The government said mobile carriers will have access to 3.5 GHz spectrum; remains to be seen if Huawei can participate in 5G build

The government of New Zealand has confirmed that the first auction of 5G spectrum will be held early in 2020. Regulators also confirmed that the first frequencies to be awarded will be in the 3.5 GHz band.

“We are on track and keeping pace with other countries: with the spectrum being progressively allocated, companies can start rolling out 5G from 2020,” Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement.

National spectrum rights in the 3.5 GHz band will be available to use from November 2022 when the existing rights to this spectrum expire, although an operator might be able to use its rights earlier with the agreement of the existing rights holder, the minister said.

“Spectrum in this band will also be available to regional wireless broadband service providers. In the future, national spectrum rights will open the door to higher connection speeds and greater network capacity,” Faafoi added.

He added that the allocation details of regional spectrum rights will be announced later this year. “The government’s next priority is allocation of other segments of the spectrum for 5G in the millimeter wave bands and details on that will be shared later this year,” the official added.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern recently said there is not yet an active ban on the use of Huawei’s gear in 5G networks, Bloomberg reported, despite a network operator that wants to use the vendor’s Radio Access Network equipment for 5G being stymied until it can address potential security concerns.

In November 2018, New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) blocked local carrier Spark from using Huawei 5G equipment in the deployment of its 5G infrastructure, citing significant national security risks.

At that time, Spark said it had been notified by the Director-General of the GCSB, in accordance with the requirements of the Telecommunications Act 2013 (TICSA), that its proposed approach to implementing 5G technology on the Spark mobile network — using Huawei equipment — posed a national security risk. Local operators are required to notify the country’s spy agency of their planned deployments in the 5G field. Specifically, Spark’s proposal had involved the deployment of Huawei 5G equipment in Spark’s planned 5G RAN.

Ardern said her government is working through a process to analyze potential risk associated with the use of Huawei equipment but added that the Chinese vendor could still be involved in 5G deployments in New Zealand — if Spark can satisfy the GCSB’s concerns.

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