Spectrum Management - From the Early Years to the 1990s

by Laval Desbiens

Page 17 of 26

A Timeline


An Incomplete List of Happenings


The wire telegraphy services were regulated by the Telegraph Act, passed in 1852.
Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1874 and the Bell Telephone Company of Canada was incorporated in 1880 by the adoption of the appropriate Act ... (but according to recent documents, an Italian actually invented the telephone!)


The Department of Marine and Fisheries was created.


First successful tests by Marconi who transmitted a transatlantic message received by radio in Newfoundland.
In May, the Canadian government's Department of Public Works purchased two wireless stations from the Marconi Company which it erected at Belle Isle on the northern point of Newfoundland, and at Chateau Bay, Labrador, in case the underwater cable connecting these two locations was damaged by ice. They went into operation in late 1901 and were apparently the first two wireless stations in Canada.


The Government signed an agreement with the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company and the Marconi International Marine Communications Company Ltd. to supply and install a station in Glace Bay, NS, to communicate with Poldhu, Cornwall. In so doing, he affirmed his control over this new technology by signing the agreement, which became an authorization. A first in frequency spectrum management! (At the time, no legislation existed governing the use of radio in the country.)


First international wireless telegraph conference held in Berlin. Mandatory intercommunication between coast stations and ship stations was recommended, as well as better exchange of technological information.

The government was concerned about interference (spark gap transmitters) and agreed with another recommendation not to place stations too close to each other. It also took care to maintain uniformity in the type of station and equipment in each region to minimize interference.


A further agreement was made with the Marconi Company to install six new coast stations, at Belle Isle, Point Amour, Cape Race, Fame Point, Heath Point and Cape Ray.

The Dominion De Forest Company had two commercial stations in operation in Toronto and Hamilton.


Wireless Telegraphy Act. This is the first time that the word "wireless" appeared in an Act of Parliament. (Inspired by the British act of 1904, according to Mary Vipond.)
At the time, the Department of Marine and Fisheries, which was made responsible for enforcement, reported that 13 wireless telegraph stations had been established for navigation and commercial purposes, as well as three ship stations equipped to receive messages. All were licensed to Marconi.


Berlin Convention, the recommendations from the 1903 Conference were ratified.

The Telegraphs Act was enacted wherein Part IV dealt with wireless telegraphy. It took the Berlin Convention into account. Among other things, licensing conditions demanded adherence to any international agreements signed by Canada.

A plan was announced to build a series of stations on the Pacific coast to serve as aids to navigation as well as communication along the west coast of Vancouver Island, and a Shoemaker system was chosen instead of Marconi's, who disputed the validity of the Act of 1906, arguing that it did not adhere to the agreements of 1902.


The Department of Marine and Fisheries reported that there were now 15 radio stations on the East coast. There were many licence applications, but very few were authorized.

1908-1910    There were now seven government stations along the west coast.


On April 14, the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.

In June, the third international conference on radio was held in London. The term "radiotelegraphy" replaced "wireless" as the label for communication by electromagnetic waves. A number of obligations were introduced for the signatories, including vessel classification, mandatory watches, two wavelengths (600 and 300 metres) for coast and ship stations, and a second class operator classification (slower speed in morse code than the first class operator level). The Canadian delegate did not waste any time in producing a new Act, which was presented to Parliament on December 12, 1912.


June 6, the Radiotelegraph Act received royal assent. This Act became the legislative basis for the Radio Act of 1938, the powers were shared between the Governor in Council and the Department of Marine, which had been responsible for enforcing the Act since 1910-11. (The definition of radiotelegraph included any wireless system for conveying electric signals or messages including radio-telephones. Mary Vipond)
The subsequent regulations stipulated the form and content of the application for and duration of licenses. Each class of station was allocated certain wavelengths as well as being provided with some general rules defining the type of transmission and reception permitted. Some 24 provisions governed experimental and amateur experimental licences. Emphasis was placed on marine service. The examination procedures by which the proficiency certificates for each class were obtained were described, and penalties were prescribed for noncompliance.
By the end of the year, 123 stations were in operation in Canada and on ships. Of these, 37 were coast stations, four were licensed commercial stations, two were licensed private stations, 28 were amateur and experimental stations, 16 were government ship stations and 36 were licensed ship stations.
The Canadian Marconi Company was authorized to transmit radio programs on an experimental basis in late 1918 and also in the winter of 1919 in Montreal with the call letters XWA, for amateurs and individuals with the technical means. A permanent licence was issued on November 4, 1920. (W.A. Rush)



The Radiotelegraph Act was amended to include a reference to broadcasting, and licence fees were introduced for owners of receiving sets.

On May 20, XWA Montreal (the forerunner of CFCF) transmitted a concert for the Royal Society. It was received in Ottawa on the 1,200 metre wavelength, in a room at the Chāteau Laurier. C.P. Edwards was the operator for the Ottawa station.



The National Defence Act transferred a number of the functions related to marine to the Marine and Fisheries Branch. The radiotelegraph service was one of them. The Branch was treated like a department in its own right from 1884 to 1892 and from 1930 to 1936.

A new type of licence was developed for broadcasters, and it would be used during fiscal year 1922-23. A new series of call letters was established and XWA became CFCF. (W.A. Rush)



Act amending the Radiotelegraph Act. The regulating powers of the Governor in Council were modified.



Responsibility for the Radiotelegraph Act was transferred to the Department of Marine and Fisheries.

The Department had two branches: the Marine and Fisheries Branch, because it had just been assigned responsibility for patrolling the northern waters, and the Radio Branch.     

The Branch was already responsible for proficiency examinations for ship radio operators. A copy of a letter of instructions to this effect, dated January 8, 1927 and signed by Director C.P. Edwards was found.



The Privy Council in London decided that the regulation of radio was a federal responsibility.

The Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission was created in 1932 and transformed into the CBC in 1936. The CBC was given the power to regulate private radio broadcasters. (1)


The Department of Transport was created by merging the Department of Naval Service, the Department of Railways and Canals, and the Civil Aviation Branch.

The Radio Branch, a constituent part of the Department of Transport's Air Services, was responsible for administering the regulations governing national, international and regional radio, investigations, and the suppression of interference at radio receivers.



The Radio Act was passed (the first with this name) and the Department of Transport was responsible for its enforcement.

During the Second World War, the Radio Branch was separated from the Air Services and became independent.



North American Regional Broadcasting Agreement (NARBA).



Creation of the CRTPB.


The Department of Reconstruction and Supply was created.


This Department issued the certificates of proficiency in radio, second class.


Atlantic City - the first International Telecommunication Union (ITU) post-war conference.


Public Works transferred the government telephone and telegraph service to the Radio Branch, which was reincorporated into the Air Services of the Department of Transport.
The Branch was responsible for regulating, licensing and inspecting commercial and amateur radio stations, including the first years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.


The Radio Branch became the Telecommunications Branch and was made responsible for operating and maintaining the government's radio stations and radio beacons.


An Act to amend the Radio Act, 1938.
A marine frequency plan was adopted by the ITU in The Hague.


The Radio Act - Department meant Department of Transport.

Canada-US agreement requiring the use of radiotelephone communications by ships plying the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River.


The Radio Act, 1938 was amended - a licence was no longer required for private broadcasting receiving stations.
The Regulations Division was established within the Telecommunications and Electronics Branch.
Specifications governing radio equipment were introduced.


The ITU's World Administrative Radio Conference (WARC) allocated frequency bands for space research.


The regional office reviewed licence applications, which were then forwarded to headquarters for frequency selection.
Television broadcasting companies appeared in the 1960s. The Broadcasting Act was amended to include television broadcasting companies.


Canada began to take a more active part in the ITU's International Consultative Committee on Radio (ICCR).


In Quebec, Regional Superintendent T. Foucault decided that the entire licence application review process would be carried out by the regional office.



Preparation of the "VHF Frequency Selection" report in co-operation with G. Migneault and Vince Lee Chong.


The Broadcasting Act introduced "communications by spacecraft".
Public consultation was initiated through a Notice in the Canada Gazette Part I before any regulations were changed.
For a short time, the Post Office Department was responsible for the Radio Act and related Regulations, pending the creation of a new department.


March 28 - Government Organization Act, the Department of Communications was created. Henceforth, economic, social and commercial implications would be taken into account in spectrum planning and the licensing of large systems.
The T & E Branch was transferred to the Department of Communications.
Among other things, the Department was responsible for encouraging the establishment and development of efficient communications systems and installations in Canada; helping communications systems and installations to adapt to changing domestic and international conditions; compiling and updating detailed information on communications systems and installations; and, if necessary, taking measures to protect the rights of Canada with respect to communications. Four regions and six sectors were formed, including Research and Spectrum, and Communications.


ANIK 1 was launched.


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act was enacted. The CRTC was created and replaced the Board of Governors.


The compatibility of microwave systems was evaluated in the regions.


The CRTPB was reorganized and became the Radio Advisory Board of Canada.


The Crown was no longer exempt from licensing.


Amendment of the Act - Defined harmful interference, governed interference-causing devices and equipment, made it possible to regulate sensitive radio equipment. (These amendments had been in Bill C-151, which had died on the Order Paper in 1988.)


Order in Council P.C. 1993-1487 (1) of June 25 grouped the Department of Industry, Science and Technology (ISTC), and transferred from the Department of Communications to ISTC... those portions of the Public Service known as Automated Applications, Telematics and New Media, Spectrum Management Operations, Certification and Engineering Bureau, Communications Research Centre (CRC), Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister (Quebec), Regional Spectrum Services Centre and Canadian Workplace Automation Research Centre.
On August 18, pursuant to Order in Council P.C. 1993-1670, the Department of Industry, Science and Technology was made responsible for the control and supervision of those portions of the public service known as Telecommunications Policy, Communications Development and Planning, Broadcasting Regulation, Radio Regulatory Branch and Engineering Programs in the Department of Communications. This included Automated Applications, Telematics and New Media, Spectrum Management Operations, the Certification and Engineering Bureau, the Communications Research Centre, the Office of the Assistant Deputy Minister (Quebec), the Regional Spectrum Services Centre and the Canadian Workplace Automation Research Centre, which were also transferred to the Department of Industry.
The new department known as the Department of Industry, Science and Technology was created in mid-1993. To this end, Order in Council P.C. 1993-1487 (of June 25, 1993) amalgamated the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and the Department of Industry, Science and Technology. The control and monitoring functions of the Investment Review Division and the Investment Research and Policy Division were also transferred.
The Telecommunications Act was passed in 1993.


The new department was organized and operated (by orders in council) under its new name long before the act making it an official department was passed. The Department of Industry Act (passed on March 16, 1995) repealed the Department of Industry, Science and Technology Act and officially established the Department of Industry (a body that was very different from the Department of Industry that existed from 1963 to 1969).

The Department's programs and services were intended directly for Canadian companies and onsumers across the country.


The Radiocommunication Regulations were consolidated, with new services, user types and licence categories.


October 18 to November 19 - First frequency band auction.


Spectrum Management - From the Early Years to the 1990s

by Laval Desbiens