Industry Canada is hoping a greater reliance on market forces will help revive commercial interest in portions of the L-band spectrum currently used for digital radio services. In consultation DGTP-010-09, the department proposes to replace the digital audio broadcast (DAB) designation in the 1452-1492 MHz segment of the band with “flexible-use licences,” which could include, in addition to broadcasting, fixed and mobile services. “Releasing the spectrum under flexible-use licences could facilitate the delivery of subscription broadcasting, multimedia, mobile or fixed broadband wireless access, or other telecommunications applications,” Industry Canada states in the consultation document. L-band DAB has been around since the 1990s, and despite the licensing of 76 radio stations, not all went to air, and some closed shop. This lack of development can also be attributed to Industry Canada’s decision in May 2007 to impose a moratorium on DAB licensing in the band. The future of L-band DAB in Canada doesn’t look bright, according to the department. “The mission for DAB in the band 1452-1492 MHz, as the digital replacement for the analogue FM and AM broadcasting services, has been abandoned. It could be argued that the future stand-alone DAB stations may be limited and that the department should now provide additional flexibility for the use of this spectrum (band 1452-1492 MHz),” states the consultation document. The consultation is a first step toward determining what to do with the DAB portion of the L-band. Industry Canada has indicated it will conduct a future consultation to consider the transition policy for DAB radio stations in the L-band. Interested parties have until February 19 to submit comments to the consultation. Industry Canada points to a number of additional reasons why development of DAB in the L-band has been limited. It cites the convergence of fixed, mobile and broadcasting services over digital wireless platforms, the licensing of two national satellite radio services, the US development of HD radio (formerly known as in-band, on-channel or IBOC), and a move by European countries to deploy DAB in the VHF bands (174-230 MHz) and allow multimedia broadcasting – one-way radio, video and other multimedia services – in these frequencies. “The prospect of a wide range of services in the band 1452-1492 MHz being allowed by industrialized countries in Europe and elsewhere further underlines the risk for Canada of pursuing only the conventional DAB service in this band,” says the consultation document. “Consequently, the current allotment plan developed for the DAB implementation may not be appropriate given the new technologies that could be deployed in this band.” Wayne Stacey, president of Wayne A. Stacey and Associates, says this by no means signals the end to L-band DAB. Although the department is considering more services in the band, it doesn’t mean DAB disappears, he says. “It doesn’t mean that broadcasting is out, it just means maybe others are in,” Stacey tells Tech Media Reports. “What they’re doing is aligning the potential use of the band with other countries, particularly the United States, but it doesn’t mean that each country domestically can’t do what they want with it as long as it fits within the general framework. And it looks to me like they’re trying to get the framework set up so that they can jump in several directions depending on what they decide as domestic policy.” Perry Hoffman is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.