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Spark commences 5G standalone network build to bring advanced 5G capabilities to Aotearoa


Ericsson and Red Hat confirmed as Spark’s 5G standalone partners


Spark today announced it is the first telco and digital services provider in New Zealand to commence its 5G standalone network build, which will enable New Zealanders to realise the full potential of 5G, with technology vendors Ericsson and Red Hat. 


While 5G networks in New Zealand currently use 4G for base connectivity (known as the ‘core’ of the mobile network), 5G standalone means 5G enabled cell towers will connect back into a 5G core, resulting in an end-to-end 5G network. To date, 41 mobile network operators have deployed or launched 5G standalone worldwide.*

Renee Mateparae, Spark’s Network and Operations Director says Spark customers are increasingly experiencing the faster mobile and wireless broadband speeds enabled by Spark’s roll out of 5G coverage nationwide, however, deploying a 5G standalone core will be the turning point for unlocking the transformative capabilities the technology can bring.

“5G standalone will unlock capabilities like ‘network slicing’, which is one of the most transformative features of the technology. While today our network is tuned to provide the best experience across a variety of devices, network slicing provides the ability to tailor or ‘slice’ the network and then tune it based on a specific use type. A piece of network could be ‘sliced’ to serve a mission critical service such as driverless cars for example – which require the network to respond quickly and with ultra-reliability in real time, or a gaming ‘slice’ could be created to provide the ultimate high speed, low-latency experience for gamers.

“5G standalone also allows us to move some elements of the core out to the edge of the network. This technology, called ‘multi access edge compute’ (MEC), takes more of the network’s processing functions closer to the customer, which reduces the distance data needs to travel from one point to another. This allows the network to respond quickly, which will support new cases that require real-time performance to work, for example allowing video analytics to identify health and safety hazards in real-time.

“In addition to our investment in C-band mobile spectrum, we are committing $40-$60 million to the development of 5G standalone network over the next three years, which will create a step change enabling business innovation in Aotearoa.”

In making the announcement Spark confirmed Ericsson and Red Hat as technology partners for the 5G standalone network build. The announcement follows the successful completion of a three-month 5G Standalone trial in 2022, comprising Ericsson’s dual-mode 5G Core running on Red Hat OpenShift and integrated with Spark’s 5G Fixed Wireless Access Network (FWA) to test enhanced wireless broadband. The trial confirmed and validated the technical capabilities of 5G Standalone technology on Spark’s network. 

Ericsson is a market leader in the realm of 5G standalone, supporting ~55 per cent of the world’s live 5G standalone networks. 

Red Hat’s industry leading open source technologies are designed to provide the foundation and capabilities for service providers to modernise their networks as well as to scale the 5G Core on-demand, enabling the faster delivery of new and innovative applications and services.

Mateparae says Spark is excited to be embarking on this major milestone and continuing its long-held partnerships with Ericsson and Red Hat. 

* GSA 5G Market Snapshot, May 2023



Notes to editor:

  • Spark’s 3G and 4G services use spectrum between 700– 2600MHz. Today in New Zealand, 5G uses spectrum between about 3400MHz and 3800MHz. 
  • As announced in October 2022, the terms of the C-band mobile spectrum agreement with the Crown provide Spark with long-term spectrum management rights to 80 MHz of 3.5 GHz (or C-band) spectrum from 1 July 2023, which will be used in Spark’s ongoing roll out of 5G services.
  • Spark has committed to accelerating deployment of its 5G network aiming to expand 5G connectivity to all towns with a population of more than 1,500 people by the end of June 2026 using the allocated C-band spectrum.
  • Spark also announced it will aim to shut down its legacy 3G network in late 2025, which will free up limited radio spectrum and make way for 5G in rural Aotearoa.
  • 5G Standalone:
    • Telecommunication companies in New Zealand are currently implementing ‘non-standalone’ 5G – while networks have been updated to 5G, data centres and network cores are still dependent on 4G infrastructure.
    • To achieve standalone 5G, core mobile networks need to be upgraded and deployed on a 5G core standalone core network. 
    • A standalone 5G network enables low-latency access to multi access edge compute solutions, allowing customers to deploy solutions that can push compute capacity from the core network closer to a customer’s work site, factory, or workplace, significantly reducing latency (lag) in the network. 
    • In 2022, Spark conducted two proof-of-concepts for 5G standalone with AWS/Mavenir and Ericsson/Red Hat. 
    • Red Hat, the Red Hat logo and OpenShift are trademarks or registered trademarks of Red Hat, Inc. or its subsidiaries in the U.S. and other countries. 

Angely Cullerne

Corporate Relations Lead Partner - B2B
+64 21 303 403 |

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