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No 5G auction - spectrum allocated instead

Paul Brislen, Editor. 12 May 2020, 5:07 pm

In a surprise move, the government has cancelled its 5G auction and simply allocated three blocks of spectrum in the 3.5GHz range instead.

Radio Spectrum Management (RSM), part of the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today announced that "due to constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic" it had cancelled the short term, early rights auction (Auction 20) and will offer the spectrum up to three companies instead.

Spark and 2Degrees will both be offered 60MHz while Dense Air (a company which describes itself as a "carrier of carriers") will be offered 40MHz.

Vodafone already has capacity in the next door band (band 42) so this will be seen as bringing some balance to the 5G race, albeit in the shorter term.

Two names missing from the announcement are local iwi interests and the Wireless ISP operators who had been calling for a place at the auction. Māori interests will be served with an additional 50MHz block that will be made available and presumably can then on-sell to either the telcos or WISPs as can Dense Air.

In previous years spectrum has been auctioned off to the highest bidder which has lead to accusations of hoarding by larger players, and also has drawn unfavourable comparisons with other industries - notably casinos - which were granted a similar monopoly licence in exchange for building "vital" infrastructure such as convention centres at no charge to the operators.

At least now the government has cleared the way for the telcos to spend the money on deployment, rather than on a licence to deploy.


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