The New Zealand government has announced it intends to provide long-term access to the 3.5GHz spectrum band through a direct allocation process, believing it to be the best way to accelerate the rollout of 5G services across the country and improve rural connectivity. According to a press release, details of the allocation will be determined over the coming months as the Crown negotiates final contracts with the parties involved, with the arrangement remaining subject to satisfactory final terms. The Maori community will also receive at no cost 20% of the spectrum allocations in this band, as per the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed by the Crown and the Maori Spectrum Working Group in February this year.

Announcing the plans, David Clark, Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, commented: ‘As a result of a new agreement, many more New Zealanders will gain access to the speed, capacity and reliability of 5G services … Our three major mobile network operators – Spark, 2degrees and Vodafone – will be required to increase the pace of the 5G rollout to small towns across New Zealand. There is also an expectation they will continue efforts to improve rural connectivity.’

To enable the country’s 5G rollout to begin, the government provided Spark, 2degrees and wholesale wireless network operator Dense Air short-term early access to this spectrum in 2020. These user rights – which were set to expire at the end of October – will now be extended until 30 June 2023 to ensure continuity of services and continued network expansion.

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