Gareth Hughes

Speculating on spectrum

by Gareth Hughes

Speculating on spectrum

Today Communications Minister Amy Adams announced the Government’s plans for allocating the 700MHz spectrum that has been freed up by the switchover to digital TV.

It’s a big deal for New Zealand and I’m urging that the Government engage and consult with Māori and the public over the opportunities. The public should get a say.

It is disappointing Adam’s has decided not to allocate any to Māori, as happened with the prior radio spectrum allocation.

I would urge the Government to investigate the following:

-       Putting ownership acquisition limits in place to prevent monopolies.

-       The possible use of ‘white space’ between bands as recommended by Google.

-       Using price incentives for companies to establish services in rural areas.

-       Adopting a ‘use it or lose it’ clause so that the resource is not wasted.”

Best Use

Economic studies internationally suggest the highest economic benefit in using digital dividend spectrum will come from allocating it in a form suited for mobile broadband, 4G. Other countries are generally following this course. Expected allocation of digital dividend spectrum to mobile broadband use has underpinned the development of most band plans internationally.

Analysis by Venture Consulting has suggested that allocating the 700 MHz band to mobile broadband would also provide the highest economic benefit to New Zealand, in the range of $1.1 to $2.4 billion over twenty years, largely from the reduced costs of deploying mobile broadband networks in this band compared to deployment in higher frequency bands. The Ministry has not identified alternative uses which would offer comparable economic benefits.

I think it is correct they have gone for the auction model to raise funds but would have preferred to have seen a percentage ring-fenced for iwi and other uses. Different estimates have put full auction at $100 million, $200-350 million and $500 million revenue for the Crown

However when considering the best use of the digital dividend in New Zealand it is critical to take the Treaty partnership into consideration. While supporting Iwi radio may not provide as high economic benefits as mobile broadband, it has immense cultural and social benefits for the entire community, in particular for urban Māori, Iwi and the Te Reo Māori revitalisation community. Now there is a big chance this issue will be taken to court slowing down an already tight timeframe to get it resolved before the end of the year.

Today’s announcement raises a number of questions that are important to the future of our economy, Internet and to Māori and I urge the Government to open up and consult the public.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Gareth Hughes on Thu, February 21st, 2013   

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