Government allocates 5G spectrum to telcos

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Government allocates 5G spectrum to telcos

Telco incumbent Spark said it has received a direct allocation of management rights to 80 mega Hertz of radio frequency spectrum in the 3.5 giga Hertz C-band from the government, available from July 1 next year.

The spectrum was allocated on the basis of Spark committing a further $24 million to the Rural Connectivty Group (RCG) to expand mobile coverage in remote areas, address mobile blackspots on state highwas, and to deploy more extensive 5G service in provincial towns, the telco said.

Earlier this year, Spark trialled mmWave 5G which operates in very high frequency bands, and 5G Standalone mode (SA) in New Zealand.

The spectrum for Spark will be in the same band as the early access frequencies the ministry of business, employment and innovation allocated to it prior to today's decision.

Chief executive of Spark, Julie Hodson, said the telco was hoping for spectrum in other frequency ranges as well.

"We look forward to working with the government on the finalisation of the binding management rights deed, and on the future allocation of 600 MHz and mmWave, which will be particularly important for our rural coverage," Hodson said.

Spark will have managements rights over the spectrum for twenty years.

Dense Air, owned by Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners, was also allocated 3.5 GHz frequencies, the minister of digital economy and communications, David Clark, said.

Spark and Dense Air agreed to swap 2.6 GHz spectrium to align their holding into contiguous double 35 MHz blocks in 2020.

Furthermore, the government agreed to allocate 50 MHz of C-band to The Maori Spectrum Working Group in February this year, and this can be leased out to telcos.

Orginally, the government intended to auction off the C-band spectrum in 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic put the sale on hold and provided short-term releases set to expire this month to telcos instead.

Clark said the short-term management rights will be extended to June 30 2023, to allow operators to continue their 5G rollout, and to provide continuity for regional services.

Vodafone New Zealand meanwhile said it did not need any spectrum allocation from the government for its 5G service.

“We acquired our current holding of contiguous 3.5 GHz spectrum by using spectrum we already held (originally TelstraClear spectrum) and by entering agreements with other holders of spectrum rights allowing us to use it, which means we didn’t require allocation via Government,” Flood said.

2degrees referred CRN NZ to the government for questions, but the telco's head of communications Quentin Reade confirmed that it would use the spectrum allocation its 5G rollout.

The government did not reveal how much telcos paid for the direct allocations of spectrum.

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© CRN New Zealand

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