The planned auction of the 2GHz radio spectrum has been delayed until after the general election.
Communications minister Maurice Williamson said yesterday had agreed to delay the auction "following representations from the telecommunications industry. The government remains committed to ensuring that the auction takes place and has agreed to give industry more time to prepare."
The 2GHz auction will now commence on Monday 31 January 2000.
Williamson said he and his staff had thought telecommunications companies would have been ready by the original date, November 15, "but after listening to their concerns, we believe the later auction date is acceptable, especially considering it is likely to run for some months anyway."
Williamson declared the November 15 date this month, in the wake of the government's decision to reject the Waitangi Tribunal's recommendation that it negotiate to reserve a fair and equitable portion of the frequencies for Maori.
A Labour-led government may have a different attitude towards the Tribunal's decision, and Labour's Commerce spokesman Paul Swain has expressed concern about the potential for a repeat of the last spectrum auction, where the US company Formus grabbed most of the spectrum on offer and "warehoused" it.
Williamson last month ridiculed Swain's concerns given the "tremendous potential" of the 2GHz band for next-generation cellular technology.