Mobile challenger 2degrees is disapointed mobile spectrum used for 3G and 4G services has not been reallocated, after the government announced it was renewing licences.
Spectrum rights in the 2100 MHz and 1800 MHz bands will mostly be renewed to ensure mobile network operators can continue to provide 3G and 4G phone services, minister of broadcasting, communications and digital media Kris Faafoi has announced.
Some spectrum will, however, be released for other yet to be determined uses.
2degrees said it was pleased to have certainty beyond current rights’ expiry in 2021, although it was also disappointed some of the spectrum currently used by mobile operators has been set aside.
Chief of corporate affairs Mat Bolland said the company had the national network and spectrum it needed to meet customer needs for now and the medium-term, but data growth showed no sign of stopping and next year’s 5G spectrum auction, in the 3.5 GHz bands, will be an important one.
“We’ve made it clear there’s no need to bring forward 5G, but when it arrives the amount of spectrum available will impact the strength of future competition in the mobile market," Bolland said.
Rival Spark has been clamouring for that spectrum to be allocated so it can begin rolling out 5G services, but 2degrees may face some financial challenges following suit.
Faafoi said spectrum is a limited resource and the rights to use spectrum in the 2100 MHz and 1800 MHz bands only come up for renewal every 20 years.
"When it comes to considering the next round of spectrum management rights, it’s important we strike the right balance to ensure spectrum is used efficiently to benefit all New Zealanders,” he said.
Cabinet agreed to renew rights for most of the spectrum in these bands to current holders Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees when their rights expire in 2021.
Renewal offers for the three mobile network operators will be for 40 MHz each in the 1800 MHz band and their existing holdings in the 2100 MHz band.
Hautaki Limited, part of a charitable trust dedicated to boosting Māori participation in the ICT sector, will be offered full renewal of its existing 2100 MHz rights.
Telstra’s rights in the 2100 MHz band, however, will not be renewed as they are not currently being used.
“Cellular technology is constantly evolving however, so we need to have some spectrum in reserve to remain flexible to change," Faafoi said. "The 40 MHz that’s been freed up from these partial renewals might be used for new technologies or by the new emergency services network that is currently being considered."