There's more bad news for Huawei.

While the Chinese giant has got some PR points from Spark's closed Team NZ trial, the Kiwi telco continues to push forward with alternatives for its real-world 5G roll-out.

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This morning, Spark named Finnish company Nokia Networks as its radio area network (RAN) partner as it expands its 5G fixed wireless trial from Alexandra to five more (as yet un-named) South Island towns by Christmas, then other (also un-named) "heartland locations" from March 2020.


Spark also confirmed rumours that it is assessing gear from Korea's Samsung.

That means its three preferred RAN providers are now Nokia Networks (Vodafone's 4G and 5G incumbent), Samsung and Huawei - although Huawei remains in stasis. The GCSB blocked it from Spark's 5G upgrade in November, and Spark has yet to re-submit a 5G plan including the Chinese company.

Spark has also been assessing 5G core (or brains of the network) gear from US company Cisco and Sweden's Ericsson as part of its long-flagged "multi-vendor" strategy to hit its goal launching its first commercial 5G service by July 1 next year.

Huawei NZ deputy CEO Andrew Bowater told the Herald this morning, "Huawei and Spark have had a strong partnership over the last six years and we welcome the opportunity to continue that relationship into the future, delivering the best possible experience to Kiwi customers. Huawei has signed over 65 contracts to deliver 5G networks worldwide with at least 60 per cent of those being in Europe and including three of the four networks in the UK."

Earlier, Huawei voluntarily withdrew from the tender for 5G core services and said it was comfortable with its staff being barred from direct access to Spark's RAN, or for only a limited number of vetted staff to have access.

Full 5G rollouts would take years, Bowater said, providing a lot of scope for Huawei to still have extensive involvement.

Launch date in question

Spark also added a qualifier to its July 1 date for its first 5G service today, saying its mid 2020 deadline was "subject to spectrum being made available by the Government."

Vodafone NZ - which plans to launch 5G across 100 sites in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Queenstown in December - is the only local telco with substantial 5G spectrum today.


For its Alexandra trial, Spark is using some of its own spectrum, plus some from UK company Dense Air.

In November last year, Dense Air paid $25.7m to buy rights through to 2028 for 70MHz of 2.5GHz spectrum controlled by Blue Reach Wireless - a vehicle for rich lister and CallPlus founder Malcolm Dick.

The Government's 5G auction is being held up by an unresolved Treaty of Waitangi claim.

However, MBIE recently said it is investigating the possibility of temporary 5G licences - a stop-gap move welcomed by Spark and 2degrees.