Telecom NZ launches commercial 700MHz 4G service

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Telecom NZ launches commercial 700MHz 4G service
Cell site tower. Photo credit: Juha Saarinen

May deploy service in cities if demand arises.

New Zealand's incumbent Telecom NZ is putting to use the 700MHz "digital dividend" spectrum it paid A$140 million for in a recent government auction by launching a regional 4G service.

Telecom NZ said it will launch the service in rural Waikato, covering the town centres of Hamilton and Morrinsville as well as surrounding areas late next month.

A Telecom spokesperson told iTnews that the 700MHz service will initially be deployed in rural areas, but as demand materialises, it  expects to also deploy 700MHz in urban areas.

Huawei is Telecom NZ's technology supplier for the 700MHz network, which utilises two 20MHz bands in frequency-division configuration..

While the telco promises "approximately ten devices" that will be compatible with the 700MHz service by the year end, it currently offers only one that works in that frequency range - the HTC One/M8 smartphone.

The Telecom NZ spokesperson declined to say what other devices and vendors were being considered, citing commercial sensitivity.

"What we can say is that mobile manufacturers are working hard to produce devices that can be used on both the 700MHz spectrum and the 1800MHz spectrum," the spokesperson said.

Using the lower frequency range spectrum provides greater reach and building penetration compared to Telecom's existing 1800MHz 4G LTE network. The telco claims that 700MHz cell sites cover a four to six times greater area than the equivalent 1800MHz ones, with similarily better signal propagation through walls.

Australia has also auctioned off the "digital dividend" spectrum freed up after analogue television transmissions were wound down. Telstra successfully bid for 700MHz spectrum and said it would conduct trials using the next generation LTE-Advanced technology this year.

In January this year, Telstra and its network supplier Ericsson said they had successfully made calls over the 700MHz spectrum, using two regional cell sites.

The structurally separated Telecom NZ will rename itself Spark next month, as part of a larger business reorganisation.

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