Maori wait on radio spectrum decision

TOM PULLAR-STRECKER
Last updated 05:00 05/02/2013

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Maori may find out today or tomorrow whether they will get a share of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of radio spectrum freed up by the closure of analogue television.

Maori spectrum claimant Graeme Everton said he understood the issue was discussed at a Cabinet meeting yesterday.

Maori could reactivate a Waitangi Tribunal claim for the spectrum at any time if they were not given an allocation, he said.

The spectrum, which will be freed up nationwide in November when the last analogue television signals cease, will be vital for the widespread deployment of 4G mobile services, though both Vodafone and Telecom are believed close to launching some 4G services.

Allocating a chunk of the spectrum to Maori could enable the Government to set a respectable reserve price of several hundred million dollars for the spectrum at auction while still ensuring loss-making 2degrees would be able to compete with Vodafone and Telecom in the 4G market.

That plan would assume Maori would pool their spectrum with 2degrees in return for an increased shareholding in the company, as they did when they secured a chunk of 3G spectrum in 2001.

Everton said the claimants would not want to "tip their hand" and it was not a given that Maori would choose to partner with 2degrees this time around.

"If Maori were to get an allocation, we would be looking to place that in partnership with the telco that provided the best opportunity to Maori. There is an assumption, obviously, that 2degrees has the lead in on this, but equally Vodafone and Telecom could come back with a viable opportunity."

He criticised a decision by the Maori Huataki Trust to sell down some of its existing 10 per cent shareholding in 2degrees to iwi. The trust is reportedly selling down its stake to enable it to repay a $2.6 million loan from 2degrees that it used to participate in a 2011 rights issue.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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