5 min read

Spark 5G footprint will hit 90 per cent next year

Spark NZ gets on with building its 5G network, a new digital public safety network is on the way.
Spark 5G footprint will hit 90 per cent next year

Speaking at the company’s annual general meeting last Friday, CEO Jolie Hodson told investors Spark’s 5G network is on track to cover 90 per cent of New Zealand’s population by the end of 2023.

This beats the goal set out earlier this year when Spark announced it was investing an additional $35 million to accelerate its 5G rollout. The extra money boosted the company’s network investment for 2022 to $125 million.

At the time Spark said the accelerated roll-out would see the 5G network reach 50 per cent of the nation by the end of 2022 and 85 per cent by the end of 2023.

Last week Hodson said the network now operates in 53 locations, that’s up from 21 locations in June.

Spark has agreed to expand its provincial 5G coverage and commit a further $24 million to Rural Connectivity Group projects in return for the rights to 80 MHz of 3.5 GHz spectrum.

One million things connect to Spark IoT. Spark says it now has one million connections on the company’s IoT networks. In a press statement the company says the number of connections grew 20 per cent between the end of June and November.

Spark IoT Lead Michele Wong says: “We built our first IoT-specific network, LoRaWAN, back in 2018, and started co-creating with customers like Mainfreight on tracking high-value containers.

“We then launched our Cat-M1 network in 2019, which reaches over 99 per cent of the New Zealand population, and in July 2022 we activated our new NB-IoT network providing nearly 85 per cent population coverage.”

Digital public safety network to roll out next year

The government will roll out a new public safety digital communications network next year. The project is expected to cost $1.4 billion over the next ten years.

Police Minister Chris Hipkins says the network will: “deliver emergency services with a single secure digital radio network and greatly improved mobile broadband access”.

He says: “This infrastructure investment is significant and is what New Zealand’s frontline workers deserve. It will help keep them and the public safe by giving them reliable and secure coverage in urban, state highway and rural areas."

The new service will be used by Police, Fire and Emergency NZ, Hato Hone St John, and Wellington Free Ambulance.

Spark, Vodafone form Hourua

New Zealand’s two largest telcos formed Hourua, a new joint venture, to successfully bid for the contract to provide prioritised cellular technology.

In effect this means emergency services will have priority over other mobile network users when mobile networks are congested or degraded.

Spark chief operating officer Mark Beder says: “In a moment of crisis, we all want to know that our emergency responders are well equipped to keep New Zealanders safe – and reliable, far reaching, and secure communications tools are vital to them being able to perform their jobs effectively.

“The new Public Safety Network will support this, with the roaming solution that has been created increasing coverage beyond what is available on either of our networks alone and ensuring there is a fallback option if one network experiences disruption.”

Hipkins says: “ It’s extremely pleasing to see New Zealand companies and the economy will benefit from this important and skilled work”.

Kordia and Tait Communications will provide a new digital land mobile radio network to sit alongside the priority cellular network.

Shaun Rendell, who heads Kordia, says the company will draw on many different parts of its business to deliver the project – from its engineers and architects, who will design and build the network, through to its cyber security division, who will work to ensure the new network is secure by design.

Kordia’s in-house field services team will be responsible for the installation of infrastructure and maintaining over 450 sites. The company’s network operations centres will monitor the infrastructure around the clock.

International telecom services market growing, but lags inflation

IDC reports that worldwide spending on telecommunications and pay TV services will be close to US$1.6 trillion this year. That’s a 1.9 per cent increase on last year, but representing a contraction given current inflation rates.

The research company’s latest forecast is 0.5 per cent higher than the forecast released in May.

Inflation means telecom operators have recently increased tariffs.

IDC says most operators have focused on increasing mobile prices.

Government investigates supply chain resilience

The government wants to know how well New Zealand is placed to deal with major and persistent supply chain disruptions. It has asked the Productivity Commission to look into the issue and identify the policies and interventions it can make to build more resilience.

Infrastructure minister Grant Robinson says: “This inquiry will identify ways to enhance the resilience of New Zealand’s economy to persistent medium-term supply chain disruptions.

“The commission will engage with stakeholders to select a definition of resilience appropriate to the inquiry, identify industry level supply chain vulnerabilities, and recommend policy responses that assist in anticipating, preparing for, responding to, recovering, and learning from these supply chain disruptions.

International FWA spending up 35% in 2022

Dell’Oro Group says its preliminary look at international fixed wireless access (FWA) revenues, which includes both RAN equipment and customer premise equipment revenue is on track to grow 35 per cent in 2022. Much of this is fuelled by subscriber growth in North America. The report says worldwide FWA revenues are projected to surpass US$5 billion by 2026.

Apple satellite emergency SOS later this month

Apple says it will launch its Emergency SOS by satellite service for iPhone 14 and 14 Pro users later this month. At first the service will be available in the US and Canada. It lets iPhones that are out of range of mobile and Wi-Fi networks to message emergency services.

Auckland University opens Vodafone 5G technology hub

The University of Auckland Business School has launched Te Ahi Hangarau, its technology hub funded with investments from Vodafone and Nokia. The hub will give the university’s business school students and staff access to technologies for education and research purposes. The hub will also be used to give workshops.

In other news…

It’s record few aspire to, but this week saw online retailer Amazon become the world’s first public company to lose a trillion dollars in market value.

At the Register, Simon Sharwood writes about the International Committee of the Red Crossplan for a digital marker to let attackers know certain online resources are protected and should not be cyber warfare targets.

Software giant Oracle renewed its all-of-government framework agreement. The agreement means government agencies can buy software licences and other services under standardised terms.

At Reseller News, Rob O’Neill says the Reserve Bank wants the payment industry to lift its game. He quotes assistant governor Karen Silk who says: “We do not yet have scalable electronic, instant, peer-to-peer payments, and our lack of real time systems for retail payments positions us as an outlier amongst OECD countries."

The Download 2.0 is supported by Chorus New Zealand.