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Overview of licensing regime in New Zealand

The primary mechanisms for managing radio transmissions are the Radiocommunications Act 1989 and the Radiocommunications Regulations 2001.

The Act primary objective is to manage the potential for interference between uses of radio spectrum. The Act creates a property right for spectrum managed under the management right regime. All rights and licences are registered in the Register of Radio Frequencies.


Radio Frequency Register

A public register, the Register of Radio Frequencies (the Register), records transactions such as creations, transfers, cancellations, mortgages, and caveats, in regard to Management Rights and Spectrum Licences. Radio Licences are also recorded in the Register. The Register also performs a vital role in the co-ordination and engineering of new licences to minimize the potential for interference to existing services.


Spectrum Rights

The Act provides for the Crown to transfer a frequency band to the Management Right regime, where it becomes one or more tradable long-term property rights for periods up to 20 years.

Except for frequencies reserved to meet specific public policy objectives, it is current practice to allocate Management Rights, and Spectrum Licences under a Crown-retained Management Right, by way of public spectrum auctions or tenders.

This system is generally referred to as the Spectrum Licensing Regime or the Management Rights Regime.

The Spectrum Licensing Regime provides for two basic types of spectrum rights:


Radio licensing

Under administrative licensing, frequency bands are planned for various services in accordance with international practices, technical standards, and government policy directives. Any persons wanting to use frequencies in accordance with these plans must apply for a radio licence for which an annual fee is often charged. This fee covers the costs of interference management, international co-ordination, technical standards, enforcement, and compliance.

The Radio Licensing Regime is an administrative system regulated by the Radiocommunications Regulations 2001 made pursuant to the Act.

The licences issued under this regime are known as radio licences.

Radio licences are typically:

  • specific to a transmitter

  • revalidated each year

  • specific about the type of the equipment and transmission methods used.


Examples of radio licences are:

  • Ship licences (for maritime radio transmitters)

  • Land Mobile licences (including non-cellular mobile communications)

  • Satellite licences.


General User Licences (Radio or Spectrum)

General user licences may be issued for frequencies covered by the radio licencing regime or the spectrum licencing regime. Under either regime, various uses of radio spectrum are exempt from individual licensing and licence fees. General user licences (radio or spectrum) typically apply to radio services such as cordless telephones, garage door openers, remote car door locking, radio-controlled toys, maritime VHF radio, and citizens band (CB) radio. In many instances the nature of the technologies employed, conditions of operation, or the short operating ranges involved, limits the potential for interference between different applications sharing the same spectrum.


Management Rights

Management Rights cover a block of the radio spectrum and essentially are the right to issue licences for the use of that part of the spectrum.

Read more about Management Rights

Spectrum licences

Details of the three types of spectrum licences which are granted by the owner of a management right.

Read more about Spectrum licences

Statements of Government Policy and Directions

The Minister for Communications can issue Statements of Policy and Directions (‘Policy Statements’), to guide us in administering the radio licensing regime.

Read more about Statements of Government Policy and Directions

Last updated 16 June 2016