The government has confirmed the first auction of 5G spectrum with be the 3.5 GHz band and will be held early in 2020.

"We are on track and keeping pace with other countries: with the spectrum being progressively allocated, companies can start rolling out 5G from 2020," Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media Minister Kris Faafoi said in a statement.

"While spectrum allocations occur, we will concurrently be working with Maori to address the radio spectrum-related Treaty of Waitangi issues," Faafoi says.

"Until this work has been completed, we will not be able to provide details of the 3.5 GHz spectrum that will be available for auction," he says.

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National spectrum rights in the 3.5 GHz band will be available to use from November 2022 when the existing rights to this spectrum expire, although an operator might be able to use its rights earlier with the agreement of the existing rights holder.

"Spectrum in this band will also be available to regional wireless broadband service providers. In the future, national spectrum rights will open the door to higher connection speeds and greater network capacity," Faafoi says.

He expects to announce allocation details of regional spectrum rights later this year.

"The government's next priority is allocation of other segments of the spectrum for 5G in the millimetre wave bands and details on that will be shared later this year," Faafoi says.

Phone company Spark New Zealand wants to be a front-runner in rolling out 5G. Earlier this month it said the government needs to keep its next radio spectrum auction on schedule if it is to have its 5G network up and running by July 2020.

Spark says 5G will enhance the prospect of wireless broadband grabbing market share – it is already taking on telephone lines company Chorus by bypassing its copper and fibre networks to deliver wireless broadband.

Spark wants to have its 5G mobile network up and running in time for Emirates Team New Zealand to use it as part of its preparation to defend the 2021 America's Cup.