Australia regulator ACMA to auction 125 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band for 5G services; NZ Spark Outlines 5G Plan

Australia 5G Auction in November

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) announced it will award spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band for the provision of 5G services in November.  Australia’s telecom regulator confirmed that it will be auctioning off 125 megahertz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band. The spectrum will be divided into 350 lots across 14 regions of Australia.

“As a key enabler of the digital economy, the 3.6 GHz spectrum will ensure Australia is well-placed to realize the benefits of 5G. Timely release of 5G-compatible spectrum will facilitate the early delivery of next generation 5G services to the Australian public and industry,” said ACMA Chair Nerida O’Loughlin.  “The ACMA has designed an auction process—including starting prices—that aims to maximize efficiency, competitive outcomes and the full utility of this spectrum for 5G,” O’Loughlin added

Interested carriers will have to pay a AU$10,000 ($7,400) application fee to participate in the auction. Prices for spectrum in metropolitan areas begins at AU$0.08 per megahertz per population. ACMA said the parties wishing to participate in the auction must put in their applications by August 31.  The regulator also said that the auction will include a spectrum cap, whereby each bidder is limited to 60 megahertz of spectrum in urban areas and 80 megahertz in rural areas.

In October 2017, the government of Australia developed a paper outlining a 5G policy for the country, including the establishment of a working group to drive the deployment of 5G mobile technology in Australia.

The government said this working group will support the timely rollout of 5G technology in the country with the primary goal of fostering the growth of the digital economy.

The government highlighted that it will support 5G deployments by making spectrum available in a timely manner, actively engaging in international standardization processes and streamlining planning arrangements to allow mobile operators to deploy infrastructure more quickly and at lower cost.

In February, Australian telecommunications company Telstra opened a 5G innovation center in the Gold Coast region. Telstra said the main aim of the new 5G center will be to test next-generation technologies to support the early commercial deployment of 5G mobile services in Australia. Telstra said it aims to launch commercial 5G services in Australia in 2019.

The carrier said its 5G center is designed to enable collaboration among technology vendors, developers, start-ups and the operator’s enterprise customers. At the time of the opening, the carrier announced plans to conduct 5G field trials in the coming months in and around the Gold Coast.

Telstra previously said that said that it would work with Ericsson on key 5G technologies including massive multiple-input, multiple-output (Massive MIMO), adaptive beam forming and beam tracking, and OFDM-based wave forms in its Gold Coast center.



New Zealand’s Spark on its 5G Plan:

Meanwhile,  New Zealand telco Spark today published a briefing paper that outlines how it is on track to start providing 5G services to New Zealand consumers and businesses from 2020.  The briefing paper aims to inform investors of Spark’s 5G intentions, help customers and stakeholders understand more about 5G, and address key considerations for policymakers.  Spark Managing Director Simon Moutter said Spark’s technical and network planning for 5G is advancing after successfully conducting outdoor and indoor trials earlier this year.  He has called on the government for clarity on the delivery of 5G spectrum, while outlining the telco’s technical and network planning.

Moutter said Spark is already making decisions that are contingent on securing additional 5G spectrum and is having to make those decisions “in the absence of any clear government policy” on when that spectrum will be available or in what bands.  Furthermore, Moutter said the allocation processes for the two most likely spectrum bands – mid frequency C-band and high frequency mmWave band – should be completed as soon as possible, to ensure 5G services can be delivered in time for the 2020-21 America’s Cup in Auckland.

In addition to these bands, low frequency spectrum (below 1000MHz) will be required to deliver 5G services on a pervasive basis into rural areas.  The government’s current work to define 600MHz spectrum as a band for potential 5G use should continue at pace, he said.

“We are undertaking detailed planning to ‘map’ expected 5G cell site densities in New Zealand and, as a result of this planning, and the learnings we have taken from our 5G testing, we are forming a good understanding of how many new sites we will need for 5G, and where,” said Moutter today, while releasing a briefing paper on Spark’s 5G intentions.

“We have already begun a build programme to increase the number of cell sites in our existing mobile network – which will enable us to meet near-term capacity demand as well as lay the groundwork for network densification required for 5G.”

Moutter said 5G will enable Spark to provide additional capacity at a lower incremental unit cost than under 4G and 4.5G.

“This means that once 5G is available to deploy, we will have a strong commercial incentive to rapidly build 5G network capability as the primary means of keeping ahead of growing customer demand for more data at faster speeds,” he added.

Spark expects to fund 5G network development (excluding spectrum and any move towards widespread rollout of new cell sites using high frequency mmWave band spectrum) within its existing capital expenditure envelope of 11 per cent to 12 per cent of revenues by diverted investment from 4G as soon as the necessary spectrum is available.

By 2020, Spark expects its wireless-network specific capex to be between 25 per cent and 35 per cent of Spark’s overall capital expenditure envelope, up from 25 per cent in the year ended 30 June 2017.

In late 2018, Spark will launch a 5G Innovation Lab in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct that will allow partner companies to test and develop applications over a pre-commercial 5G network.

Moutter said it was important for policy makers to recognise 5G is not a standalone technology or solution – it will operate with previous generations of wireless technology and will be deployed as an overlay of existing network infrastructure.

Therefore, policy settings need to support network operators having control over the evolution of their wireless networks, he said.

Moutter also took another swipe at recent suggestions an organisation such as Chorus should roll out a single 5G network for New Zealand along the lines of the Ultrafast Broadband project.

“The current competitive market model, in which multiple wireless network operators compete against one another to grow their customer bases through product and service innovation and pricing, represents a good blueprint for the way 5G can be rolled out in New Zealand and would provide for more investment predictability and certainty over the coming decade,” Moutter commented.



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