Commercial negotiations under way to spectrum for 5G and rural wireless services
Work with the telco and network provider sector to define long-term arrangements for 3.5 GHZ is nearing completion, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment told Parliament last month.
Commercial negotiations with interested parties were already under way to clear the path for 5G and other applications including rural wireless broadband.
In 2018, the government decided to allocate 3.41 – 3.80GHz, the “3.5 GHz band”, for national 5G cellular mobile services. However, wireless internet service providers (WISPs) were already using portions of that band.
These licenses will expire on 31 October 2022 and the new 5G nationwide rights will begin in November 2022, a 2021 consultation paper from MBIE division Radio Spectrum Management explained.
WISPs, therefore, required alternative spectrum while growing demand for private networks to support industry verticals also had to be addressed.
Radio Spectrum Management identified the spectrum between 3.30 – 3.40 GHz provided an opportunity for long-term, localised spectrum access for uses such as regional broadband and private networks.
That band was considered underutilised for amateur, ultra wide band and radiolocation (radar) applications.
MBIE told Parliament’s economic development, science and innovation committee the deployment of 5G was ultimately a business decision for mobile network operators, who had expressed their need for spectrum .
“The government is considering how best to support a faster rollout,” the ministry said.
A number of radio spectrum bands were already available to network operators while the government was also looking at making further available, including the 3.5 GHz band.
Operators were already deploying 5G networks in that band under short-term spectrum rights created in 2020. The ministry was working to ensure long-term management rights were assigned before these expired.
The government also committed $10 million in Budget 2021 to open up suitable 600MHz radio spectrum for rural communities, where broadband capacity and coverage was under pressure. This would mean improved broadband for rural communities in the long-term as the lower frequency 600MHz band was better suited to 5G services in rural areas.
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