Government of Canada experiments with new ways of managing wireless spectrum

Innovation Minister opens research lab that harnesses big data to monitor spectrum use

OTTAWA, May 8, 2017 /CNW/ - The Government of Canada is harnessing the power of big data to make smarter use of wireless spectrum, the radio waves responsible for everything from TV and radio broadcasting to data and phone service for smartphones.

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, celebrated the official opening of the Government's Big Data Analytics Centre at the Communications Research Centre, an innovation lab for wireless communications located in Ottawa.

This one-of-a-kind research lab collects and analyzes vast amounts of data on Canada's wireless spectrum, which is a public resource that's regulated by the Government.

The research being conducted at the Big Data Analytics Centre will allow the Government to predict where on the wireless spectrum there are unused radio waves that can be put to work to ensure that the wireless networks Canadians depend on are reliable and accessible, regardless of traffic load.

Spectrum is a scarce resource, especially as the amount of data traffic on wireless networks continues to grow exponentially. In particular, the ubiquity of smartphones and other wireless devices has triggered an explosion in the amount of data travelling over wireless networks. That's why the Government is investing in technology and infrastructure that allow Canada to optimize the limited amount of wireless spectrum available.

The research being conducted at the Big Data Analytics Centre has potential applications in many other sectors of the economy beyond telecommunications. The technologies that enable wireless spectrum to be managed dynamically can be used for connected cars and other systems that rely on merging advanced machinery and networked sensors and software, known as the Internet of Things.


"To power their smartphones, tablets, TVs and radios, Canadians rely on the judicious use of wireless spectrum. We can't make more wireless spectrum, but we can make better use of it. To do that, we need to understand exactly how it's being used and where. We need to know, in real time, where there are unused radio waves that could be put to work. Big data is the key to understanding that. It gives us the power to turn data into useful insights that allow us to predict where the surplus capacity will be at any given time. The research being conducted at the Big Data Analytics Centre has the potential to transform not only the telecommunications sector but all sectors of the economy."
– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

"The Communications Research Centre is honoured to have Minister Bains here to officially open the Big Data Analytics Centre, the first visualization laboratory of its kind within the Government. Using big data analytics, cloud computing, crowdsourced information, data fusion and state-of-the-art visualization, the Centre enables our researchers to work with big data in ways that were previously not possible to support sustainable spectrum management and help foster innovation in Canada."
– Dr. Jean Luc Bérubé, President, Communications Research Centre

"Canada is fortunate that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada is focused on extending the benefits of our increasingly critical wireless infrastructure. Cognitive Systems is delighted to collaborate with the CRC, a world-class research organization, to better understand and monitor spectrum for effective use and growth. Our work with the CRC and the ability to use facilities like the Big Data Analytics Centre aid the development and testing of Cognitive's world-leading sensor technology."
Hugh Hind, Chief Executive Officer, Cognitive Systems Corp.

Quick facts

  • Wireless spectrum refers to the invisible radio waves that are responsible for everything from TV and radio broadcasting to data and phone service for smartphones.
  • The Communications Research Centre conducts world-class research focused on optimizing the use of wireless spectrum for next-generation mobile services.
  • The Big Data Analytics Centre is a research facility that collects, analyzes and visualizes this country's wireless spectrum.
  • The Big Data Analytics Centre is available for use by other government departments and for collaboration with industry and academia.

Related product

  • Communications Research Centre backgrounder

Associated link

Follow Minister Bains on Twitter: @MinisterISED


Communications Research Centre
Enabling the future of digital Canada: Government innovation to grow Canadian innovation

At the Communications Research Centre (CRC) in Ottawa, scientists are helping Canada to become the best in the world at managing spectrum, the airwaves that enable wireless innovations. CRC—a dedicated research arm of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), Canada's spectrum regulator—is the federal government's laboratory dedicated to research and development in advanced wireless telecommunications. Researchers are pursuing some of the most progressive ideas in the world for managing spectrum, including big data, cloud analytics, artificial intelligence and state-of-the-art visualization. The focus of the research is about understanding how this critical resource is used today and finding innovative ways to use it even better.

CRC supports ISED by conducting research to meet Canada's innovation needs so that Canadians can participate in a modern, increasingly wireless, digital economy.

CRC's research:

  • enables ISED to use evidence-based information to drive policy and regulation and ensure that Canadians benefit from the use of spectrum; and
  • solves critical wireless telecom issues faced by ISED and other government departments in the near term, including National Defence, Defence Research and Development Canada and Public Safety Canada.

CRC research is focused on three main areas: 

  • spectrum environment awareness – how technology can provide real-time dynamic spectrum knowledge to enable a more effective and sustainable management of spectrum
  • making better use of spectrum – which techniques can be used to support greater wireless telecommunications with currently used spectrum, which will enable 5G deployment and applications like connected cars and the Internet of Things
  • breaking the frequency barrier – how we can enable the use of higher frequency bands to address the growing demand for mobile services, increasing the supply of spectrum available by promoting the use of previously considered unsuitable spectrum for broadband mobile communications

Some highlights of CRC research include world-leading advances to improve 5G coverage, which will help make Canada a 5G leader and attract innovative companies and application development to Canada. Recognized a leader by industry and regulators around the world, CRC will help keep Canada at the forefront of the wireless digital economy by collaborating with industry, academia and other government departments.  


SOURCE Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

For further information: Karl W. Sasseville, Press Secretary, Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic, Development, 343-291-2500; Media Relations, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, 343-291-1777,


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