Kiwis to benefit from accelerated 5G roll-out

The Government is working with New Zealand’s major telecommunications network operators to accelerate the roll-out of 5G services across New Zealand and improve rural connectivity, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, David Clark said today.

“As a result of a new agreement, many more New Zealanders will gain access to the speed, capacity and reliability of 5G services,” David Clark said.

Radio spectrum underpins all wireless technology – including the roll-out of 5G mobile services. Access to spectrum has previously been sold to telecommunications providers via an auction, but this agreement will bypass that process in favour of a direct allocation method.

“Network operators have been launching 5G over the last two years, using the 3.5 GHz spectrum band – the first band to be allocated specifically for high-speed 5G services. The Government provided short-term early access to this spectrum in 2020, to enable the country’s 5G roll-out to begin.

“With the expiry of short-term rights on the horizon, long-term rights must be allocated.

“As part of the new agreement, our three major mobile network operators – Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone - will be required to increase the pace of the 5G roll-out to small towns across New Zealand. There is also an expectation they will continue efforts to improve rural connectivity.”

Shared network infrastructure provider, Dense Air, will also have access to the 3.5 GHz spectrum band as part of this deal – helping network operators serve the hardest to reach parts of the country. 

“The agreement complements other Government investment, including $60 million for rural connectivity allocated through Budget 2022 and $47 million towards the Rural Capacity Upgrades I announced in February 2022,” David Clark said.

The details of this long-term allocation will continue to be worked through over the coming months as the Crown negotiates final contracts with the parties involved. Further information is available on the Radio Spectrum Management website.

Notes for Editor:

 In order to support our commitment to improve rural connectivity, Cabinet has agreed to provide long-term access to the 3.5 GHz spectrum band through a direct allocation process. Subject to contract negotiations, the direct allocation of spectrum will be provided in exchange for investment from all parties involved and will see the market value of this spectrum be delivered through:

  • Faster availability of 5G to small towns across New Zealand, leveraging the existing capability and networks of our major mobile network operators and infrastructure providers.
  • Further investment in rural connectivity including through the MNO’s jointly owned Rural Connectivity Group, which has been partnering with government for a number of years to improve rural connectivity.

Access to current short-term 3.5 GHz rights expires at the end of October 2022. As part of this process, these rights will be extended from 1 November 2022 until 30 June 2023, to allow network operators to continue their roll-out of 5G and to provide continuity for regional services.

The details of this long-term allocation will continue to be worked through over the coming months as the Crown negotiates final contracts with the parties in involved, with the arrangement remaining subject to satisfactory final terms. Management Rights are ordinarily provided for a 20 year term.

Māori will also receive spectrum in this band, as per the agreement that the Crown signed with the Māori Spectrum Working Group in February this year.