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2degrees unveils new infrastructure sharing agreement, passes $1b milestone

24 Jun 2020

2degrees has outlined a new infrastructure sharing agreement that will usher in an end to national roaming, complete its national network and ensure all its customers will receive the same experience.

It also revealed that investment into its network infrastructure has passed the NZ$1 billion milestone, in what the company says is a culmination of a decade of expanding its network across the country.

The infrastructure sharing concept was first deployed in New Zealand by the Rural Connectivity Group, a joint venture between 2degrees, Vodafone, Spark and Crown Infrastructure Partners with an aim to connect rural communities and remove mobile blackspots.

The new agreement will target the small enclaves of remaining roaming coverage, where 2degrees says it carries less than 1% of its traffic via a partner network.

“Most New Zealanders are unaware of the scale of the 2degrees network and we’re now at a point where we're completing our national coverage and choosing to do that efficiently by using our own spectrum over a partner’s cell sites,” says 2degrees chief technology officer Martin Sharrock.

“Using our spectrum in these areas for the first time is like adding a new motorway for our customers to use, they move from sharing our partners’ network to a network dedicated just for 2degrees. This is possible without building new cell towers.”

A new technology called multi-operator radio access network, or MoRAN, is facilitating the upgrades which use 4G, and will improve high-bandwidth consuming actions, like video calling, streaming and downloads.

“Operators will share infrastructure where it makes sense, including in sparsely populated areas of New Zealand because it extends the benefit of competition to less populated areas while reducing costs for network operators,” says Sharrock.

"The three mobile operators have invested in their own infrastructure in urban areas. In remote and rural areas, there are fewer customers, so recovering the cost of a new duplicate cell site becomes very challenging. 

“In either instance, operators are able to differentiate their services and offer competition.”

The announcement follows 2degrees’ recent confirmation that it plans to build a 5G network, following the Government’s decision to allocate early access 3.5GHz spectrum to the company.

Sharrock says it could make sense to bring the concept of infrastructure sharing over to 5G development, but also noted that having a foundation layer of competing mobile infrastructure was important to ensure operators continued to drive each other to invest and innovate.

“We’re excited about 5G and planning is well underway,” says Sharrock.

“While we do so, it’s important to recognise that 4G will be very effective in meeting the needs of less populated and remote communities.”

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