How to Licence Two Way Radios in Canada

Information about Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISEDC) formerly Industry Canada (I.C.) Radio licences

Just as it is important to have a licence plate on a car, a land mobile/base (LMR) radio must have a radio frequency licence to be legally operated. It is unlawful to transmit without a valid licence unless the transmitter is licence-exempt.  Significant fines can be levied to users of LMR radios that are not licenced.

LMR radios are different from marine radios.   A person must be licenced to operate a marine radio (Radio Operators Certificate). This is similar to having a drivers licence.  However, LMR radios do not require an individual to have a licence.  Rather, the company or organization must licence and pay for a frequency, along with the number and types of radios in use.

The larger the area that you want to use licenced radios, the more difficult it is to get a licence.  This is because there is very little radio spectrum available and it must be shared amongst tens of thousands of users.   ISEDC has special software to figure out what frequency to issue you so it won’t interfere with other radios.  Note that most licences are for radios to be used at a specific geographic location and radius.  A one-kilometer radius is common.  Unlicenced radios cause huge problems for licenced radios they interfere with.

Handheld portable radios and vehicle mounted radios (both considered “mobile radios”) are licenced differently than fixed base stations.  As of April, 2024, the cost per mobile is $49.17 per year regardless of the number of individual frequencies on the licence.

Fixed stations (e.g. base stations, repeaters, etc) cost a lot more per year to licence and are more complex in their rates.  Each frequency programmed into each fixed station is subject to its own fee.  The fixed station frequency fee varies by region and other factors.  This is true even if the base station has a small antenna and is used for low power applications. For larger organizations, sophisticated trunking systems such as Motorola’s Capacity Plus/Max, can save yearly ISEDC fees because it is more spectrally efficient.

Radio licences for a specific location are usually issued as low power assignments.  This means that the radio output is limited to 4 or 5 Watts.  This is important to know since the default setting on vehicle and base radios are commonly 25-45 Watts. 

Low power fixed base station licences also limit antenna height to 5 metres above the ground.   Indoor antennas are allowed up to 30 metres from ground level.  Above this height the output is limited to 1 Watt.  External antennas can only be maximum of 15 metres above ground at 1 Watt.  Low power is used to allow ISEDC to reuse assigned channels to other companies just out of range.

Licensing is the responsibility of BC Communications when you rent radio equipment (unless specified otherwise) and is shown separately as a licence fee (AKA: airtime).  When renting radios, you are renting frequency that is licenced to BC Communications.  This avoids you having to go through the hassle of getting your own licence.

Licences are issued by Industry Science and Economic Development Canada ISEDC, the government body responsible for radio spectrum. Typically, licences are issued April 1 – March 31 which is the common billing cycle for ISEDC.

Licence fees are due by March 31st each year.  You can reach ISEDC in the Vancouver lower mainland at 604-930-8691 if you have any billing or licensing questions.

It is very important not to let your radio licences lapse.  If you do, you will have to go through the hassle of re-licensing all your radios and probably won’t get your specific frequency back.  This has the additional effect of requiring you to then re-program your entire fleet of radios when your replacement licence is issued.  For this reason, it is always best to pay your fee annually and on-time, so you don’t have to go through another licence application process.

For a service fee, BC Communications can apply to ISEDC for a licence on your behalf.  It takes two to three hours to fill out the necessary forms which includes navigating the complexities of antenna beam width, decibels and effective radiated power, etc.   Better to leave it to the experts.

BC Communications’ administrative service fee depends on the complexity of the application. Please contact us for a quote. 

In order for us to access your profile and complete the application on your behalf, you will need to complete an Agent Retention Form.

Download the Agent Retention Form PDF by clicking the icon below, complete the form, sign, and scan it back to us. Note: you will need to download the form and open it with Acrobat Reader to view it. If you open the form in an internet browser, you will not be able to view it. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact us.

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