Clear Mobitel sets its sights on NZ LTE concession

31 Oct 2011

Clear Mobitel NZ, the New Zealand arm of the UK-based company of the same name, has confirmed plans to put itself forward for a mobile concession when Long Term Evolution (LTE)-suitable spectrum in the 700MHz band is auctioned off by the government in 2012.

Harpal Mann, the founder and CEO of the UK-based parent, told CommsDay: ‘We have, over the past three years, tried to acquire the 2500MHz spectrum that was auctioned off by the Labour Government, and were unsuccessful due to spectrum hoarding by entities which had no intention to build an LTE network’. Warming to the theme, in its response to the Ministry of Economic Development’s (MED’s) discussion document regarding the 700MHz digital dividend, Clear Mobitel stated: ‘The MED should not allow a repeat of the circumstances that occurred following the release of the 2500MHz band to occur again in the market. It is a travesty that all licensees who were awarded the 2500MHz spectrum have not done anything constructive with it to the benefit of the citizens of New Zealand, who are the ultimate owners of the spectrum’. To that end Mobitel has called for a ‘rigorous spectrum audit’, demanding that the MED provisions for at least one new entrant into the sector.

The LTE approach represents the UK-based company’s second attempt to gain a foothold in New Zealand, after an attempt to participate in the country’s Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) last year was shelved. Mann said: ‘[We] withdrew our application in the last minute after it was clear to us that it was a foregone conclusion the award was going to Telecom New Zealand’. However, Mobitel’s bid for LTE spectrum is likely to see the company go head-to-head with Telecom once more. In August Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds said that communications minister Steven Joyce had confirmed that 112MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz frequency band will be auctioned off in 2012, following the completion of the country’s digital TV rollout, and that his company intended to use said spectrum for its move towards ‘fourth generation’ technology. TeleGeography notes that whilst the 700MHz spectrum band is not widely used for the deployment of LTE, it has been utilised by numerous operators in the US with a degree of success.

Whilst Clear Mobitel’s precise credentials remain unclear, earlier this month – closer to home – the company secured a judicial review to overturn a prior decision stopping it from rolling out an LTE network in the 2600MHz band on the island of Jersey.

New Zealand, Clear Mobitel