Having spent $133 million in the spectrum shopping spree, buyers are being coy about revealing details of their plans.
Stuart Beadle, of unknown 2G spectrum buyer Northelia, is keeping quiet about his intentions, and Bill Osborne, chair of the Maori Spectrum Charitable Trust, which will administer one 15MHz block of 3G spectrum, has no comment.
All Northelia's Beadle would say is that his wife makes a lot of phone calls and the only way to cope is to "go wholesale". Beadle is the New Zealand franchisee for CleanTastic, a commercial cleaning venture.
However, Clear Communications is providing a clue to its plans. “There’s huge potential here for a third network in the second generation [2G] space,” says spokesman Ross Inglis. "The question really is how would that network be provisioned.”
Inglis sees two possibilities for Clear. “First is a network built in partnership with one or more players.” Clear has a good working relationship with Vodafone, and the Clear mobile offering is “hugely popular”, says Inglis. “We are talking to a number of players including Vodafone.”
The second option is perhaps the more interesting: Clear could look at forming a coalition or consortium with competing companies to build a network company that would then sell access to its parent companies and possibly anyone else interested in offering 2G services. That would mean a number of potential offerings in the traditional mobile voice space.
Telecom views its purchases in the auction as an “investment in the future”, according to spokesman Glen Sowry. “We’re already working on our CDMA rollout and that’s not dependent on the new 2G spectrum.” CDMA, one of the so-called 2.5G offerings, will go live in New Zealand in the middle of this year. Initially it will offer 14.4kbit/s data speeds but within “two to three months” will be offering 10 times that. “It will be always connected to the network. Quite how the billing model will work is yet to be sorted out.”
Users of existing Telecom cellphones will need new handsets and will receive a new prefix — 027 or 0274, depending on the length of their existing number — but will retain the same number if they choose.
Vodafone users will also need new handsets as it rolls out it GPRS network but their numbers will stay the same.
Clear's LMDS rollout, underway at the moment, is not reliant on new spectrum. "No, that uses existing spectrum," says Inglis. LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) offers a wireless internet connection and has a theoretical connection speed of up to 10Mbit/s.
Third-generation offerings are even further adrift. “We’d be looking at between two and four years, realistically,” says Inglis. “Two years technology-wise, four years for commercial reasons.”
Sowry says Telecom sees the development of the cellphone market from this point as “evolutionary rather than revolutionary” and the development work will be more behind the scenes than in the customer’s face.