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NZ spectrum debate highlights WiMAX regulatory dilemma

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The New Zealand debate

At the heart of the New Zealand argument are 12 8MHz blocks in the 2.3-2.4GHz band which were first allocated back in 1990 and which are not due for renewal until 2010.

NZ Telecom has rights to eight of these blocks, Woosh owns rights to two, and Sky TV and BCL each owns one block. Woosh has negotiated with Telecom over a few of its blocks, and has also been in negotiations with Sky, but the government is not convinced this would be the best use of the spectrum.

The government says it wants to take back some of these blocks, repackage them, optimise them for WiMAX use, and then re-auction them. The regulator says that, since the licenses were originally allocated for a different usage, they can be taken back. Woosh argues that the government cannot forcibly take back the blocks and so any plan to re-auction would mean that the new owners could not activate the services until 2010 at the earliest, putting New Zealand well behind in broadband wireless.

The government said: "In some of the bands that are able to be used there are some historic licenses around which haven't been used. What we are intending to do is to take some of those back, which we are able to do under their terms of issue, repackage them and optimise them for wireless broadband and take them to market in a way that will allow the fastest possible roll-out of WiMAX, for example."

There has been considerable controversy around WiMAX-suitable spectrum in New Zealand. Last month, providers led by Wellington-based Araneo demanded that the bands allocated in 3.5GHz should be widened from the current 7MHz pairs in order to support high speed services.

And earlier in the year, New Zealand Telecom was accused of acquiring a slice of 3.5GHz spectrum without regulatory clearance, according to the country’s Commerce Commission, which launched a probe.

Worth Noting

  • Cisco will pay $43.7m in cash and stock to acquire Meetinghouse Data Communications and bolster its security portfolio. Meetinghouse makes clientside wireless security software, which enables enterprise customers, using 802.1X standard-based technology, to restrict network access to authorised users or host devices across wired and wireless networks.
  • France Telecom has paid about €159m to take a majority stake in Jordan Telecom. It acquired a 10 per cent stake to add to the 40 per cent share it bought in January 2000 and exercised an option to purchase an additional 1 per cent for €14.5m. France Telecom has been actively pursuing telecom companies in the Middle East but has often found itself priced out of some of the bigger deals due to competition from Arab investors.
  • Vodafone has denied rumours that it is in talks to buy landline operator, Telkom South Africa, as "complete speculation". There have historically been tensions between Vodafone and Telekom over their joint ownership of the mobile network, Vodacom. Following Vodafone's recent purchase of Venfin, the company now owns an equal 50 per cent of Vodacom - and also revoked an informal agreement that had restricted Vodacom from investing in African nations north of the Equator.
  • Customers of Orange Business Services will soon be able to use T-Mobile hotspots in the US under an agreement between the two operators. The more than 7,000 T-Mobile hot spots bring Orange's Wi-Fi coverage to some 35,000 locations in 60 countries.
  • The worldwide market for mobile handsets will reach $164.3bn by 2012, as vendors continue to target emerging markets with low cost devices, according to researchers from Frost & Sullivan. This year about $122.6bn will be spent on mobile devices. Since 2004, the growth in units produced and sold has been a steady 14 per cent, yet the average price per device fell by around 7 per cent in the same period.
  • China Mobile's agreement to buy international operator Millicom has fallen through, after the two failed to agree on a price tag. The deal, estimated at around $5.3bn for operations in 16 countries around the world, would have been the biggest foreign acquisition by any Chinese company and a major coup for Chinese vendors like ZTE and Huawei.
  • Motorola has launched its Q device as a BlackBerry killer, and now Samsung is heading down the same path, launching a slim Qwerty smartphone, the SGH-i320, which supports Windows Mobile 5.0's push email extensions along with a 1.3 megapixel camera, Bluetooth connectivity and email attachment viewing capabilities. Samsung is shipping the device to Europe later this month.
  • Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch

    Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.

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