Slowly but surely, Canada’s spectrum regulator is forging ahead with policies to make it easier for public safety agencies to communicate with each other during times of emergency. What started more than four years ago with a conference on public safety communications requirements is now coming to fruition with the terms and conditions of using spectrum specifically allocated for public safety (RoW, April 3/02).  This month Industry Canada released two policies setting out the rules for use of certain swaths of spectrum. Both narrowband voice and broadband data service requirements are being addressed by the department in the policies. DGTP-001-06 targets the use of 12 MHz of paired spectrum in the 700 MHz band that is to be used primarily for voice communications, while DGTP-005-06 deals with mobile broadband requirements using the 4.9 GHz band.  In the case of the former, the department is setting the rules by which public safety communications service providers will have to abide if they are going to use portions of the 700 MHz band. Industry Canada allocated the 764-770 MHz and 794-800 MHz pair, or analog TV channels 63 and 68, exclusively for public safety communications about 18 months ago. That decision was part of a larger ruling that added a mobile services allocation to the 746-806 MHz band (RoW, Oct. 5/04).  The department determined in its decision that it would be beneficial to grant a certain level of flexibility that would balance interoperability requirements with the shared public safety needs in a given region. Keith McIntosh, director of regulatory affairs at the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA), tells Report on Wireless that there is enough guidance in the policy to ensure standards-based systems are used.  The problem of inefficient communications arises when non-standard equipment is used, but McIntosh believes the decision prevents this. "I think the decision and the criteria that applied to it will help avoid that kind of situation," he says.  Canada’s national police force also believes the approach adopted by Industry Canada will best serve public safety agencies. "A flexible plan is what public safety organizations requested," reads an email from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. "It has been stated in previous consultations that the responsibility lies with the public safety agencies to select what best meets their needs for overall interoperability."  DGTP-005-06 lays the groundwork using the 4940-4990 MHz frequencies. The department notes in the policy that agencies proposing to use the spectrum for police, fire and emergency medical services will get top priority. The decision also allows non-public safety organizations to apply for a licence as long as they are serving the communications needs of a public safety agency. Interoperable radio communications are a key part of successful public safety communications. With this in mind, Industry Canada kicked off a consultation on public safety radio interoperability with a consultation paper earlier this month. Report on Wireless will have more on this matter in an upcoming issue.