Fixed Microwave License Fees in Canada

July 19th, 2018

Fees for fixed microwave licensing here in Canada have always struck me as a bit backward, which is the same as to say lacking in foresight.

The premise of these fees is based on the equivalence to the number of telephone voice channels being conveyed across your link. This seems to have been borne out of a time and place where free radio spectrum was easily found and where the majority of licensees were indeed transporting telephone trunks, or in telco jargon T-1 circuits, each of which can handle 24 voice channels.

Things have changed. In fact, things had already changed when this was reviewed last in 2003. The radio spectrum is a finite and valuable resource that needs to be conserved and properly managed. I’m of the opinion that the best way to do this is to make the most efficient use of said spectrum. To me this means radios with higher-density modulations schemes, easier access to new and underutilized higher frequency spectrum, more frequency re-use of dead-air channels, mandatory data compression, and more effective management of radio sites and minimum equipment standards.

There has been some improvement in some of these areas over the last couple of years to be sure, but these more out of necessity than intelligent planning. The wide availability of license-exempt broadband radios has opened up new markets, and opportunities, for plenty of organizations. Many systems have grown to the point where they’ve become important enough to require the protection only a licensed system can provide.

There is often the slack-jaw response when they learn how much it will cost to license these new systems. Nowhere is this cost more true than when talking licensing a Gigabit link ($13,456.00+ per year). Of course, if you can make do with a single T-1 that drops to $136 per year. I don’t think I need to tell you there isn’t much demand for radios of this narrow of bandwidth any more – even by the licensees for which the Telephone Channel Equivalence was originally created.