Crown not convinced spectrum is taonga as Treaty claim progresses

MED releases discussion paper on 700MHz

The government has yet to accept that the Treaty of Waitangi gives Maori special rights to the valuable 700MHz spectrum that will become available following the digital switchover in November 2013.

In a draft document by the Ministry of Economic Development on how the spectrum could be divided up among telecommunications companies, it says discussion on Maori rights to the spectrum is being undertaken in a “parallel” consultation process.

“To date the Crown has not accepted that spectrum is a taonga or that Treaty principles give Maori particular rights in relation to spectrum,” the paper states. “However, it undertook to review issues relating to the Maori interest in spectrum allocation and management, and to also consider this as it developed plans for allcoation of the 700MHz band.”

The Treaty of Waitangi claim, lodged in December 2009, is under discussion between ICT Minister Steven Joyce and Maori Affairs Minister Pita Sharples, Joyce toldComputerworld last week.

In the document the MED favours an auction process and appears to have accepted both Vodafone’ and 2degrees’ plea that at least one bidder be able to acquire a 20MHz (paired) block from the 45MHz block that is likely to become available when the government adopts the Asia-Pacific band plan.

However, if a telco does secure a 20MHz bid, it may have to ‘sell-down’ at least 5MHz(paired) in the valuable 850MHz or 900Mhz spectrum bands that it already holds.

In addition, successful telcos will have to use the spectrum within five years to deliver 4G mobile broadband services to at least 50 percent of the population.

Submissions on the discussion paper are due by October 7.

See Computerworld’'s A to Z guide to spectrum.

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