Battle of the bands develops over WiMax spectrum

Tuhoe, councils, telcos and challengers all have their say on how best to allocate vital wireless spectrum
  • Rob O'Neill (Unknown Publication)
  • 30 October, 2007 22:00

Woosh wants larger allocations, Auckland City wants spectrum set aside for the regions, Maori interests want to ensure their culture and heritage is protected and NZ Communications wants the Commerce Commission involved.

It’s spectrum auction time.

Submissions to the Ministry of Economic Development’s Radio Spectrum Management group are now being pondered by the public servants, who aim to prepare their advice to the Minister and announce final decisions on the process and structure of the auction by the end of October. From there, registrations will be submitted for an auction in December.

Computerworld dipped into the submissions to gauge the scope of the issues.

The Tuhoe submission, from Riaka Hiakita, says it is important that Maori allocations should be geared to meet Maori interests, as opposed to government interests.

“This leads iwi down a path of become agents of government-designed outcomes which may have no value to supporting the iwi outcomes. The allocation model should be iwi meeting iwi interests, secondly government interests to meet iwi objectives in considering allocation. What are identified positive outcomes for iwi to realise their cultural, social, and economic potentials must be good for government interests,” the submission says.

Auckland City Council, which recently signaled its own interest in enabling city-wide wi-fi internet access, submits that the market will not deliver the outcomes people need without “transformational activity” from local and central government.

However, the submission also appears to lay some of the blame for that market failure at the government’s door.

“From an Auckland City Council perspective, we believe that the current broadband environment is in a state of flux,” the submission says. “Market development is being primarily held back by participant capital constraints and a conservative infrastructure investment environment. In addition, market participants are expressing uncertainty around investment returns on infrastructure due to expected regulatory intervention.

“This is a result, in part, of the package of interventions being pursued by the central government through Digital Strategy initiatives such as the Broadband Challenge Fund, the KAREN network, the Government Shared Network and the package of telecommunications reforms heralded by the amendments to the Telecommunications Act 2001 (the Telecommunications Amendment Bill 2006).”

The council goes on to argue that spectrum is a scarce resource and ask for extra to be set aside for regional use in addition to the spectrum included in what is called a Managed Spectrum Park.

NZ Communications argues that the auction gives an opportunity to fix some of the distortions of the NZ wireless market. “The Government should seize this opportunity to use the spectrum sale as a mechanism to fix some of the imbalances that have prevented wireless competition in NZ,” Tex Edwards writes.

He says the New Zealand market is distorted and uncompetitive and government policy is required to break existing monopolies. He is especially concerned to ensure detailed co-location rules are in place.

“Effective competition in an entrenched wireless market comes from combining the natural resources of spectrum with competition policy. NZCL believes that the Commerce Commission should be involved in this auction process to maximise the benefit to the NZ consumer,” he writes.

Telecom argues that while the 2.3GHz spectrum is for WiMax, the 2.5GHz is dual-purpose and should, following US examples, be used for both WiMax and cellular services. The auction should have different terms for the different bands. Telecom points out that the UK regulator faced a similar decision and chose to defer the 2.5GHz auction.

“We believe both technologies should co-exist in the 2.5GHz band. WiMax and UMTS-LTE technologies will serve different market needs (with the potential for WiMax to have advantages in fixed broadband applications and for UMTS-LTE to have advantages in mobility-oriented applications), so both need to be made available to New Zealand consumers.”

Vodafone makes similar arguments, that the 2.5GHz spectrum can be used for both WiMax and 3G and 4G cellular services and also argues that the amount of spectrum allocated to Managed Spectrum Parks is excessive.