NZX-listed telco Spark has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it intends to auction 5G spectrum early next year for a short-term allocation of some of the 3.5 GHz 5G band.
For all telcos, obtaining early access to the right spectrum has been a challenge, but the missing ingredient to a broad roll-out has finally arrived.
Spark in particular has been disadvantaged after Vodafone obtained enough to launch services through two private deals earlier this year.
Now, however, broadcasting, communications and digital media minister Kris Faafoi has confirmed cabinet approval for the allocation of short-term rights to an unused portion of 3.5 GHz spectrum.
“Early access to this spectrum will allow the telecommunications industry to move forward in their development and deployment of 5G services now, rather than waiting until long-term rights are switched on in November 2022,” Faafoi said this morning.
Progressing with 5G will ensure New Zealand keeps pace with global developments, give us world-class connectivity, and provide a platform for exciting new applications which can improve future livelihoods and ways of life, he added.
Short-term allocation of spectrum will also be made to Māori, and a support programme to build Māori capability in spectrum-related industries will be developed to maximise the benefits of this opportunity.
This has been developed in partnership with a Māori Spectrum Working Group.
“The short-term allocation of spectrum to Māori will act as a stepping-stone for Māori and the Crown to reach an enduring agreement which recognises Māori interests in radio spectrum,” Faafoi said.
Further details of the short-term allocation will be released early next year.
The auction will allocate management rights for 160 MHz of spectrum within this band, with rights running from mid-2020 until 31 October 2022.
Spark intends to participate in the auction, the company told investors on 16 December.
Access to sufficient spectrum in the 3.5GHz band will enable Spark to bring true mass-market 5G services to more New Zealanders as soon as possible, the company said.
"The Government foreshadowed this short-term allocation process earlier this year and we are pleased this will shortly occur, as it should allow Spark to launch mass deployment of 5G services as planned from mid-2020."
The Government is expected to hold a further auction process at a later date for longer-term rights from November 2022 of all available spectrum within the C Band.
Spark recently launched New Zealand’s first 5G commercial wireless broadband service into selected South Island towns and communities. Vodafone hs also now launched services targeting the main centres.
Spark’s 5G wireless broadband rollout to date has used spectrum that was repurposed from previous 4G use.