MED told to revise spectrum timetable

InternetNZ and 2degrees ask for timetable to be reconsidered, but Vodafone urges government to press on

User groups and some mobile operators want the Ministry of Economic Development to reconsider its timetable on the allocation of valuable 700MHz spectrum — but Vodafone is urging the government to press on.

The spectrum, which becomes available with the switchover to digital television in 2013, is important for the widespread rollout of LTE technology. The MED’s current timetable would see Cabinet making initial allocation decisions in April, in order to enable successful bidders to begin rolling out services as soon as the spectrum becomes available.

In cross submissions to the MED’s discussion paper, InternetNZ, 2degrees and Te Huarahi Tika Trust (representing Maori claimants) say that decisions on spectrum should be delayed until there is certainty around what band plans major countries will adopt, as this will influence the devices that are manufactured. The concern is that if New Zealand makes a call too soon it could be out of step with those countries.

“New Zealand should not make decisions on a spectrum allocation process until such time as there is certainty that our preferred technology direction is mainstream,” writes InternetNZ. “If the technology direction changes as a result of international trends there will be a requirement for further consultation process with industry and users.”

TUANZ, in its cross-submission “notes a broad mood of support for New Zealand being a ‘fast follower’ rather than a leader in deployment.”

Telecom also appears to support a delay: “We should continue to monitor international developments... as the pace of these may impact on the Ministry’s timeframe. Furthermore, we would also note that major changes in what is happening internationally may require a further round of consultation.”

But Vodafone takes a different view in its cross submission and urges the MED to press on with allocation.

“Suggestions that the process should be delayed on the basis of technological uncertainty simply mask the true purpose driving such recommendations – which are likely to relate to internal capability and the availability of finance,” Vodafone writes.

The telco claims that concerns about whether the band plan chosen by the MED will be widely adopted are overstated and Vodafone is confident it will be able to source devices for LTE in the 700MHz band.

Prior to the election, Computerworld raised InternetNZ’s concerns about the timetable for spectrum allocation with ICT Minister Steven Joyce.

“National is working to make 4G spectrum available to the market as soon as possible and will address InternetNZ’s concerns as we go,” he said.

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