Telecom delays 4G trials to 2013

Last updated 14:49 06/12/2012

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Telecom has pushed back customer trials of 4G technology until mid-February but says internal tests of the technology will begin tomorrow. 

The company said cell sites on Auckland's North Shore and in Lower Hutt had been upgraded to 4G using radio spectrum that Telecom owns in the 2.6GHz band.

It said in May that it would give hundreds of consumers and at least four big businesses - Mitre 10, KiwiRail, Mainzeal and supermarket group Countdown - their first taste of 4G technology this year.

Telecom said technology partner Alcatel-Lucent would conduct a 4G trial in Hawke's Bay using 700MHz spectrum that will be freed up nationwide following the closure of analogue television in December next year.

Because of the propagation characteristics of lower-frequency spectrum, the 700MHz "digital dividend" spectrum will be central to the large-scale deployment of 4G, particularly in rural areas.  

Communications Minister Amy Adams appeared to signal further a possible delay to the 700MHz allocation process in the wake of a Waitangi Tribunal claim for the spectrum by Maori. 

Adams said in a speech to InternetNZ's NetHui last month that the spectrum was on track to be allocated by the time of the analogue switch-off. Adams had previously indicated that was likely to happen by the end of March.

Vodafone boss Russell Stanners has warned that if the spectrum is not allocated by April it could delay the deployment of large-scale 4G networks.

Telecom mobile manager Ed Hyde said the decision to wait until February to test 4G technology with customers was a pragmatic one.  

"We wanted the customer trial to last at least six weeks continuously, as we expect the trial to be with a mixture of big businesses, public sector organisations, small businesses and consumers," he said.

"We decided that it simply wouldn't be practical to expect participants to complete these tasks over the Christmas break when many people travel away from home."

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