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NZ plans 4G spectrum auction, Maori left out

The New Zealand government has announced plans to hold an auction for digital dividend spectrum in the third quarter of 2013.
Written by Josh Taylor, Contributor

New Zealand Communications Minister Amy Adams has said that the government will auction off digital dividend spectrum in the 700MHz band later this year, but no spectrum will be set aside for Maori groups.

Adams said that the spectrum will be organised into blocks according to the Asia Pacific Telecommunity band plan and auctioned off in the third quarter of 2013, with access to the spectrum given over to the winners in January 2014, after the last part of the digital TV switchover has finished in December.

The spectrum may be given out early if the winners negotiate early access from the New Zealand government. Telecom New Zealand, 2degrees, and Vodafone New Zealand will all be participating in the auction.

This will mean that the spectrum will be available much sooner than it will be in Australia, although the Australian government is holding its spectrum auction in April. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is, however, also looking at making the spectrum available earlier in places where the bands have been cleared and made ready for telco use.

Under the New Zealand government's Rural Broadband Initiative, it won't be just city locations that will begin seeing 4G roll out in the country. Towers built as part of the initiative are required to be 4G-ready, and telcos must deploy new 4G services in rural areas as they are deployed in city locations.

Adams said that using the spectrum for 4G mobile networks would bring economic benefits to the country.

"Indications are that by using the spectrum for 4G mobile networks, we can expect economic benefits for New Zealand of up to NZ$2.4 billion over the next twenty years," she said.

No 700MHz spectrum will be set aside for emergency services, nor Maori groups who had sought to stake a claim over the spectrum. Instead, the government said that it would look to establish a NZ$30 million "ICT development fund" that would look at how the government can "assist Maori leverage the potential benefits from new technologies, and promote and support the language and culture in a digital world."

"The government recognises the importance of Maori having opportunities to participate in the ICT sector, however, in keeping with the view of successive governments that spectrum is not a taonga, in our view, it does not follow that Maori require further spectrum to be set aside in order to meet our shared objectives of the protection of language and culture," Adams said.

According to the New Zealand government, emergency service providers have said they would prefer spectrum in the 800MHz, which would be in line with Australia's plans. Adams said that this would be considered by the New Zealand government at a later date.

Overnight, 250MHz of spectrum in the 800MHz and 2.6GHz bands were auctioned off in the United Kingdom for £2.34 billion in total. This is significantly less than the £3.5 billion the UK government was expecting to rake in.

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