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InternetNZ: Deferral of key decisions on digital dividend

InternetNZ calls for deferral of key decisions regarding the digital dividend

10 November 2011

InternetNZ (Internet New Zealand Inc) has called for a deferral in key decisions about the allocation of the 700 MHz digital dividend spectrum.

The digital dividend is spectrum in the frequency range currently used for analogue television broadcasts, being freed up by the switchover to digital television. The deadline for cross-submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development was 9 November 2011.

InternetNZ Chief Executive Vikram Kumar says that in its cross-submission InternetNZ has urged that decisions on a spectrum allocation process are not made until such time as there is certainty that the Government’s preferred technology direction is mainstream.

Vikram Kumar says that, “The current timeframe has Cabinet making initial allocation decisions in April 2012. It is doubtful that the pre-requisite international decisions will be made by then, in particular the APT (Asia-Pacific Telecommunity) Band Plan. Many submissions point to significant areas of uncertainty in this area.

“As a ‘technology taker’, New Zealand needs to align with decisions made by major countries and major equipment manufacturers to commit to regional band-plans. As the Ministry of Economic Development itself has pointed out, few countries have formally confirmed their support to the APT Band Plan at this stage. While there will be pressure to take decisions about this valuable slice of spectrum as quickly as possible, it is more important to have sufficient confidence that the APT Band Plan has large-scale adoption before locking in New Zealand for about 20 years.”

InternetNZ’s continues to prefer the digital dividend be used for wireless broadband - particularly in rural areas. The large mobile operators are most likely to acquire the available spectrum through an auction process.

Vikram Kumar says that, “It is imperative that if major cellular operators do end up with this valuable resource, there should be specific requirements imposed on them to roll out true high-speed broadband in rural areas as soon as possible. They should also be required to use or give up spectrum in other bands that they don't use or underuse.

“The latter point is particularly important in considering the case of Frequency Division Duplex (FDD) versus Time Division Duplex (TDD). At present the Ministry of Economic Development, the APT Band Plan, and large cellular operators all prefer FDD. Yet TDD technically provides more efficient wireless broadband as well as favouring economic alternatives from new operators.

“We should monitor progress on the TDD APT Band Plan. While accepting the case for not mixing FDD and TDD within the 700 MHz band, InternetNZ recommends the Ministry of Economic Development obtain independent technical advice regarding the need for guard bands between adjacent FDD and TDD spectrum allocations. There may be an opportunity for spectrum freed up in other bands to introduce different technology paths, new entrants, and smaller regional operators into the market. For example, it may allow fixed-line broadband companies to offer wireless broadband as an alternative to cellular operators.”

Vikram Kumar concluded, “The international technology path should be known by the middle of next year. We should not be afraid of waiting until then to ensure that we are taking the right steps with respect to the digital dividend.”

InternetNZ’s cross-submission is available here.


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