Government enables early access to 5G spectrum

  • Hon Kris Faafoi
Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media

The Government has given the go ahead to enable further development of 5G networks by making appropriate spectrum available.

The 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.

3.5GHz is the first spectrum band to be allocated for high speed 5G data services.

Short-term rights will run from mid-2020 to 31 October 2022.

“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,” Kris Faafoi said.

“5G offers significantly improved data speed and capacity for conventional mobile and fixed wireless broadband networks, and will enable the next wave of productivity and innovation across multiple sectors.

“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,” Mr Faafoi said.

The decision also provides an opportunity for Māori interests in radio spectrum. These interests include digital enterprise and jobs, healthcare, rural economy and connectivity, education, broadcasting, and revitalisation of Te Reo.

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,” Minister Faafoi said.

“I am delighted we are moving forward on this, and with an inclusive approach, to create greater opportunities for all New Zealanders,” Mr Faafoi said.

Further details of the short-term allocation will be released early next year.

Long-term rights to 3.5 GHz spectrum are still on track to begin in November 2022 and details of this allocation will continue to be developed over the next two years.

Notes to Editor:

In February 2019 the Government announced that the first spectrum band to be allocated for 5G services would be the 3.5 GHz band, with new rights starting when existing rights in this band expire in November 2022.

However, about one half of the 3.5 GHz band is currently unallocated. The Government is allocating short-term rights to this unused portion of 3.5 GHz spectrum.

Auction conditions

  • these national rights will be allocated as management rights for a term beginning mid-2020 until 31 October 2022
  • these national rights will be allocated via auction, the standard method for allocating new cellular mobile spectrum rights in New Zealand and overseas;
  • a limit will be set on the amount of spectrum allocated to any one network operator (spectrum caps) in the auction to promote competition;
  • a condition will be imposed that successful bidders will be required to return to the Crown existing management rights they hold elsewhere in the 3.5 GHz band to maximise the efficient use of this important spectrum; and
  • minimal conditions of use are required of successful bidders, reflecting the short duration of these rights and no guarantee of long-term access to spectrum.

Māori Spectrum Working Group

  • The Māori Spectrum Working Group was established by Māori in May 2019 to work with the Crown towards an enduring solution to Māori interests in radio spectrum.
  • Māori Spectrum Working Group members are:
    • Treaty claimants the New Zealand Māori Council, Ngā Kaiwhakapūmau i Te Reo (Wellington Māori Language Board), and Graeme Everton (on behalf of Rangiaho Everton);
    • Haami Piripi, on behalf of Iwi Leaders;
    • Te Huarahi Tika Trust (the trust established in 2000 to advance Māori interests in 3G spectrum);
    • Māori industry representatives (strategic, commercial and technical): Antony Royal and Robyn Kamira