Access Alert | LATAM countries continue to promote connectivity

Access Alert | LATAM countries continue to promote connectivity

This week, three LATAM markets – Costa Rica, Peru, and Uruguay – have had relevant policy and market developments that evidence, once more, both the region’s commitment to connectivity and the increased awareness of closing the digital gap and fostering economic development.

Peru to follow regional best practices for 4G coverage increase

The Ministry for Transport and Communications of Peru just published an open consultation on a Ministerial Resolution that seeks to increase the cap of the Infrastructure Expansion or Technology Improvement Coefficient. The updated rules would allow spectrum licence holders to pay up to 60% of the annual licence fee by means of connectivity projects that involve either an increase in coverage or an upgrade in the technologies used (currently, it is up to 40%). The draft regulation recognises the enormous benefits derived from the application of such a Coefficient but acknowledges that there is a need for more base stations so that most inhabitants can access mobile broadband before 2030, which according to the telecoms regulator – OSIPTEL – has a deficit of around 57% base stations nationwide.

The consultation is open until 14 April. Comments can be sent to [email protected].

5G on sight

As featured here, 2023 continues to be a pivotal year for spectrum in Latin America. On 30 March, President Lacalle granted approval for the Uruguayan Communications Services regulator – URSEC – to stage the spectrum auction in the 3.5 GHz band in 30 days. Amid discussions as per the rules of the auction, the obligations, and the cost of spectrum, the country finally has an official process in place. As such, the main considerations of the process include:

  • A base price for each 100 MHz block of USD 28 million in the segments of 3,300-3,400 MHz and 3,600-3,800 MHz. The 3,600-3,700 MHz block is reserved for ANTEL.
  • Licence for up to 25 years.
  • Cash payments are to be made in four instalments after the award of the permit: 25% after 30 days, 50% after 12 months, 12.5% after 24 months, and 12.5% after 36 months.
  • Open for incumbent players and new entrants with demonstrated experience in IMT services in the Americas or Europe.
  • Obligation to release any unused spectrum.
  • Minimum coverage obligations of 70 base stations during the first year of the permit, 20 base stations (outside Montevideo) during the second year of the permit, and two base stations in each of the country’s 19 departments during the third year of the permit.
  • Protection against interference for aeronautical services in Carrasco International Airport.

Costa Rica leads the way in 5G private networks

The government-run electricity and telecommunications services provider ICE has published the terms of reference for contracting the infrastructure needed to deploy 5G private networks on the Caribbean island. The services are to be provided by RACSA using the 3,500 MHz frequencies allocated to ICE.

According to ICE’s president, Mauricio Barrantes, the services will be mainly offered to the logistics, Government, agriculture, entertainment, transportation, and industry segments. They are expected to be fully commercial by 2024, with some services to be offered by the end of 2023. In addition, the country seeks to foster the development of emerging technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, robotics, and augmented reality, among others.

As per the requisites of the process, ICE favours a 5G Stand Alone network according to 3GPP’s specification TS 23.501 (Rel 17), considering at least four deployment scenarios. In terms of the security of the network, all interested parties have to comply with 3GPP’s specification TS 33.501 (Rel 17) in regard to securing the access network, network domain, user domain, application domain, and Architecture Based Service domain. Quotes can be sent through SICOP until 14 April.

What it means for LATAM

Latin American countries do not want to leave the connectivity conversation for later. As seen, Uruguay and Costa Rica are trying to secure timely 5G rollouts and remain as competitive, attractive regional markets. Should Uruguay succeed with the process, it would represent the third successful auction of the 3.5 GHz band in LATAM, following successes in Brazil and Chile. Despite recent scrutiny over the rules and conditions for participation, it seems likely that Uruguay will soon have fully commercial 5G services, establishing itself as another reference case regionally.

Speaking of 5G services, questions about the most suitable use cases that can be developed regionally seem to find answers due to Costa Rica and its commitment to private networks. If the process goes according to the terms of reference, the region could have first-hand experience in terms of 5G private networks under a Stand Alone setup.

On the other hand, Peru follows the example of its neighbours Ecuador and Colombia in continuing to foster an approach that promotes increased mobile coverage across the country regarding the collection of spectrum fees. Therefore, by bringing financial and legal certainty, increased investment in infrastructure can be expected to reduce both the digital gap and base station deficit across the country.

Access Partnership closely monitors tech, regulation, and policy developments in Latin America. For more information, please contact Geusseppe Gonzalez at [email protected], Paula Rabacov at [email protected], Yamel Sarquis at [email protected], and Rodrigo Serrallonga at [email protected].

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