Spark has published a briefing paper setting out its plans for 5G services, and criticising the government for what it says is policy inertia on 5G.
Spark said the aim of the briefing paper was to inform investors of Spark’s 5G intentions, help customers and stakeholders understand more about 5G, and address key considerations for policymakers.
Managing director Simon Moutter said the company was already making decisions contingent on securing additional 5G spectrum in the absence of any clear government policy on when that spectrum will be available or in what bands.
He said the allocation processes for the two most likely spectrum bands – mid frequency C-band and high frequency mmWave band - should be completed as soon as possible to ensure 5G services can be delivered in time for the 2020-21 America’s Cup in Auckland as an international showcase opportunity.
In addition to these bands, low frequency spectrum (below 1000MHz) will be required to deliver 5G services on a pervasive basis into rural areas (outside of small provincial towns), Spark argues. “The Government’s current work to define 600MHz spectrum as a band for potential 5G use should continue at pace,” it says.
Spark says it will divert network spend from 4G capacity expansion into 5G as soon as the necessary spectrum is available and says it expects to fund 5G network development (excluding spectrum and any material move towards widespread rollout of new cell sites using high frequency mmWave band spectrum) within its existing capital expenditure envelope of 11 percent ot 12 percent of revenues.
It expects to launch 5G services in 2020, and also plans to open, in late 2018, a 5G Innovation Lab in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct to enable partner companies to test and develop applications over a pre-commercial 5G network.
By 2020, Spark expects its wireless-network specific capex to be between 25 and 35 percent of overall capital expenditure, up from 25 percent in the year ended 30 June 2017.
Moutter said it was important for policymakers to recognise 5G is not a standalone technology or solution, but as one that will operate together with previous generations of wireless technology and will be deployed as an overlay of existing network infrastructure. Therefore, policy settings need to support network operators having control over the evolution of their wireless networks.
According to Moutter the current competitive market model, in which multiple wireless network operators compete against one another to grow their customer bases through product and service innovation and pricing, represents a good blueprint for the way 5G can be rolled out in New Zealand and will provide for more investment predictability and certainty over the coming decade.