New Zealand issues 4G spectrum

New Zealand has made a push towards 4G network services, with its government confirming the initial frequency allocation from the old analog tv spectrum.
Written by Darren Greenwood, Contributor

New Zealand has made a push towards 4G network services, with its government confirming the initial frequency allocation from the old analog tv spectrum.

Some will go towards digital television, with the remainder for 4G networks and other "new uses". "These decisions will enable New Zealand to realise the productivity and economic benefits of emerging radio technologies, as well as helping to bring fast broadband to rural parts of the country," said ICT Minister Stephen Joyce.

The move comes as industry players were featured in the New Zealand media debating how such 4G offerings might be made available in New Zealand.

The spectrum allocations will come into effect sometime after the digital switchover (DSO), which is expected in New Zealand some time between 2013 and 2015. The spectrum between 502MHz and 694MHz is to be allocated for digital television use and the spectrum between 694MHz and 802MHz be allocated for new uses.

"This will allow New Zealanders to have access to significantly faster and better mobile broadband services as new fourth generation (4G) mobile phone and broadband services are implemented" said Joyce.

The report noted an earlier promise of spectrum being used for rural broadband but said such use had attracted little interest from submitters but further consideration of the best use of this spectrum will take place with a further report in 2011.

More detailed announcements covering Maori broadcasting interests and regional television would follow in 2010, with further reports on 4G due before government in 2011. But today's announcement would help organisations plan for the longer term.

The government statement says faster 4G speeds using Long Term Evolution technology would allow for new applications and services, as well as existing cellular telephony. But it would be up to the individual telcos as to when they might offer such services, with something expected after 2013.

"It is anticipated that existing mobile networks will need augmentation around the time of DSO, which will provide a timely opportunity to make a decision about whether to introduce 4G services," it said.

"Now that the boundaries have been set for the spectrum where 4G services could be deployed (694 — 806MHz), the next phase of planning is to finalise a technical frequency plan suitable for 4G usage, and following that, for government to determine a process for allocating the spectrum. The frequency plan needs to take account of what is being planned internationally, as well as the availability of equipment."

"This is to ensure that cost effective services and handsets will be available for use in New Zealand, and that both New Zealanders and visitors will be able to use international roaming services," it continued.

Vodafone NZ spokesperson Paul Brislen told ZDNet.com.au that he had "no idea yet" as to how today's announcement would impact on Vodafone's 4G plans and it will be next year before the company's spectrum team will look at it.

Telecom spokesperson Mark Watts told ZDNet.com.au that Telecom welcomed the announcement and the company would "move towards a 4G world". But for now, the company would focus on its 3G XT network.

Chris O'Connell, chairman of the Telecom Users Association of New Zealand (TUANZ), called the announcement "big stuff" but noted it was some years before 3G technology led to 3G services.

Much will depend on how the government allocates such spectrum, say through auctions, and whether groups might hold spectrum, as happened under 3G, he added. "All in all, I think it's good news," he said.

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