Preparing for 5G in New Zealand

5G is anticipated to significantly improve data speed and capacity for conventional mobile and fixed wireless broadband networks, as well as providing opportunities for new emerging markets.

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About 5G

5G is the next generation of mobile communication technology. The potential use cases for 5G systems can be grouped into:

  • enhanced mobile broadband
  • massive machine type communications (the internet of things), and
  • ultra-reliable and low latency communications.

The deployment of these networks is expected to begin internationally in 2020.

May 2023 update

In May 2023, the Government announced that contracts had been signed with New Zealand’s major telecommunications network operators – Spark, 2Degrees and One New Zealand to accelerate the roll-out of 5G services to small towns across New Zealand and improve rural connectivity.

The details of this agreement include:

  • New Zealand’s 3 mobile network operators (MNOs) each receiving 80 MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band. This is sufficient radio spectrum for all three MNOs to operate nation-wide 5G networks.
  • The Interim Māori Spectrum Commission receiving 100 MHz of spectrum. The Interim Māori Spectrum Commission will manage this spectrum, on behalf of all Māori.

In return for the allocated spectrum, Spark, One New Zealand and 2Degrees will each pay the government $24 million between 2023 and 2025. This funding will be used to pay the Rural Connectivity Group to expand mobile coverage into areas of rural New Zealand which would not otherwise have been provided with coverage commercially (for example, rural areas where there are mobile black spots). This funding is additional to the value of the works required to accelerate the provision of 5G to towns. 

Dense Air New Zealand, which is a current interim holder of 3.5GHz spectrum rights and had previously been in negotiations with the government for long-term rights to the 3.5 GHz spectrum, has since decided to withdraw from the process. Decisions have yet to taken as to when, whether and how the spectrum that Dense Air had been seeking will be allocated.

Long-term rights to the 3.5GHz spectrum band for 5G services will come into effect from 1 July 2023, as the short-term rights that were extended in October 2022 come to an end. 

April 2023 update

Upcoming assignment of 3.30 – 3.34 GHz for non-national broadband use

Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) is announcing an upcoming assignment of 3.30 – 3.34 GHz (40 MHz) for non-national / regional broadband, which will occur in early May 2023. As a part of RSM’s assignment of 3.3 – 3.4 GHz for regional and private networks, future assignments in the remaining 60 MHz (from 3.34 – 3.40 GHz) are being considered with a focus on non-national / regional broadband and private network use beneficial to New Zealand’s vertical industries.

To open the 3.30 – 3.34 GHz band, RSM will assign a 6-month right to place licences within a Territorial Local Authority area (TLA). There will be two rights available per TLA, reflecting that there will be two 20 MHz channels available. RSM will run an expression of interest process for these rights, with auctions to occur if multiple parties are interested in a particular 6-month right. If only one party is interested in a particular 6-month right, then the right will go to that party, without having to pay an auction value. Once the 6-month right expires, further licences will be offered on a ‘first in first served’ basis.

Read more information on this assignment (including pricing and the expressions of interest process):

Current and upcoming spectrum auctions

October 2022 update

In October 2022, the Government announced it was intending to provide long-term access to the 3.5 GHz spectrum band through a direct allocation process. The direct allocation process was selected to accelerate availability of 5G to small towns across New Zealand and leverage the existing capability of New Zealand’s 3 major Mobile Network Operators (Spark, Vodafone and 2degrees) and shared network infrastructure provider Dense Air.

Subject to contract negotiations, the direct allocation process will see the market value of this spectrum be delivered through:

  • Faster availability of 5G to small towns across New Zealand.
  • Further investment in rural connectivity.

The details of this long-term allocation will continue to be worked through over the coming months as the Crown negotiates final contracts with the parties involved, with the arrangement remaining subject to satisfactory final terms. Management Rights are ordinarily provided for a 20 year term.

Short term rights (which were set to expire on 31 October 2022) will be extended from 1 November 2022 until 30 June 2023. This allows the continued roll-out of 5G and provides continuity for regional services.

Māori will also receive spectrum in this band, as per the agreement that the Crown signed with the Māori Spectrum Working Group in February this year.

Read the Minister's press release:

Kiwis to benefit from accelerated 5G roll-out(external link) —

August 2021 update

Consultation for the planning of 3.3 GHz band for non-national broadband use

RSM is consulting on the future use of the 3.3-3.41 GHz band. It is proposed that the 3.3-3.4 GHz band is allocated for broadband services by way of long-term, regional or local rights. This consultation seeks feedback from stakeholders on the proposal and on the relevant technical parameters, band plans and authorisation mechanisms.

3.3 GHz band use in New Zealand

April 2021 update

Consultation for the planning of 24 – 30 GHz

5G needs spectrum across low, mid and high spectrum bands to deliver widespread coverage and support a wide range of use cases. Following the mid band spectrum planning in 2019, RSM is now planning the high band spectrum (26 GHz and 28 GHz) for 5G.

24 – 30 GHz use in New Zealand

July 2020 update

In June 2020, the following offers for early access to spectrum in the 3.5 GHz band were made:

Company Spectrum allocation Frequency Price
(excl. GST)*
Dense Air 40 MHz 3 590-3 630 MHz $ 500,000.00
Spark 60 MHz 3 630-3 690 MHz $ 750,000.00
2degrees 60 MHz 3 690-3 750 MHz $ 750,000.00

*less any discount for returned spectrum in the 3.5GHz band

May 2020 update

In May 2020, the Auction for short-term, early access rights in the 3.5 GHz band for 5G services (Auction 20) was cancelled. This was due to the constraints imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, a direct allocation process will be undertaken. Offers will be made of 40 MHz to Dense Air, 60 MHz to Spark, and 60 MHz to 2degrees.

January 2020 update

In January 2020, the Government released details on the auction for short-term rights in the 3.5 GHz band for 5G.

View the details of auction 20

December 2019 announcement

In December 2019 the Government gave the go ahead to enable further development of 5G networks by making appropriate spectrum available.

Cabinet approved the allocation of short-term rights to an unused portion of 3.5 GHz spectrum.

3.5GHz is the first spectrum band to be allocated for 5G services. Short-term rights will run from mid-2020 to 31 October 2022.

The decisions made also provide an opportunity for Māori interests in radio spectrum.

Long-term rights to 3.5 GHz spectrum are still on track to begin in November 2022 and details of this allocation will continue to be developed.

Read the full press release on the Beehive website.

Government enables early access to 5G spectrum(external link) —

Cabinet paper — Early access to the 5G radio spectrum [PDF 312KB](external link) — Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment

Consultation for Technical Arrangements of the 3.5 GHz Band

Radio Spectrum Management (RSM) is consulting on the technical principles for future spectrum users in the spectrum range of 3410 – 3800 MHz (the ‘3.5 GHz band’). The current management rights in the 3.5 GHz band will expire by 31st October 2022. We are in the process of re-planning this band. These proposed rules and associated technical arrangements will only come into effect when the new management rights are created.

View the consultation document

February 2019 announcement

In February 2019, the Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media announced that the 3.5 GHz band will be allocated for national 5G networks. Spectrum rights will be allocated by auction in 2020 and ready for use from November 2022.

Spectrum in the band will also be available to regional wireless broadband service providers. Allocation details of these regional spectrum rights are expected to be announced later this year.

5G on track for 2020: 3.5 GHz spectrum the first available(external link) —

Cabinet paper — Allocation of Radio Spectrum for 5G mobile [PDF 903 KB](external link)

5G information pack

This 5G information pack includes information on the regulations and standards involved in the 5G roll-out, along with links to existing government information including from the Ministry of Health and the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

5G information pack [PDF 443 KB(external link) — Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment

2018 Consultation

In March 2018, we asked for feedback on the possible 5G spectrum bands, their future allocation and on any other barriers to the roll out of 5G in New Zealand.

View the consultation discussion document and submissions received:

Preparing for 5G in New Zealand — technical consultation

2017 workshops

Industry workshops were held in October 2017 to better understand how 5G is expected to be deployed and used in New Zealand. You can view the workshop presentation in the document below.

RSM 5G Workshop [PDF, 973 KB]