The government of New Zealand has cancelled an auction for short-term, early access rights in the 3.5 GHz band for 5G services and announced instead a direct allocation to three local carriers.
Earlier this month, the government had postponed the process due to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, the government has decided to move forwards with a direct allocation of the 3.5 GHz spectrum, offering 40 megahertz to Dense Air and 60 megahertz each to Spark and 2degrees.
Vodafone NZ already has access to 5G spectrum.
Prices of the allocations were not disclosed, but the reserve price had previously been set at NZD250,000 ($152,279) per each 10MHz lot.
In a statement, Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said the allocation would enable a significant investment in 5G infrastructure across the country over the coming year.
“Securing 3.5 GHz 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,” she said.
The executive also said that the carrier plans to switch on 5G sites in a number of major centers and regions across the North and South islands over the next year.
In December 2019, the government had approved the allocation, via auction, of short-term rights to an unused portion of the 3.5 GHz band. The original terms were that winners at the auction would gain rights to the purchased spectrum from mid-2020 until October 31, 2022, and then rights to the spectrum would switch to long-term rights that would be gained via another auction.
The government previously said there was no guarantee that short-term rights would provide long-term access.
“To maintain this momentum, we are keen to work with government to accelerate the timeline for the longer-term spectrum auction, which is currently scheduled for November 2022,” Hodson added.
“Access to 5G spectrum will allow 2degrees to continue its 5G network planning and site acquisition so it can build and test the technology. This will provide time for 5G uses cases to develop, and initial deployments, in advance of long term spectrum rights,” 2degrees CEO Mark Aue said.
In November 2019, Spark New Zealand announced the launch of 5G service in selected areas of Westport, Clyde, Twizel, Tekapo and Hokitika, using the 2.6 GHz band and equipment from Nokia.
The operator had initially launched 5G in Alexandra for a limited number of enterprise and consumer customers.
Spark previously confirmed Nokia, Samsung and Huawei as as the preferred RAN equipment suppliers for its 5G network. addition, Spark will continue to use Cisco and Ericsson for separate elements of its existing network core, which has already been upgraded to ensure it is Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G capable. .
Vodafone New Zealand launched commercial 5G services in some areas of the country in December 2019. Initial coverage was limited to the cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
As of the end of last year, the operator had installed a total of 100 5G sites across the country.
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