Spark today welcomed the New Zealand Government’s announcement of the next steps in the allocation of C-band spectrum, which is a critical enabler of the ongoing rollout of 5G across Aotearoa.
Spark and the Crown have reached agreement in principle on key terms for a direct allocation of C-band spectrum that will provide Spark with management rights to 80 MHz of 3.5 GHz (or C-band) spectrum, in return for a commitment to support the ongoing expansion of rural connectivity through the Rural Connectivity Group (RCG) and the deployment of 5G to provincial New Zealand.
The non-binding agreement provides Spark with long-term spectrum rights from 1 July 2023 in the same band range for which it currently has temporary access. Spark’s existing “early access” spectrum rights will be extended until that date, enabling a seamless transition from early-access rights to long-term rights.
In return for the allocated spectrum rights, Spark will commit an additional $24 million in funding to the Rural Connectivity Group between 2023 and 2025, enabling the RCG to continue to expand mobile coverage further into rural New Zealand and to address mobile black spots on state highways. Spark has also agreed to deploy more extensive 5G services in provincial towns in the same time period.
Spark CEO Jolie Hodson said, “We are really pleased to reach this agreement with Government on the allocation of C-band spectrum, which provides the certainty we need to continue investing in the rollout of 5G across Aotearoa, while delivering further connectivity improvements across rural New Zealand.
“We know that technology has an important enabling role to play as New Zealand businesses seek efficiency improvements in a high-cost environment, and more sustainable solutions that enable our transition to a low-carbon economy. Now is the time for Aotearoa to move faster on digital infrastructure investment, which will underpin these productivity, efficiency, and sustainability improvements across the economy, and the spectrum allocation is an important enabler of that.
“We look forward to working with Government on the finalization of the binding management rights deed, and on the future allocation of 600MHz and mm-wave, which will be particularly important for rural 5G coverage.”