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Spark New Zealand outlines plans for 5G network

Spark New Zealand outlines plans for 5G network

We are already making decisions in the absence of any clear government policy on when that spectrum will be available or in what bands, says managing director Simon Moutter

Spark New Zealand has published a briefing paper that outlines how it is on track to start providing 5G services to New Zealand consumers and businesses from 2020.

5G is the fifth generation of wireless communications technology, which is starting to be rolled out around the world.

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.

Simon Moutter, managing director, Spark NZ, says the company’s technical and network planning for 5G is advancing after successfully conducting outdoor and indoor trials earlier this year.

Simon Moutter
Simon Moutter

“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,” says Moutter, in a statement.

“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.”

Later this year, Spark says it 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 notes 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.

He says 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 as an international showcase opportunity.

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

Moutter says it was important for policymakers to recognise 5G is not a standalone technology or solution. It will operate together 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.

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, says Moutter.

Into ‘the Internet of Very Small Things’

In the briefing paper, Spark says 5G will allow millions of machines to communicate with each other, and will eventually allow complex procedures to be performed remotely.

Applications that are already occurring in New Zealand with 4G and 4.5G will be “supercharged” by the superior performance, greater reliability and lower incremental operating costs of 5G, as they become commercially feasible and used more extensively, and overcome the barriers of adoption that currently exist due to network performance constraints, it states.

Key 5g applications include Enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB); Enhanced Machine Type Communications (eMTC) and Ultra-reliable and low-latency communications (URLLC).

The paper also touches on 6G, the next generation of mobile technologies, and what it can deliver, like ‘the Internet of Very Small Things’.

Many of the applications being envisaged for 6G today tend to be similar to those already identified for 5G – IoT, smart cities and transport systems, and automated vehicles or equipment – but they are likely to be on a much grander scale, it states.

While it points out 6G is currently a research topic, much of the technology to enable it isn’t expected to become a commercial reality for the next decade or more.

“Right now, it looks a lot like an extension of 5G. But as new technologies continue to emerge, especially in AI, materials, and nano and biotechnology, there is room for 6G to let us realise concepts and services that today exist only in science fiction. A flexible, dynamic industry structure will be important to ensure New Zealand’s future networks can adapt to and implement new technologies as they emerge,” the paper concludes.

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Tags innovationdigital economy6GIoTSimon Moutter5GCIO100digitalisationSpark New Zealand

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