New Zealand - Reallocation of Commercial Spectrum Rights

Reallocation of Commercial Spectrum Rights – New Zealand

Since 1989, the Government of New Zealand has progressively created and allocated tradable rights to spectrum under the Radiocommunications Act 1989 ("the Act").

Generally speaking spectrum rights have been allocated as:

  • Nationwide "management rights" over frequency bands used for telecommunications services; and,
  • Site and frequency specific "spectrum licences" under Crown-owned management rights in frequency bands used for television and radio broadcasting.

Spectrum rights for commercial use are usually allocated by competitive tender or auction. The Government reserves and allocates spectrum rights to meet specific government objectives contained in non-commercial broadcasting policy and to meet Treaty of Waitangi obligations. All spectrum rights are subject to the fees set out in the Radiocommunications Regulations. Under the Act, spectrum rights have a maximum term of 20 years. The first rights created, for UHF television, expire in 2010. Rights for AM and FM sound broadcasting expire in 2011 and VHF television rights (TV1, TV2, TV3 and C4) in 2015. Expiry dates for mobile telephone services vary, with the first rights expiring in 2011.

The Act provides that rights revert to the Crown at expiry, but is silent as to how they should be allocated or reallocated. An amendment to the Act in 2000 allows the Crown to create a "succeeding" management right ahead of expiry, to ensure a seamless transition from one term to another.

Several reasons are included in the discussion paper for not issuing new spectrum rights.

A case-by-case review is required to ensure consistency with New Zealand's international radio obligations and the general objective of maximising the value of the spectrum to society as a whole.

The Ministry will consider the current and likely future use of the particular spectrum, based on available market and technical information, and whether reallocation of the rights in the current form will maximise the value of the spectrum.

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