Apr 12, 2021


Maori News & Indigenous Views

Maori leave 4G cash on table – Dominion

3 min read

Maori who have staked a Waitangi Tribunal claim to radio spectrum that is due to be auctioned by the Government next year say they are unlikely to instead settle for a share of the cash proceeds, which are expected to total more than $100m.

Telecommunications firms are sparring over how the 700MHz spectrum vital for the launch of next-generation 4G mobile networks should be divided up.

Vodafone chief executive Russell Stanners said in July that it would be unfair for Maori to get any of the spectrum itself, as they already have a partnership with 2degrees, one of the firms that is expected to bid. He suggested that as an alternative, some of the proceeds of the auction could go to a fund that would support Maori involvement in information and communications technology.

Antony Royal, a trustee of Te Huarahi Tika, which is one of the parties to the Waitangi Tribunal claim, did not initially rule out the idea, but has now said it was not an option the trust was likely to pursue. “I think we would probably prefer to continue to play a part in the telecommunications industry.

“One can argue that having the dollars would allow you to do that, but I think we will continue to retain our interest in the spectrum. I am sure there is a solution under which Maori could get access to spectrum and continue to work not only with 2degrees but with the other telecommunications providers as well,” he said.

Te Huarahi Tika trust was given $5m and the right to buy a block of 3G spectrum at a 5 per cent discount to its market price in 2000, after a similar claim was upheld by the tribunal, but rejected by the Government. The spectrum became one of the founding assets of 2degrees, in which the trust holds a 10.2 per cent stake.

Communications Minister Steven Joyce has given a strong indication Maori will not be left empty-handed, telling Computerworld there was a “reasonably well-worn historic process around this stuff, which is that governments do see a role for iwi participation in spectrum both for Maori language purposes and development purposes”.

Royal said the telco industry had “moved on, and are not debating whether or not Maori have an interest, but in what form those interests should be”.

Telco firms were due to file submissions by Friday on an Economic Development Ministry proposal for auctioning the 45MHz of paired spectrum.

The ministry floated a proposal where the spectrum would be auctioned in 5MHz blocks, and that appeared designed to facilitate an outcome where the spectrum would either be equally divided between Vodafone, Telecom and 2degrees or apportioned in a 20MHz-15MHz-10MHz split. The proposal did not envisage Maori getting free or preferential access to any of the spectrum.

But sufficient spectrum for three viable 4G networks could still exist if, for example, Maori were given preferential access to 5MHz of the paired spectrum and provided that to 2degrees in return for a larger stake in the firm.

Royal said he personally liked the more radical approach of carriers sharing radio spectrum which would mean they would also need to share radio antennas on cellphone towers. He said that would allow for a more efficient use of the resource, a more robust shared network, and fewer, smaller cellphone towers. However, he acknowledged Joyce appeared to have ruled that out.

“I understand there are quite significant barriers. It would require the willingness of all the vendors to work together and that may be a bigger bite of the apple than perhaps the Government is prepared to take at this point.”

2degrees released a study on Wednesday that claimed the launch of its network had benefited the economy by $2.24 billion.

Spokesman Mathew Bolland acknowledged the report’s timing might not have been coincidental.

“The study was done because the business was two years old and we wanted to understand the impact it had had and clearly we have signalled that there are issues in the future that will have a bearing on how successful competition continues to be, and spectrum is clearly one of the most prominent ones at the moment.”


1 thought on “Maori leave 4G cash on table – Dominion

  1. I don’t think that Antony is the proper advocate for this issue as he has many conflicts and his views are for Maori but his outcomes for Maori seem to be miss-placed. He is intrenched in the Maori Party Nga Pua Waea, THRTT and 2Degrees. The Maori outcome performance of those groups is pathetic and Antony should come clean and admit he and his groups do not openly support the treaty claims.
    So lets get Graeme Everton at the head of these discussions before these other groups sell Maori rights off for the money.

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