Spark managing director Simon Moutter went into bat for partner Huawei today, calling for the company to be allowed to participate in New Zealand's 5G rollout unless there was "incontrovertible evidence" it was a security threat.
Speaking at the company's AGM, Moutter said Huawei was currently a partner with Spark providing technology for its 3G and 4G mobile networks.
In particular, Huawei provides the Radio Access Network or RAN, which is the equipment located at cell sites to transmit and receive cellular signals.
"We use other partners such as Cisco and Ericsson for processing and customer authentication technology within our mobile network core, which is often regarded as the 'brains' of the network," Moutter said.
Moutter said Spark found Huawei to be a very good mobile RAN provider and a world leader in mobile technology that is responsive to the company's requirements as well as providing "good commercial value".
"Although we have yet to make decisions on our 5G technology partners, based on their track record with us, we see no reason why Huawei should not be among the vendors we consider inviting to the process," Moutter said.
"And we would hope that our Government would not preclude them from being considered without incontrovertible evidence their technology presents security risks that the comprehensive security management tools we employ in our networks cannot mitigate."
In September, GCSB Minister Andrew Little told Reseller News New Zealand would make its own decision on Huawei's future in 5G deployments, rather than follow Australia and other Five Eye spy alliance partners in banning the company.
Moutter also put the heat on the Government to stick to its timeline in allocating 5G spectrum.
Traffic on Spark’s 4G network is almost doubling every year, he said, predicting that by 2020-21 it will be far more logical to invest in 5G, which provides additional capacity at a lower incremental cost.
Spark is already making decisions contingent on securing additional 5G spectrum in the absence of clear policy on when that spectrum will be available or in what bands, he said.
"When it comes to initial 5G deployment, the frequencies known as C-Band and mmWave are the most referenced bands globally," Moutter added. "We are confident these will be important parts of the New Zealand 5G ecosystem in the near term.
"Down the track we will also need a low-frequency band to deploy 5G into rural areas as this spectrum can transmit over longer distances."
Moutter said Spark was "encouraging" the Government to make clear policy decisions on what spectrum will be available, and when, for 5G services in New Zealand.
"In particular, the Government should move to allocate the C-Band and mmWave bands as soon as possible, to ensure 5G services can be up and running in time for the 2020-21 America’s Cup in Auckland as an international showcase opportunity," he added.
"Australia will auction its C-band spectrum this month. If we don’t start to make spectrum policy decisions quickly we will be left behind in the race to 5G by our close neighbours, and many other countries around the world that have already got on and auctioned this spectrum off.
"We are encouraged by Minister Faafoi’s comments yesterday that allocation of spectrum is on track for 2020, but want to emphasise how important sticking to this timeline is."