New Zealand's competition regulator has said that it is open to different mobile phone operators sharing a single 4G network.
The country's Commerce Commission (ComCom) confirmed
reports today that it was open to "appropriate discussions" on such network sharing, which could take the
form of sharing cell sites and masts or joint ventures.
The move follows IT Minister Steven Joyce announcing before
Christmas some free spectrum could be made available for a 4G network from the switchover from analog to digital television.
The idea for one shared 4G network was raised last month by Rob
Spray, chairman of the Telecommunications Industry Group, a lobby group made up of telcos and ISPs.
Spray said telcos in New Zealand faced a challenge of a saturated
mobile market making declining returns opposing a need to keep up with new technologies.
Other challenges included New Zealand planning law, such as its
Resource Management Act making it difficult for mobile phone towers to
be higher than 14 metres. They are typically ten metres higher in
An LTE network, Spray continued, would need many more towers to
pipe data, meaning New Zealand may need to double mobile phone
tower numbers from 2500 to 5000.
"We are not flat out building a business case for 4G but we are
working with the government and the public about how we evolve the
network. This is the start," Spray said of the network sharing concept.
Open access would be key to such a network, according to Ernie Newman, chief executive of the Telecom Users Association
of New Zealand (TUANZ), who said that he was open minded to
the idea, but the devil would be in the detail.
"We wouldn't want three providers coming together and blocking
access. There would need to be a structure to allow others to enter
on fair and reasonable terms," he said. End users would welcome efficiency in a single network, but
there would still need to be competition at the service end.
Among the telcos, both Telecom NZ and 2 Degrees have expressed
support for such a shared 4G network, though Vodafone warned of
"We have no idea yet what sort of spectrum the government will
be offering (i.e what blocks they'll offer) so we don't know if we
can share infrastructure or whether we have to," Vodafone NZ
spokesperson Paul Brislen told ZDNet.com.au.