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NZ telcos welcome government's 5G spectrum direct allocation plan

NZ telcos welcome government's 5G spectrum direct allocation plan

Spark and 2degrees strike very different tones as the government fast tracks spectrum allocation due to Covid-19

Mark Aue (2degrees)

Mark Aue (2degrees)

Credit: Supplied

New Zealand's telcos are welcoming the government's decision to cancel an auction of 5G spectrum and to  directly allocate it instead.

However, Spark and 2degrees struck very different tones in their responses.

The auction for short-term, early access rights in the 3.5GHz band for 5G services has been cancelled due to the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Instead, the government has decided on a direct allocation, offering 40MHz to Dense Air and 60MHz each to Spark, and 2degrees.

Vodafone NZ already has access to 5G spectrum either directly or through deals with others.

Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said the allocation enabled a significant investment in 5G infrastructure across the country over the coming year, which will play a critical role in New Zealand’s response to and recovery from Covid-19.

“Over time 5G will fundamentally transform how we work, learn and connect as a country and act as a catalyst for innovation with emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality and the internet of things,” Hodson said.

Work done for Spark by NERA Economic Consulting estimated that the rollout of 5G in New Zealand could add between $5.7 billion and $8.9 billion per year to the New Zealand economy over the next 10 years.

“Our recovery from Covid-19 is a long game, and it has never been more important to improve our productivity as a country and ensure we are well positioned to adapt to new ways of working. And in a world where physical distancing will remain critical for some time, technologies that connect people virtually have a fundamental role to play in our economic recovery,” Hodson said.

“Securing 3.5GHz spectrum was critical for the rollout of a full suite of 5G services, so we would like to acknowledge the government for facilitating the allocation, which will enable us to proceed with our planned 5G roll out at pace.

Spark said it planned to switch on 5G sites in a number of major centres and regions across the North and South islands over the next year. 

2 degrees struck a different tone, saying the announcement struck the right balance in a world impacted by Covid-19 and emphasising network planning and testing over immediate rollout.

Chief executive Mark Aue said the immediate priority is to make sure customers continue to have access to reliable connectivity via the country’s three competitive national 4G networks.

“This decision makes sense," he said. "At a time when the impact of Covid-19 means operators are having to make tough calls on how they spend their capital, it needs to be focused on the networks delivering the capacity people need - and can use - today."

Access to 5G spectrum would allow 2degrees to continue its 5G network planning and site acquisition so it can build and test the technology, he added.  

"This will provide time for 5G uses cases to develop, and initial deployments, in advance of long term spectrum rights that will power national 5G services from late 2022.”

Dense Air is a UK-based wholesale wireless network operator providing 4G and 5G "networks as a service" in licensed and unlicensed spectrum to mobile operators, mobile virtual network operators, fixed network operators and private enterprises to help them solve capacity and coverage challenges.


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