Recently, three LATAM markets – the Dominican Republic, Argentina, and Colombia – shared some relevant developments regarding the allocation of the spectrum needed for 5G networks. As a result, the region continues to progress towards the rollout of commercial 5G networks. This article presents a summary of the main facts to consider and the key dates to mark in the calendar.
According to Indotel, the telecommunications regulator, the rules for the allocation of spectrum for 5G will be published on 20 September with the aim of allocating the spectrum as soon as March 2024. This would be the second allocation of spectrum compatible with 5G after the successful auction in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands in 2021.
As part of the process, the Dominican regulator has also asked for contributions from interested parties to be sent to the email email@example.com by 7 September. Some key aspects to consider are:
- Frequency bands to be offered: 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz, 3.6 GHz.
- Spectrum cap of 100 MHz for the 3.6 GHz band.
- Spectrum cap of 72 MHz for sub-GHz bands.
- Spectrum cap of 264 MHz for mid bands (1 GHz to 3 GHz).
- Spectrum cap of 160 MHz for mid-high bands (3 GHz to 6 GHz).
- Participation fee USD 10,000.
- Winners can pay up to 40% of the licence fees through coverage projects.
- All spectrum winners must commit to an expansion plan with different due dates according to each band.
- Licences will be offered for up to 20 years.
After some delays, and against the backdrop of a tumultuous political landscape, the Argentinian authorities have published the rules for the 5G-compatible spectrum auction. The rules have raised interest from different stakeholders as the total amount of available spectrum, the reserve price, the set-asides, and the length of the licences are now officially released.
In sum, the contest will offer a total of 300 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band split into three blocks of 100 MHz, although the rules defined a spectrum cap of 200 MHz. The nationwide licences will allow companies to exploit the radio frequencies for 20 years. Companies interested in such resources must send the required paperwork before 29 September and be able to demonstrate experience and financial capacity, as the base price for each block is USD 350 million.
As part of the rules, the Argentinian telco Arsat was allocated 100 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band (TDD) and has to comply with a coverage expansion plan.
The Andean country shared the first of two sets of rules for the upcoming spectrum auction, involving frequencies for 4G and 5G. After several announcements from the authorities, the first draft of the rules defined the basic conditions for participation, the spectrum to be offered, the auction structure and mechanisms, and the procedures for protecting radionavigation and Band C operations in the country. The spectrum to be offered is as follows:
- 10 MHz in the 700 MHz band.
- 10 MHz in the 1900 MHz band.
- 30 MHz in the AWS-3 band.
- 30 MHz in the 2.5 GHz band.
- 320 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band.
Even though the 26 GHz band was initially included in the allocation plan, the Colombian authorities have expressed that there will be another auction next year including both the 1,200 MHz in the 26 GHz band and the remaining 80 MHz in the 3.5 GHz band as part of a regional auction. General conditions include a permit length of 20 years (renewable), the same spectrum caps updated in 2022, and the coordination with stations that operate in the adjacent segment of the 3.5 GHz band that operates next to the C band used for fixed satellite services.
According to the authorities, the second part of the rules is to be published on 1 September, with the final version of the rules (part 1 + 2) to be published as soon as 17 October, keeping the auction date on 20 December. No details regarding the reserve price, the obligations, the structure of the coverage plans, or guarantees have been shared.
What it means for 5G and connectivity in LATAM
As presented, the region continues to promote the allocation of spectrum for IMT networks. However, there is still uncertainty over possible changes to the rules (particularly for Colombia and Argentina), possible measures associated with competition, the structure of the obligations, and the timeline for the rollouts. If the timelines shared by the authorities are to be met, 2024 will involve strong investment in network infrastructure as part of the coverage obligations and the expected competition to win 5G users in countries such as Argentina and Colombia, where no 5G offerings are in place.
Should all the contests go according to plan, connectivity in Latin America will increase substantially over the next couple of years due to increased focus from the authorities on rural and remote areas while urban areas organically migrate to 5G networks.
Access Partnership closely monitors tech, regulation, and policy developments in Latin-America. For more information please contact: Geusseppe Gonzalez at Geusseppe.firstname.lastname@example.org, Rodrigo Serrallonga at email@example.com, or Melissa Gonzalez at Melissa.firstname.lastname@example.org.