The government of New Zealand has taken a major step towards improving mobile coverage in the country by allocating each of its major telcos – Spark, 2degrees, and One – 80 MHz of 3.5-GHz spectrum for 5G services. The allocation was made by the Radio Spectrum Management department, which aims to promote nationwide service delivery. Each of these operators will pay the government NZ$24 million (£12 million) between 2023 and 2025 as part of the deal.
The funds will be channeled to the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint venture between the mentioned MNOs who will work together to improve the shared mobile network in areas where its commercial viability is limited. This collaboration is being pursued with the assistance of towerco Crown Infrastructure Partners. The New Zealand government has already allocated NZ$60 million for rural connectivity in the 2022 budget and an additional $47 million for rural broadband through their Covid relief funds.
According to digital economy and communications minister Ginny Andersen, “By working together with our telecommunications operators, more Kiwis will have access to faster wireless mobile services.”
The arrangement benefits both the telcos and the government as it offers long-term access to valuable mid-band spectrum and increased network capacity without the burden of high auction prices. As a result, telco customers will have access to better service quality without having to pay extra for network usage.
Mark Callander, CEO of 2degrees, praised the government’s decision, saying that it “has taken a progressive, measured and pragmatic approach, allocating spectrum in return for investment into rural connectivity.”
Spark and 2degrees CEOs, Jolie Hodson and Mark Callander respectively, have expressed their contentment and optimism regarding the agreement and the benefits it offers to Aotearoa New Zealand. Additionally, the Interim Māori Spectrum Commission received a separate 100 MHz of 3.5-GHz spectrum allocation, which will be managed for the benefit of the Māori population.
In conclusion, this collaborative initiative between the New Zealand government and leading telcos is a promising step towards enhanced connectivity in the country. As minister Ginny Andersen stated, “I am certain that Kiwis, especially those living in regional and rural areas, will soon reap the benefits coming out of this allocation.”