The New Zealand Government is considering plans to use analog TV frequencies to provide wireless broadband to rural areas, Communications Minister Steven Joyce told the Korea Australia New Zealand (KANZ) Broadband Summit in Auckland yesterday.
The annual event, which ends today, attracted the attendance of Australia's ICT Minister Stephen Conroy, representatives of the Korean government, and around 150 industry figures.
Joyce told those present that his government has a NZ$300 million program to help deliver rural broadband to the 25 per cent of New Zealanders who live in rural areas. This is in addition to a NZ$1.5bn ultra-fast broadband urban fibre initiative.
The (rural) policy will ensure that 93 per cent of rural schools will receive fibre, enabling speeds of at least 100MBps, with the remaining 7 per cent to achieve speeds of at least 10Mbps through other technologies such as wireless and satellite, he said.
Providing wireless to schools is helping local communities around them access similar broadband services. But fibre backhaul limits the delivery of rural broadband. Getting fibre backhaul into rural communities will also allow other technologies such as wireless and cellular to play a larger role in rural New Zealand.
Wireless initiatives will play an increasingly important role in bringing faster broadband to rural households and businesses. Comparative to many countries, New Zealand has allocated large amounts of spectrum for wireless broadband use, and the government continues to look for new opportunities in this area.
Right now, the government is considering plans to release the digital dividend spectrum in the 700MHz band for future mobile and fixed broadband wireless solutions after analog television is switched off, the minister said.
New Zealand's Ministry of Economic Development released a discussion paper on Radio Spectrum Management and the Digital Switch Over (DSO) process in August, seeking submissions by 30 September.
The New Zealand Government expects DSO to take place sometime between 2013 and 2015. For television, the aim is to achieve DSO by 2015 at the latest, to maximise the economic benefit, which is estimated to be NZ$230 million (providing the switch-over occurs by that date).
A tentative date will be announced when digital take-up has reached 60 per cent, and a final date will be announced when take-up is at 75 per cent, or in 2012, whichever comes first, Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman said in May.
Ernie Newman, chief executive of the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ) said today that using analog tv frequencies for wireless broadband was an issue he had to get up to speed on but he would look at it with interest. The Australian government plans its own DSO by 2013.
Last week, the European Commission called on member states to speed-up their switch over from analog to digital television to free up spectrum for wireless broadband services.