The Radio Advisory Board of Canada (RABC) is asking Industry Canada to add a land-mobile spectrum allocation to the 216-222 MHz frequency range to redress an urgent need for additional bandwidth to support growing land mobile and public safety requirements. Details of the proposal have been published in a draft document on the RABC’s web site. The RABC and proponents of allocating additional land-mobile services in this band could, however, face a battle from the Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC), which says its members need the 220-222 MHz band - already allocated to it - for expansion due to growing congestion in other primary and secondary allotments. The man leading the charge at the RABC says this band could be used to provide much-needed bandwidth to not only commercial land-mobile operators, but also public safety groups. Paul Frew, VP of government relations for Motorola Canada Inc., tells Report on Wireless that something needs to be done to address the spectrum scarcity and the 216-222 MHz range is prime real estate. "It’s well known that there is a shortage of spectrum for commercial land mobile and public safety. Industry Canada would argue that no one is going without spectrum that’s going to cause risk to Canadians," says Frew. "There’s a long stretch between that and having enough spectrum to really do the job well. The second thing that plays into it is if you’re talking strictly about narrowband spectrum there is a shortage, but if you start throwing newer applications that require faster data rates then you really start to run into problems." The 700 MHz band is a potential property for broadband public safety applications. Industry Canada indicated last year that the 700 MHz spectrum, currently being used for analog TV channels 63/68, will be made available for public safety applications (RoW, July 31/03). However, public safety stakeholders have been waiting for two and a half years for the final policy. Last July, Industry Canada told RoW that there was still considerable work to be done to complete the policy, but it would be released soon. The department is also considering allocating 50 MHz of spectrum in the 4940-4990 MHz band for public safety. A decision on that allocation is also still pending. The RABC is proposing to move incumbent commercial land-mobile operators out of public safety frequencies around 174 MHz into the 220 MHz. "Providing additional space in the 220 MHz range for redeployed incumbent commercial VHF licensees, currently using potential public safety frequencies, would allow these frequencies to be cleared for public safety use. Public safety agencies are also constrained by equipment issues and concentrating public safety in the VHF bands below 174 MHz will ensure equipment is available," reads the RABC document. Frew says: "If commercial users have the opportunity to go into the 220 MHz band that hopefully will take some pressure off the traditional VHF band for public safety to be able to have more access to it." The RABC notes that certain public safety users have expressed an interest in using portions of the 216-222 MHz band for rapidly deployed public safety radio networks for various planned and unplanned events. But it isn’t asking for a public safety designation in this band, it only wants a land-mobile allocation. "These systems would be small and self-contained and not necessarily based on permanent fixed site infrastructure but deployed on the basis of when and where required. This interest is stated with the belief that the 216-222 MHz band would provide un-encumbered spectrum space necessary for these special transient operations along with the potential for nationally assigned channels to national public safety agencies such as the RCMP," reads the RABC paper. Opposition from Radio AmateursThe Radio Amateurs recently expressed their opposition to the RABC proposed 216 MHz-222 MHz review. While the RAC sympathizes with spectrum requirements of other RABC members, it notes that it also needs spectrum for expansion. "In addition to relieving the pressures on the congested 144-148 MHz (Primary) and 430-450 MHz (Secondary) amateur bands, the 220-225 MHz band would be used for amateur service emergency communications, particularly as its propagation characteristics bridge those provided by the 144 and 430 bands. Development of the 220 MHz band is growing as equipment for amateur service at 220 MHz increasingly is becoming available," writes the RAC. Jim Deans, head of regulatory affairs for the RAC, tells RoW that the 220 MHz band is the last frontier for radio amateurs and they need this band for expansion. The radio amateur organization is telling its members to take this issue seriously. "The spectrum is valuable, and we do not make good use of it. Those are the facts. In spite of all the good work we do in emergency and disaster communications, our case for retention is weak," it writes. Frew is expecting opposition from the RAC. "It is their spectrum now and it would actually be quite surprising if they agreed (to the proposal). Having said that, I think because (re-designating the band for land mobile has) already been done south of the border in the U.S. I would think it would be pretty hard for them to justify needing it here when radio amateurs in the U.S. can get along without," he says. Deans doesn’t agree with that assessment. "That’s like comparing apples to oranges. The spectrum was taken away from the U.S. amateurs as part of a Federal Communications Commission auction program. They do not have the same consultation process we have in Canada. Some years afterwards, because of representations by the American Radio Relay League, the national society in the U.S., they were given a secondary allocation at 219-220 to compensate." This is what the RABC is proposing, but that doesn’t satisfy radio amateurs. Deans says amateur radio plays an important role in various types of communications including in emergency situations and that its members should be able to maintain access to this primary band.