mobile wireless data use is expected to increase nearly ten-fold between 2014 and We appreciate the steps that the Department has taken in the past 18 months to make 700 MHz, AWS-3 and 2500 MHz spectrum available to new entrants, but we continue to operate at a severe disadvantage to incumbents with respect to sub-1 GHz spectrum, which we need to provide in-building coverage and to build efficiently into rural areas. Eastlink submits that the need for sub-1 GHz spectrum in the provision of mobile wireless services is so great, the 600 MHz band is so particularly well-suited to mobile wireless services, and the benefits to aligning with the US band plan so evident, that the Department should maintain meeting the commercial mobile spectrum needs as its primary objective in this band. Questions #3 and #4. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the Department s proposal to adopt the US 600 MHz band plan framework, and commit to repurpose the same amount of 5

6 spectrum as the United States, as determined in the FCC s incentive auction. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the size of the proposed guard band between the TV broadcasting and mobiles services. 11. Eastlink supports the Department s proposal adopt the US 600 MHz band plan framework and to repurpose the same amount of spectrum as is repurposed in the US. We submit that aligning with the US plan and blocks auctioned will ensure that there is a device ecosystem for Canadians to use with new entrant service providers networks. 12. Eastlink submits that the Department s proposed guard bands are likely sufficient. Question #5. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the proposed transition policy for the regular power TV stations, including but not limited to the design objectives for the development of the new DTV allotment plan, the methodology and parameters to ensure minimal impact to TV reception, the minimum notification period for the relocation to the new DTV assignments, and the overall timing for the transition to the new DTV allotment plan. 13. Eastlink notes that certain parties to this proceeding have requested substantial funding for their transition. Specifically, Rogers and Bell both requested that all their transition direct costs be fully reimbursed via auction proceeds, that they receive compensation for indirect costs related to the transition, and that auction proceeds be used to establish a fund for local programming. Eastlink submits that the majority of these requests are inappropriate as part of this Consultation and should be disregarded. 14. Eastlink notes that it may be appropriate for independent, community-based, and municipallyowned OTA providers to have their direct costs recovered via the auction proceeds. We submit that a proceeding could be held to identify which direct costs could be appropriately recovered and to determine a process for these entities to file such claims. 15. However, we submit that it is inappropriate to provide compensation for indirect costs. Eastlink further submits it is inappropriate for large, vertically integrated entities to request a fund for local programming under the Consultation, as these sorts of financial decisions are typically reviewed and determined by the CRTC. We submit that the CRTC has the experience and responsibility to consider and balance the needs of the entire broadcasting industry, as well as those of the telecommunications industry, and, most importantly, Canadians. In fact, the 6

7 CRTC has only recently begun issuing its series of decisions pursuant to the Let s Talk TV proceeding, which will result in significant changes to the framework associated with the broadcasting industry (including in relation to issues of content creation and production of programming). Given these major changes to the broadcasting framework, with follow-up proceedings to come, it would be premature and entirely inappropriate for Bell and Rogers to use this Consultation as a route to allocate additional funding for local programming, without due process under the broadcast regulatory regime governed by the CRTC. Any determination on those aspects of the Bell/Rogers proposal impacting the broadcasting industry should be governed by the appropriate process, including participation from all relevant stakeholders within that industry, many of whom already pay into a local programming fund through their regulatory obligations. 16. Eastlink submits that these funding requests from large vertically integrated entities should not impact the Department s decision regarding the amount of 600 MHz spectrum it makes available for commercial mobile wireless services. As noted above, new entrant service providers require additional sub-1ghz spectrum to compete sustainably in rural areas and to provide quality in-building coverage in urban areas. Given the rapid increase in mobile wireless data usage, we submit that the Department should maintain, as its primary objective for this band, making as much 600 MHz spectrum available to mobile wireless services as possible. Questions #6, #7 and #8. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the proposed transition policy for LPTV undertakings in the spectrum to be repurposed to mobile use. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the proposed transition policy for LPTV undertakings below the 600 MHz band. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the proposed transition policy for RRBS. 17. Eastlink has no comment on Questions 6, 7 or 8. Question #9. Industry Canada is seeking comments on the proposal to update the Canadian Table of Frequency Allocations by adding co-primary allocations to fixed and mobile services in the and ranges. 18. Eastlink agrees with the Department s proposal, as it aligns with the International Table. However, we submit that this spectrum will be more efficiently deployed for commercial mobile wireless services than for fixed wireless. We reiterate that this spectrum is critical to wireless 7

8 new entrants ability to compete sustainably as the spectrum will allow us to build competitive networks with strong data speeds into rural areas efficiently and rapidly. At the same time, this spectrum will allow new entrant service providers to provide competitive data speeds indoors, including within urban environments where fixed wireless services are unlikely to be established (due to existing wireline Internet competition). Conclusion 19. Eastlink submits that this spectrum is critical to sustainable mobile wireless competition, in urban and rural areas. New entrants currently hold 0% of the 850 MHz band and just 15% of the 700 MHz band. At the same time, the 15% new entrants hold is in the 700 MHz upper band where a device ecosystem that is compatible with AWS spectrum the only other spectrum new entrants hold has not matured. It is critical to providing competitive in-building service in all operating areas and to efficient rural network deployment that new entrants have access to additional sub-1 GHz spectrum. We submit that the Department s proposals to align with the US band plan and to repurpose the 600 MHz band for mobile wireless use, will help ensure that new entrants have access to this sub-1 GHz spectrum and a strong device ecosystem. We submit that such a framework will provide Canadians in all regions access to the technological and pricing benefits of mobile wireless competition as they continue to rely more heavily on their mobile wireless services in the coming years. **END OF DOCUMENT** 8

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