LEGAL/POLICY

New Zealand Delays 3.5GHz 5G Auction

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New Zealand postponed an auction of 5G spectrum due to the Covid-19 (coronavirus) pandemic, pushing back the allocation of short-term rights to an unused portion of the 3.5GHz band, with no new date set.

In a statement, Radio Spectrum Management (RSM), a business unit of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, said the decision was taken after consulting with the registered bidders, adding updates will be given when decisions are made.

In December 2019, the government agreed to free up additional 5G spectrum, heeding operators’ calls for the early release of 160MHz in the 3.5GHz band. In early January, RSM announced the reserve price for the 5G spectrum auction.

Operator Spark in September 2019 turned on 5G service in Alexandra for a limited number of enterprise and consumer customers, expanding it in November to five additional South Island towns and communities, using the 2.6GHz band.

A month later, technology director Mark Beder said it would prefer to use 3.5GHz spectrum as it believes it will be the primary spectrum band for mass deployment of 5G.

Vodafone New Zealand switched 5G on in parts of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown on the 3.5GHz band in December 2019, offering existing customers the faster service at no additional cost.

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