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Planning needed for 5G mobile network

NZN 28/03/2017 Paul McBeth

New Zealand policymakers in the process of making it easier for fibre firms to access certain properties in the roll-out of the ultrafast broadband network need to start thinking about how to remove roadblocks from the looming build of a fifth-generation mobile backbone needed for more machine-to-machine interaction.

Vodafone New Zealand chief executive Russell Stanners told a Telecommunications Carriers Forum conference in Wellington that 5G technology will start coming on stream in a broader commercial sense from 2020.

It will be a "great complement" to the existing fibre networks by increasing speeds and reducing latency which will underpin the 'Internet of Things', where devices interact with each other independent of a human.

The country's second largest broadband provider and its biggest mobile carrier already has one million devices operating on its network and wants 50 million in the next decade.

However that will require better and cheaper devices with longer battery life and more apps running on the system, Mr Stanners said.

That will also need a big roll-out of small antennae, roughly the size of a wifi unit, for that seamless transition on a user's device between 5G and fixed-line networks, which Mr Stanners estimated would be a factor of 10 times.

"They're not to be worried because they're very small, but it does say we probably need to do a lot of work with our government partners about the planning and approval processes," Mr Stanners said.

"Because if we're going through what we do today, to get that level of increase of sites in place means it probably won't be 2020 but another century later."

The government has already faced similar issues in the UFB roll-out with shared driveways and multi-unit dwellings posing problems for fibre companies who needed permission from every party before being able to install a new connection, holding up the process for some customers.

Fibre company Enable chief executive Steve Fuller told the TCF conference 5G is "absolutely critical for New Zealand" in becoming a more connected society.

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