The government of New Zealand has decided to postpone a process to award spectrum in the 3.5 GHZ band, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The local authorities said in a statement that updates regarding this process will be announced when further decisions have been made.
In December 2019, the government had approved the allocation, via auction, of short-term rights to an unused portion of the 3.5 GHz band. The original terms were that winners at the auction would gain rights to the purchased spectrum from mid-2020 until October 31, 2022, and then rights to the spectrum would switch to long-term rights that would be gained via another auction.
“Early access to this spectrum will allow the telecommunications industry to move forward in their development and deployment of 5G services now, rather than waiting until long-term rights are switched on in November 2022,” Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi previously said.
National spectrum rights in the 3.5 GHz band will be available to use from November 2022 when the existing rights to this spectrum expire, although an operator might be able to use its rights earlier with the agreement of the existing rights holder.
The government previously said that 3.5 GHz spectrum will be allocated in 10 MHz lot sizes with a minimum bid of two lots per registered bidder. There will be a total of 16 lots available covering the frequency range from 3.59 to 3.75 GHz. The reserve price will be set at $250,000 per lot.
An initial acquisition limit will be set at four lots (40 MHz) to any one registered bidder. The acquisition limit may be raised in the supplementary phase of the auction if lots go unsold in the clock phase of the tender process.
The government had also said that winning bidders must use 3.5 GHz rights to implement international 5G standards and synchronise with other users of the early access management rights.
Vodafone New Zealand launched commercial 5G services in some areas of the country in December 2019. Initial coverage was limited to the cities of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown.
As of the end of last year, the operator had installed a total of 100 5G sites across the country.
Vodafone said it is 3.5 GHz spectrum to offer initial 5G services. However to reach the one gigabit speeds the carrier said it would need approximately 100 megahertz of 3.5 GHz spectrum.
In November 2019, rival operator Spark New Zealand announced the launch of 5G service in selected areas of Westport, Clyde, Twizel, Tekapo and Hokitika., using the 2.6 GHz band and equipment from Nokia.
The operator had initially launched 5G in Alexandra for a limited number of enterprise and consumer customers.
Spark previously confirmed Nokia, Samsung and Huawei as as the preferred RAN equipment suppliers for its 5G network. addition, Spark will continue to use Cisco and Ericsson for separate elements of its existing network core, which has already been upgraded to ensure it is Non-Standalone (NSA) 5G capable. .
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