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MBIE seeks feedback on 5G radio spectrum as Spark unveils Wellington pilot

Monday 19th March 2018

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The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment wants feedback on how government-regulated radio spectrum fits into the fifth-generation mobile technology framework known as 5G, releasing a document the same day Spark New Zealand launched a pilot programme in the capital city. 

The MBIE discussion document sets out the ministry's early thoughts on how to prepare for rolling out 5G infrastructure and wants industry input into the key issues facing the government, and what the preferred options are for allocating radio spectrum used in the technology.

Communications Minister Clare Curran announced the release of the paper at the Spark launch in Wellington, where she officially launched the programme on Wellington's Stout St, with the test running data speeds of 9.2 gigabits per second and 2.6 GBps on the two bandwidths used for the technology - one for ultrafast speed and the other for very low response times, or latency. 

"The objective of this discussion document is to canvas industry’s views on the key issues and actions by government required to support the roll out of 5G technology," the paper said. "In particular, we wish to better understand the preferred spectrum configuration and optimal timing for spectrum release for 5G services, including providing for early technical and precommercial testing of 5G services in New Zealand." 

Spark today announced its pilot, which will run for a month giving the country's biggest telecommunications company information to further refine how to build a 5G network in a real environment. The Auckland-based company will set up a 5G lab later this year drawing on that data which will help build businesses and applications based on the new technology. 

Chief executive Simon Moutter said Spark has been planning for the 5G technology for some time, but the company has refrained from offering guidance on how much it would cost to build the infrastructure until there's greater clarity on where standards will settle and how spectrum will be allocated. 

"From around 2020 or earlier if the spectrum is allocated, we want to be the 5G leader in New Zealand," Moutter said. 

The MBIE paper cites radio spectrum allocation as a core regulatory issue for 5G deployment, and that there's enough spectrum for at least three networks. 

"All cellular mobile network operators have indicated their desire to build their own 5G network and compete at the infrastructure level," the paper said. "Given this, there would have to be strong public policy reasons to prevent this occurring."

The paper said the government will consider the Crown's Treaty of Waitangi obligations as part of its decision making and will engage with Maori in the coming months. 

Submissions are open until the close of business on April 30. 


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