Telecom ambivalent on 700MHz spectrum auction

While Vodafone and 2degrees stake their ground on spectrum allocation, Telecom says leave it to the MED

In stark contrast to its mobile rivals Vodafone and 2degrees, Telecom says it does not have a strong view on how to divide the valuable 700MHz spectrum that becomes available in the digital switchover.

The spectrum, which is available after the termination of analogue television transmission in 2013, is highly valued by telcos wanting to upgrade their mobile networks to Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology that will enable 4G services. The Ministry of Economic Development is expected to hold a spectrum auction next year, however the rules of that auction are likely to be made this year.

The 700MHz band has 45MHz (paired) available and while there has been some suggestion it could be allocated three ways – effectively giving 15MHz to each carrier – neither Vodafone nor 2degrees agree with this idea. Vodafone wants a spectrum cap of 20MHz (which could mean just two mobile operators get spectrum) and that spectrum should go to the highest bidder. 2degrees says it's entitled to 20MHz, which it should have to pay a fair (not the highest) price for and that the remaining 20MHz should be divvied up amongst the other players.

In addition there is a Maori claim on the spectrum band.

Telecom however, is not advocating strongly for a position and, in response to Computerworld enquiries, spokesperson Ian Bonnar emailed the following statement.

“We agree with Vodafone and 2degrees that 700mhz spectrum is likely to be attractive, and think that a single industry standard band plan will deliver the best outcomes for customers.

“We don’t have a strong view on how the spectrum is divided up – ultimately that is up to the MED, but we do think that some principles should apply to the MED’s thinking. As a general principle we feel that it should be divided up in a way that delivers the most benefits to customers.

“For example, in general we think the ability to create larger rather than smaller lots is technically more efficient, as smaller lots typically mean the whole allocation of spectrum will not be useable.

“We also think that any spectrum that is allocated to carriers should use the same band plan for sending and receiving to avoid issues around interference, and we think that any allocations should be matched to other markets where appropriate (such as Australia) to improve ease of roaming.”

An MED spokesperson says a discussion document on 700MHz spectrum allocation will be released later this month.

See also Vodafone declares its spectrum agenda

Don’t price us out of spectrum: 2degrees

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