At the recent WISPA (Wireless Internet Service Providers Association) conference there was some debate over the new 5G technology and how it will fit in with what the Wireless ISPs or WISPs offer.

At the moment the mobile operators are well into their advertising campaigns on what 5G is and how it will improve our lives with things like connected robots, driverless cars, remote surgery, medical training with virtual reality and virtual retail outlets, to mention only a few.

5G offers low latency and high speeds so it’ll be well used when it does arrive. While 5G will be great in urban areas where high utilization will be serviced by an increased number of towers, rural areas are not likely to have significant service for some time, if at all. The mobile operators have created some hype about 5G and as a result they seem to be asking that some of the spectrum currently used by WISPs be reallocated to them. There is already a crisis in the rural sector regarding internet connectivity so why remove spectrum from those who utilize it so well?

The last time this happened, part of the spectrum the mobile operators argued for was left unused, what a waste!
With numbers above 70,000 and growing steadily, new customers are joining WISP networks on a daily basis. Literally thousands of homes, farms and businesses are currently being serviced by WISPs using licensed and unlicensed spectrum. From the initial enquiry to the installation at the customer premises these small operators are very agile in engaging with their customer base. An internet connection can take a matter of days or even less if there is line of site to a tower. The large telcos can’t respond in that manner, even if they did have network in the area and for the vast majority of rural areas, they simply don’t.

With this type of customer care, reliable networks with local knowledge along with experience and expertise in all things wireless, the WISPs are far better placed to service rural NZ.

That’s not to say that the mobile operators and the WISPs can’t have a common goal and share the spectrum fairly as it is “our” spectrum or the spectrum of NZ.

Whatever happens, WISPs need to be at the table when spectrum is being discussed by the government and the mobile operators. The spectrum needs to be looked at fairly and sliced up according to current needs as well as future needs.

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