Econet Wireless closer to 3G launch

24 May 2006

New Zealand would-be start-up Econet Wireless says it has taken delivery of 3G switching equipment from Huawei Technologies in China, enabling it to accelerate the deployment of its Auckland network. However, the company’s chief project director Tex Edwards says that while its technical capability for launch is nearly in place, regulatory changes are needed before it can compete on a level playing field. ‘Econet is looking to bring forward the rollout of its initial Auckland network, but it can not do so unless co-location rules, roaming rules and other critical regulatory matters are addressed. Until these regulatory changes are made, there is no commercial proposition for a new entrant’, he said. Mr Edwards is calling for the introduction of guidelines in line with the rest of the OECD which he believes will create a playing field that provides for a third, or even fourth, mobile network operator.

In a related story, Telecom New Zealand’s chief executive officer Theresa Gattung has said her company would not stall government plans to regulate its networks, saying the incumbent was ‘committed’ to implement the changes and would not ‘hide behind legalistic arguments’ or be ‘obstructive’. The government is intent on forcing the company to open its network to rivals, and Gattung has confirmed that the company would adapt to the changes, even though it has not yet assessed the impact on investment, returns and dividends. Under the changes announced by the government on 3 May, the former monopoly will have to give rivals access to the local loop, publish separate accounts for its wholesale and retail units, and allow rivals to access an internet-only service without having to buy its voice services.

New Zealand, Two Degrees Mobile (2degrees)