Kiwi wrap: Spark calls out NZ govt; ComCom eyes telco market and this Sherriff’s leaving this town

Spark calls out NZ Govt on 5G inaction, steps up own plans

Spark New Zealand has called out the New Zealand government on an “absence of any clear government policy” on 5G spectrum, as the telco gears up to launch its 5G services in 2020.

Spark managing director Simon Moutter said while Spark is moving forward with its 5G plans – with the company on track to start providing 5G services to consumers and businesses from 2020 following successful trials earlier this year – its decisions are contingent on securing additional 5G spectrum, and are being made in the absence of government policy on when spectrum will be available and in what bands.

He called for the allocation processes for the two most likely spectrum bands – mid frequency C-band and high frequency mmWave band – to 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.

Low frequency spectrum, below 1000MH will also be required to deliver 5G services into rural areas.

Spark is currently mapping expected 5G cell site densities across New Zealand and has begun a build programme to increase the number of cell sites in its existing mobile network.

Moutter said 5G will enable Spark to provide additional capacity at a lower incremental unit cost than under 4G and 4.5G. “This means that once 5G is available to deploy, we will have a strong commercial incentive to rapidly build 5G network capability as the primary means of keeping ahead of growing customer demand for more data at faster speeds.”

Network spend will be diverted from 4G capacity expansion to 5G as soon as spectrum comes available, with the 5G network development expected to be funded from within Spark’s existing capital expenditure envelope of 11% to 12% of revenues.

Telco focus continues for ComCom

The New Zealand Commerce Commission has flagged retail telecommunications as a continuing area of high priority for the upcoming year with billing, switching practices, contract terms and marketing key priorities.

Online retail is also flagged as an area of focus for the consumer watchdog over the next 12 months, alongside responsible lending, motor vehicle sales, non-notified mergers and electricity distributors service quality.

“The priority areas we are targeting affect large numbers of consumers every day and we will be working with businesses to tackle the particular issues we are concerned about, both through education and enforcement,” Commerce Commission chairman Mark Berry said.

“We have already undertaken a lot of work in the telecommunications sector over the past year and will continue to target retail services. In particular we will be focused on billing, contract terms, marketing and switching practices,” he said.

ComCom said it also expects to implement new consumer provisions from amendments to the Telecommunications Act, including industry codes to address issues of retail service quality.

Several other regulatory reviews are also underway, including a study into mobile telecommunications market and backhaul services.

On the online retail front, Berry said the commission will be taking a close look at issues associated with online shopping for both consumers and businesses.

Sherriff leaving 2degrees

Five years after stepping into what was meant to be a emergency stint heading up New Zealand’s third largest telco, 2degrees, Stewart Sherriff is retiring.

Sherriff, who had been chairman of the 2degree’s board, stepped into the role of interim CEO in 2013 after the death of Eric Hertz, who died in a plane crash. Sherriff took on the role permanently later that year, following a global search for a replacement.

He will remain in the role until a replacement is found, after which he will serve on the 2degrees board of directors.

2degrees, which is owned by Toronto Stock Exchange-listed Trilogy Group, reported a net profit of $19 million for the year ending December 31, 2017, up 33% year on year, on revenue of $732.7 million.

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