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Accelerated 5G Rollout in New Zealand to Benefit Rural Areas

Minister for the Digital Economy and Communications, Ginny Andersen, confirmed that the government will be finalising contracts with 3 major telecommunications network operators to accelerate the rollout of 5G in regional towns across New Zealand.

The government has forged an arrangement with New Zealand’s three major network operators.  By accelerating the proliferation of 5G services, this collaboration will bring faster connectivity to approximately 55 rural and regional towns across New Zealand, while also extending mobile wireless coverage to underserved rural areas.

Ginny highlighted the collaborative efforts with the telecommunications operators, emphasising that this cooperation will result in the wider availability of high-speed wireless mobile services for a massive number of New Zealanders. She noted that the agreement marks a significant advancement in enhancing connectivity for rural New Zealand. “I am confident that New Zealanders, especially those in regional and rural areas, would soon witness the advantages resulting from this allocation.”

Designed for mobile networks, 5G is the cutting-edge iteration of wireless communication technology, surpassing the previous generation, 4G (LTE), with its enhanced capabilities and advancements. It brings about substantial advancements in terms of speed, capacity, and capabilities compared to its predecessor.

This opens up possibilities for a diverse array of applications and services that rely on fast and dependable connectivity. These include augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), autonomous vehicles, smart cities, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and numerous others.

To reciprocate the commitments made by the major network operators, the government will provide them with long-term access to the 3.5GHz spectrum band, which is widely used for 5G services worldwide. This access will be granted through a direct allocation process. This agreement opens up a valuable opportunity to extend and enhance coverage in the rural and regional areas of New Zealand, bringing improved connectivity and services to these underserved areas.

In an effort to ensure comprehensive 5G coverage across New Zealand, each of the country’s three major operators will be provided with an allocation of 80 MHz of spectrum within the 3.5GHz band. This generous provision of spectrum will empower all three mobile network operators to establish robust 5G networks that seamlessly extend throughout the nation. By receiving an equal share of the spectrum, they can collectively contribute to delivering cutting-edge connectivity and transformative digital services to communities, urban centres, and remote regions alike.

Furthermore, recognising the importance of fostering inclusivity and respecting the rights of the Māori community, the Interim Māori Spectrum Commission will be entrusted with the management of an additional 100 MHz of spectrum. This allocation acknowledges the Māori’s integral role and ensures that they have an active voice in the development and utilisation of this valuable resource.

By allocating the spectrum to the Interim Māori Spectrum Commission, the government is providing a platform for the Māori community to actively participate in decision-making processes related to the management, deployment, and potential future development of this spectrum.  This forward-thinking approach not only recognises the unique cultural significance of the Māori but also supports their aspirations for self-determination and empowerment in the realm of telecommunications.

Under the spectrum allocation agreement, the 3 major telecommunications network operators have committed to paying the government NZ$24 million each over the period of 2023 to 2025. This financial contribution will be directed towards the Rural Connectivity Group, facilitating the extension of mobile coverage to rural areas that would otherwise lack commercial service, including locations with mobile black spots. It is important to note that this funding is separate from the investment required to accelerate the provision of 5G services to towns.

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