Telecom will begin trialling its high speed 4G data network over APT700 MHz spectrum next month, alongside partner Huawei Technologies.
The non-commercial trial, involving selected customers, aims to provide first-hand experience to inform the future network build.
The 700MHz spectrum will be important in bringing affordable 4G mobile data services to most of New Zealand, as it delivers greater reach and enhanced in-building coverage over other higher band frequencies.
Essentially, this makes it more efficient to build and ideally suited for delivering 4G services in regional areas.
New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to clear and reallocate a portion of the APT700 band plan (otherwise known as the Digital Dividend spectrum) to support mobile broadband usage.
While the Government’s 700 MHz spectrum auction has not yet concluded, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) has approved temporary use of the spectrum for trial purposes.
Telecom Chief Operating Officer David Havercroft says the trial will help Telecom to hit the ground running once the spectrum becomes commercially available, speeding up the delivery of Telecom’s 4G mobile network beyond the major metropolitan centres.
“Our regional communities are the engine rooms of New Zealand’s economy and need access to high speed mobile data services to unleash their full potential," he says.
"To date the network economics across many regional communities have been challenging, but the reallocation of the 700 MHz spectrum for high speed data networks will speed up the roll-out of these essential services significantly.
"We’re excited to see how the 700 MHz spectrum will be used with 4G technology to deliver faster speeds, better 4G coverage and increased network capacity.
“In the meantime we’ve been continuing to invest to improve our services in rural as well as urban areas.
"In this financial year alone we are investing well over $10 million in co-location on Rural Broadband Initiative sites and rural site upgrades.
"We’ve also continued to build out our nationwide WiFi network, which has grown to over 900 hotspots since we launched it last year."
Telecom has already committed to buy 700 MHz spectrum in the Government’s auction and plans to deploy this spectrum once the auction process has concluded.
The upcoming trial will be conducted by Telecom in conjunction with Huawei Technologies over 11 cell sites spread across three Waikato locations including central Hamilton and the Mystery Creek Events Centre.
Telecom will use Huawei wireless routers for testing purposes, meaning access to the trial network will be limited to those involved in the trial. Testing will begin in late May and run for approximately four weeks.
“Introducing 4G in the 700 MHz band will be a huge boost to the spread of next generation mobile broadband,” says Huawei New Zealand GM of Business Strategy Kriv Naicker.
“Huawei has a great deal of 4G experience, having built nearly half the networks operating around the world today, but this is the first time a customer trial of this technology has been possible for Huawei.
“We expect as other countries free up their 700 MHz spectrum it will become the most popular band for 4G deployment globally.
“For end users this will bring huge benefits. The 700 MHz spectrum is fantastic for long-range coverage.
"Huawei adds to this our ‘No Edge Technology’ which helps to maintain performance, whether you’re standing under the radio tower, or at the limit of coverage.”
In addition to technical testing, Telecom will use the trial to showcase 700 MHz 4G at the National Agricultural Fieldays event at Mystery Creek and for piloting mobility solutions with Gen-i clients.