Spark says it will launch fixed 5G wireless broadband in five South Island heartland locations prior to Christmas, followed by further heartland locations from March 2020.
It says it will launch a broader range of 5G services, including mobile services, in major centres from mid-2020, subject to spectrum being made available by the Government.
Spark switched-on the first 5G customer services — fixed wireless broadband — in Alexandra in September using spectrum in the 2600MHz band normally used for 4G services. It also operates a mobile 5G service in Auckland Harbour, but exclusively for the Emirates Americas Cup team.
Spark technology director Mark Beder said the company was gearing up to roll out 5G rapidly in major centres once the necessary spectrum becomes available and to use existing spectrum to deliver fixed 5G service “to heartland locations as we think these are the places that will benefit most from the increased capacity and speed of 5G wireless broadband.”
Spark says it will use Nokia radio access network (RAN) equipment for the forthcoming rollout. Nokia supplied the RAN for the Alexandra rollout.
Spark’s general manager of value management, Rajesh Singh, said that, in line with its previously-stated multi-vendor strategy, Spark now had three companies – Nokia, Samsung and Huawei - on its roster of preferred RAN equipment suppliers for 5G, and would continue to use Cisco and Ericsson for separate elements of its existing network core, which has already been upgraded to ensure it is non-standalone (NSA) 5G capable.
Singh said Spark would maintain a multivendor approach to 5G. “A key reason for this is that 5G technology is still emerging and is likely to develop significantly in the next few years, so a mix of vendors makes sense.”
He said Spark had already obtained approval under the Telecommunications (Interception Capability and Security) Act 2013 (TICSA) for Nokia RAN and would work through the TICSA approval process in due course with other RAN vendors, prior to any deployment of their equipment.”
Standalone v non-standalone
Non-standalone (NSA) 5G relies on the 4G evolved packet core and uses the existing 4G LTE network for control functions. Standalone 5G uses a new 5G packet core architecture and does not require a pre-existing LTE network It is expected to have lower cost, better efficiency, and to assist development of new use cases.
The packet core performs central processing functions that authenticate user devices, provide real-time charging for services, and connect users to other networks such as the internet, fixed phones, or other mobile networks
Some operators and vendors have criticised prioritising the introduction of 5G NR NSA on the grounds that it could hinder the implementation of the standalone mode of the network.