Spark New Zealand to manage part of country's 5G allocation

FILE PHOTO: An advertising board shows a 5G logo at the International Airport in Zaventem, Belgium May 4, 2020. Picture taken May 4, 2020. REUTERS/Yves Herman

(Reuters) - Spark New Zealand Ltd said it will manage part of the country’s allocation of 5G spectrum as it prepares for a rollout of the mobile technology over the next year.

The Kiwi telecom and digital services provider said it will be offered management rights to 60 megahertz (MHz) of a 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) spectrum in 5G mobile phone technology in a statement on the New Zealand Stock Exchange.

It comes as Spark last year abandoned plans to exclusively rely on China’s Huawei [HWT.UL] for the rollout of 5G services in New Zealand amid concerns over national security.

Chief Executive Jolie Hodson said the government’s allocation enables significant investment in 5G over the coming year and touted its importance in New Zealand’s response to and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The 5G mobile technology promises faster and better connectivity.

“Our recovery from COVID-19 is a long game ... and ina world where physical distancing will remain critical for some time, technologies that connect people virtually have a fundamental role to play in our economic recovery,” she said.

Spark last year ditched plans to rely on Huawei exclusively for the rollout of 5G mobile services with the Chinese firm under international scrutiny amid allegations its equipment could be used for espionage. Huawei has repeatedly denied the charges.

The Kiwi firm still kept Huawei as part of a three-company preferred list of equipment suppliers that included Nokia and Samsung Electronics.

Spark plans to roll out 5G services in a number of major centres over the next year and said it was keen on working with the government to accelerate the timeline for a longer-term spectrum auction currently scheduled for November 2022.

Reporting by Shashwat Awasthi in Bengaluru; Editing by Ana Nicolaci da Costa