Strike threats, protests and union opposition: a warm welcome for América Móvil

25 Nov 2004

Union officials for Sutel, the body representing employees of state-controlled national telco Antel, are calling on the membership to hold a three-day strike to protest the arrival of new competition in the shape of pan-regional operator América Móvil. Sutel president Héctor Boffano justified the action on the grounds that by licensing new competition, the state has contravened a 1992 plebiscite which determined that no new wireless spectrum would be put into use – thus guaranteeing Antel’s monopoly on the provision of mobile services. However, the government is interpreting the ruling differently, arguing that, as Movicom has been operating a rival wireless network in Uruguay since 1992, there is no monopoly to protect. The case continues.

The Uruguayan mobile market looked set to be opened up in May this year following the sale of five new wireless licences to two of Latin America’s largest mobile groups. At the time the Regulator Unidad Reguladora de los Servicios de Comunicaciones (URSEC) beat its own expectations by raising USD30.12 million from the sale of three licences to Mexican-based América Móvil and two concessions to Spain’s Telefónica Móviles (TEM). Four of the licences were for 1900MHz spectrum, with TEM also obtaining a block in the 1800MHz frequency. One further licence was unsold.