WELLINGTON - The first allocation of 5G spectrum will be the 3.5 GHz band, with national rights to this portion of the spectrum expected to be auctioned early in 2020, New Zealand Minister of Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Kris Faafoi said on Thursday.

“We are on track and keeping pace with other countries: with the spectrum being progressively allocated, companies can start rolling out 5G from 2020,” Faafoi said in a statement. National spectrum rights in the 3.5 GHz band will be available to use from November 2022 when the existing rights in this band expire.

With the agreement of the existing rights holder, an operator may be able to use the rights earlier, Faafoi said.

Interested parties will be able to have their say on the auction process for the 3.5 GHz band through consultation, expected in the second half of 2019, he added. “Spectrum in this band will also be available to regional wireless broadband service providers,” the minister said, adding in the future, national spectrum rights will open the door to higher connection speeds and greater network capacity, while regional providers will be key to helping rural communities access higher quality wireless broadband. Allocation details of regional spectrum rights are expected to be announced later this year, he said.