5G spectrum to be available from mid-2020

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The government has announced plans to auction short-term access to 160Mhz of unused 3.5GHz spectrum to facilitate the introduction of 5G services.

An auction for licences to use the spectrum from mid 2020 until 31 October 2022 will be held early in 2020. Meanwhile long-term rights to 3.5GHz spectrum are still on track to begin in November 2022 and details of this allocation will continue to be developed over the next two years.

For the short term allocation the government will set limits to the amount of spectrum each bidder can acquire and will require winners of spectrum in the short term auction to return to the Crown existing management rights they hold elsewhere in the 3.5GHz band to maximise the efficient use of the spectrum.

Short-term allocation of spectrum will also be made to Māori, and a support programme to build Māori capability in spectrum-related industries will be developed to maximise the benefits of this opportunity.

This has been developed in partnership with a Māori Spectrum Working Group set up in May 2019 to “work with the Crown towards an enduring solution to Māori interests in radio spectrum.”

Spark welcomed the announcement saying it would enable the company to “bring true mass-market 5G services to more New Zealanders as soon as possible”

The New Zealand Māori Councils executive director, Matthew Tukaki, said the decision to allocate spectrum to Māori would create opportunities for Māori digital enterprises and jobs in healthcare, rural economy and connectivity, education, broadcasting, and revitalisation of Te Reo.

“In the past, Māori have objected to auctions of spectrum rights because Māori claims have not been resolved,” he said.

“This time, we support an auction of interim rights, as part of our ongoing negotiations, because our agreements with the government create an opportunity for Maori to engage with the digital economy in the lead-up to the main 5G auction that is planned for 2022.”

He said the Maori Spectrum Working Group was looking at the most appropriate model for vesting these taonga in an entity that will be governed by and for Māori, administered by and for Māori.

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