Fire Fighting in Canada

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Ottawa reserves 10 MHz of wireless spectrum for responders

March 14, 2012, Russell, Ont. - The Canadian government has allocated 10 MHz of the wireless spectrum for public safety services, including fire and police. 

March 14, 2012
By Laura King
Industry Minister Christian Paradis said in a letter to fire-service groups Wednesday afternoon that Ottawa is reviewing the implication of the designation by the United States of the D-block of the spectrum, which includes 20 MHz, for public safety use and will consult stakeholders on a similar option for Canadian first responders.

The Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) and other emergency services groups have been advocating for a 20 MHz portion of the spectrum to ensure seamless communication among responders during large-scale emergencies.

Representatives of a tri-service committee representing fire, police and
ambulance met in Ottawa in December and urged first responders to ramp up arguments in favour of
dedicated broadband for emergency communication to make sure the federal
government stayed focused on the issue.

Paradis announced Wednesday afternoon in a news conference in Russell, Ont., that the federal government would set aside a portion of the spectrum for responders but did not specify how much. The clarification of the 10 MHz was revealed in letters to emergency services stakeholder groups. 

Wednesday's announcement coincided with the CAFC's government relations week, during which the spectrum issue was a key agenda item.  

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The
government plans to auction off wireless spectrum at the 700 MHz frequency – a frequency that works well for high-speed wireless
data connections. The prospective bidders include Bell Canada, Wind Mobile, and
other wireless communication service providers.   
 

At the
Fifth Canadian Public Safety Interoperability Workshop in Ottawa in December, members of the Tri-Service Special Purpose Committee on 700 MHz for
Mission-Critical Public Safety Data said Ottawa seemed to understand the need for emergency broadband services but some wireless companies oppose the strategy.

Indeed, Industry Canada had received comments from
communication service providers during public consultations indicating that setting aside a portion of the spectrum for emergency responders would be the wrong
thing to do because those services can't afford to implement the necessary technology.

Paradis also said in the announcement Wednesday afternoon that Ottawa is capping the coming wireless spectrum auction, and lifting foreign-investment limits on small telecom firms to level the playing field.

He said the new measures will allow new wireless carriers into the market and foster greater competition in the telecom industry.

The government will also apply measures in the spectrum auction to ensure rural Canadians get the same service as people who live in bigger towns and cities.

Antenna tower sharing and roaming policies will also be changed.

(With files from The Canadian Press)