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Spark brings high speed mobile broadband to rural NZ

28 August 2014
Media Release

Spark brings high speed mobile broadband to rural New Zealand

Spark New Zealand announced today that it has begun its rollout of 4G services on the recently acquired 700MHz spectrum in the Waikato, enabling 12 sites with 4G in the region.

Following a successful trial earlier this year Spark, in conjunction with Huawei Technologies has now livened up sites with 4G in Te Aroha, central Hamilton, Morrinsville, Mystery Creek and other surrounding areas in the Waikato - allowing customers to access high speed mobile broadband over the 700 MHz spectrum.

Spark Networks Chief Operating Officer, David Havercroft, said: “Today marks the start of an accelerated rollout of 4G services to regional New Zealand. Over the next few months we’ll continue to widen our 4G footprint in the Waikato region, including the Coromandel, and will bring this technology to existing sites by February 2015.

“Before Christmas this year we’ll also extend our coverage to Rotorua, enabling 4G over 700MHz in the northern part of the region, building on our existing 4G coverage in central Rotorua on the 1800MHz spectrum. This is part of our broader plan to extend 4G on the Spark Network to a range of other locations across the country.”

Mr Havercroft says customers in rural areas can now begin to take advantage of the many benefits Spark’s 4G network provides - particularly faster speeds.

“We made a significant investment in the recent government auction to secure more spectrum blocks in the 700 MHz range than any other provider. The more spectrum a mobile operator has the faster the speeds it can offer to its customers and the more data it can carry. So, for our customers this will mean significantly faster access to online content on their mobile devices, wherever they’re located in 4G coverage areas.”

Mr Havercroft says the investment in and rollout of its 4G services is just another sign of Spark New Zealand’s commitment to providing high speed mobile broadband to rural customers throughout New Zealand.

“Rural communities are the engine rooms of our economy. We know rural customers and agribusinesses in these communities need access to fast mobile data so they can tap into the latest technologies, driving greater efficiencies and giving them the means to explore new opportunities. We’re excited to be enabling that.”

Currently customers can access 4G on 700 MHz using two smartphones - the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (G900i*).

“We paid a premium price to secure spectrum on our preferred lower end of the 700 MHz band, which closely aligns with the spectrum allocated in Australia. This gives us confidence in the compatibility that new devices will have with our network. By the end of the year we will range around 10 devices that work on the 700 MHz spectrum.”

* Samsung Galaxy S5 G900i – this model refers to the newest version of the Samsung Galaxy S5 now available in Spark stores nationwide and online.
- ends –

Notes to editors:
1. To access 4G on the 700MHz spectrum customers will need to have a mobile device that is compatible. Currently Spark has two mobile devices that will work on 700MHz - the HTC One (M8) and the Samsung Galaxy S5 (G900i*).
2. Spark is continuously adding to its range of mobile devices and by the end of the year it will have around 10 devices that will work on the 700 MHz spectrum.
The lower the radio spectrum frequency, the better its signal propagation characteristics. In the case of 4G mobile, a 700 MHz cell site will cover an area 4-6 times larger than an equivalent 1800 MHz cell site and a 700 MHz signal will propagate through the walls of buildings 4-6 times better than an 1800 MHz signal.

That’s why 700MHz spectrum is the “beachfront property” of 4G mobile. It’s this 700 MHz spectrum that will enable 4G mobile to be delivered as a high quality data service nationwide. There is only 45 MHz of bandwidth available for use in the 700 MHz spectrum band. Spark bought 20 MHz, Vodafone 15 MHz and 2Degrees 10 MHz.

For 4G mobile devices to work on the 700 MHz band, they need to be equipped with the appropriate antennae and radio equipment. Early deployments of 700MHz around the world are mostly at the lower end of the spectrum range. So having spectrum at the lower end is a big advantage for accessing a wider range of devices during the first few years of 700MHz 4G.

Furthermore in New Zealand’s most important roaming market, Australia, only the lower end of the spectrum was purchased in their auction. This compatibility is expected to improve the roaming experience for Spark customers.

Although the superior 700MHz spectrum holding gives Spark a significant advantage, it doesn’t mean switching off 1800MHz for 4G. Spark will continue to use 1800MHz as well as 700MHz to give customers the best possible coverage. In addition, Spark also made carrier aggregation technology live on six of its 4G mobile sites located in Auckland earlier this year. Carrier aggregation allows mobile users to access two mobile spectrum bands simultaneously over their mobile devices giving them a significant increase in speeds. In this case the 1800MHz and 2600MHz spectrum bands are used.

Spark launched 4G services utilising existing spectrum in the 1800MHz range in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch in November last year and has continued to rapidly extend its 4G footprint into many other parts of New Zealand using this spectrum throughout 2014.

4G site locations in the Waikato – 700MHz

4G sites on 700 MHz
Boyes Park
Hamilton North
Hamilton Central
Waikato Hospital
Te Aroha
Mystery Creek

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