MED told to revise spectrum timetable
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User groups and some mobile operators want the Ministry of Economic Development to reconsider its timetable on the allocation of valuable 700MHz spectrum — but Vodafone is urging the government to press on.
The spectrum, which becomes available with the switchover to digital television in 2013, is important for the widespread rollout of LTE technology. The MED’s current timetable would see Cabinet making initial allocation decisions in April, in order to enable successful bidders to begin rolling out services as soon as the spectrum becomes available.
In cross submissions to the MED’s discussion paper, InternetNZ, 2degrees and Te Huarahi Tika Trust (representing Maori claimants) say that decisions on spectrum should be delayed until there is certainty around what band plans major countries will adopt, as this will influence the devices that are manufactured. The concern is that if New Zealand makes a call too soon it could be out of step with those countries.
“New Zealand should not make decisions on a spectrum allocation process until such time as there is certainty that our preferred technology direction is mainstream,” writes InternetNZ. “If the technology direction changes as a result of international trends there will be a requirement for further consultation process with industry and users.”
TUANZ, in its cross-submission “notes a broad mood of support for New Zealand being a ‘fast follower’ rather than a leader in deployment.”
Telecom also appears to support a delay: “We should continue to monitor international developments... as the pace of these may impact on the Ministry’s timeframe. Furthermore, we would also note that major changes in what is happening internationally may require a further round of consultation.”
But Vodafone takes a different view in its cross submission and urges the MED to press on with allocation.
“Suggestions that the process should be delayed on the basis of technological uncertainty simply mask the true purpose driving such recommendations – which are likely to relate to internal capability and the availability of finance,” Vodafone writes.
The telco claims that concerns about whether the band plan chosen by the MED will be widely adopted are overstated and Vodafone is confident it will be able to source devices for LTE in the 700MHz band.
Prior to the election, Computerworld raised InternetNZ’s concerns about the timetable for spectrum allocation with ICT Minister Steven Joyce.
“National is working to make 4G spectrum available to the market as soon as possible and will address InternetNZ’s concerns as we go,” he said.
In 2000/1 the 2.1GHz band was auctioned with the most interest being in the use of 2x60MHz of spectrum for FDD UMTS (3G). This auction took an eternity but most operators who wanted spectrum got some and the 20 year management rights clock started tioking.
This was all about the time that 2G data (GPRS) was being rolled out across networks including Vodafone's GSM network in New Zealand.
The amazing fact is that it took 4 plus years for the 3G technology to get deployed in New Zealand, about a year after the Europeans went to market. Indeed, it took Telecom and 2degrees about 8 years to get to market. The reason for this delay was that although the standards were established the vendors had not really proved the technology for mass deployment. And to be frank, it was quite a tricky business case (seems daft with hidsight!).
I think its fair to say that the industry and the vendors learned from this experience and with LTE using the digital dividend spectrum (and other bands), everything is far more sorted. There will be no delay. Make spectrum available at the end of 2013 as planned and services will be launched in 2014 in New Zealand.
I recently visited my German colleagues in Dusseldorf and saw the technology in action. It was amazing to see download speeds in the range of 25-35Mbps over the European 800MHz band (I have photos!) and to see the CPE in all its splendor. They have 3 different USB sticks and 2 integrated LTE modem/wireless routers available (one of the latter looks exactly like the Vodafone Complete DSL Modem that our customers have here in New Zealand but contains a SIM card instead of a DSL port).
Vodafone Germany is leading the industry in the rural roll out which was a precondition of rolling out using the 800MHz band (or indeed the 2.6GHz band) in the cities. They have achieved their 90% rural roll out milestone in two states, including the one which included Dusseldorf.
So what's holding us back here in New Zealand? I sense we are having one of those VHS/Betamax discussions about technology (FDD v TDD in that order) when the world around us is pushing ahead with FDD. Australia has recognised this and is pushing ahead as planned. Telstra has set the pace with its roll out of LTE using higher bands as a precursor no doubt to a 700MHz coverage roll out.
Are we really going to choose a different technology to Australia? I hope not.
And devices WILL be available. All the hard yards have been done by our European and US cousins and adapting devices for our AsiaPac band will be complete before the end of 2013.
Now it may not suit all operators to have to invest in their network in preparation for the 2014 LTE launch but that's absolutely not a valid reason for delay.
Rural New Zealand needs this technology. Let's not disappoint them!
GM Corporate Affairs
Vodafone New Zealand
Posted by Tom Chignell at 10:09:16 on December 7, 2011