The Spinoff published my article today. Next year it will be 20 years since the Waitangi Tribunal ruled in favour of Maori ownership of radio spectrum, Wai 776. Back then making a phone call was the primary use of a cellphone, 20 years on the next generation of mobile technology called 5G is coming and will bring significant changes and opportunities. Not only will we see faster speeds and greater bandwidth but it will be used to guide autonomous cars, connect billions of devices and sensors and of course still make a call but it will be a hologram call, kanohi ki te kanohi.
The Crown has acknowledged their will be Iwi interests to consider, and this is welcome news, but what has raised my interest is that our nations telcos have remained mute on acknowledging Maori prior interests in spectrum, instead telling the Government to hurry up and sell them the spectrum so they can get on and build their networks, with one even passionately defending an equipment suppler who is currently under international scrutiny for security issues. 20 years ago, actually even up to five years ago, the telcos pushed the idea that Maori deserved money but not spectrum. This can't happen again. 5G is a fundamental change to mobile technology and it will mark a whole new range of business opportunities that Maori must be at the front of. And we know what can happen if Maori have a stake in the game, you just need to look at the fishing industry to see how well it can turnout. We can create the opportunities for ourselves and we need to, especially in a world where technology industries are changing the nature of work,
I would hope our telcos have moved on and no longer see Maori ownership of resources like spectrum as detrimental but as a great sign that we are maturing as a country. Our past is littered with resource confiscations but our future can be different if our corporates, the telcos, are at the table acknowledging Maori rights and contributing to solutions that work more broadly rather than an elite few.