Unraveling One NZ’s Strategic Acquisition of Dense Air’s Spectrum

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In a strategic move to bolster its mid-band spectrum, One New Zealand has inked an agreement to absorb the local operation of UK-based small cell provider Dense Air. This acquisition will enable One NZ to incorporate 2×35 MHz of 2600-MHz spectrum into its 4G and 5G networks by the end of 2022.

Notably, this addition is expected to enhance the fixed-wireless access (FWA) services performance. Given that Dense Air retains rights over this spectrum for another five years, One NZ can defer renewal concerns till the end of 2028.

The acquisition aligns with One NZ’s network modernization strategy. The company has been industrious in the past 18 months, having constructed or revamped over 500 4G and 5G sites.

One NZ’s chief executive, Jason Paris, voiced his anticipation about integrating the new spectrum. He stated, “Back in July we re-tuned the network leading to a 30% speed boost on 5G. Now we’re making our mobile experience even better by making this spectrum available to our customers.”

Paris further advocated his company’s commitment to advancing the customer experience through superior connectivity. The incorporation of the new spectrum is an instrumental step towards expanding their 5G network. He hinted at a forthcoming collaboration with SpaceX slated for launch in the coming year.

Despite keeping the financial aspects of the deal confidential, One NZ’s filing with New Zealand’s Commerce Commission sheds light on Dense Air’s recent activities in the Asia-Pacific region. Dense Air, which became a part of US-based Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (SIP) in late 2021, has reportedly conducted technology trials in New Zealand between 2018 and the end of 2022.

After its change of ownership, Dense Air redirected its focus mainly towards the US, UK, and Europe seemingly sidelining the Asia-Pacific region. It was revealed through One NZ’s filing that Dense Air had not initiated commercial services after concluding its trials. What followed was a complete shutdown of its operations in New Zealand between March and June 2021.

Moreover, Dense Air has reportedly reached an agreement to sell its Australian operations to Telstra, although the details remain yet to be publicly disclosed.

Neutral host providers have been drawing significant interest owing to their capacity to assist public administrations and budget-conscious Mobile Network Operators in handling challenging environments such as high-rises, transport networks, malls, or stadiums. Dense Air’s decision to exit the Asia-Pacific market thus comes as a surprise.

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