Cooperatives pass first hurdle for mobile launch

10 Jul 2007

BNamericas reports that Argentina’s telecoms regulator Comisión Nacional de Comunicaciones (CNC) has given the country’s telecoms cooperatives permission to launch mobile operations, on the proviso that they can obtain spectrum. Cooperatives Fecotel and Fecosur are currently waiting for a decision by the telecoms ministry SeCom regarding the spectrum that Movistar is obliged to return. The cellco, a unit of Spain’s Telefónica must return 35MHz of spectrum because it exceeded the 50MHz maximum allocation when Telefónica merged its Argentine mobile operation with BellSouth Argentina in 2005. However, it is possible there will be pressure from the two other established mobile operators, CTI Móvil, a subsidiary of Carlos Slim’s América Móvil, and Personal, the cellular unit of fixed line incumbent Telecom Argentina, to call for a fresh auction of the spectrum. These two operators are interested in the spectrum so that they can launch 3G services, and would easily outbid the cooperatives if the government opts for an auction. The cooperatives believe each of the 700,000 homes they currently serve would sign up for three mobile lines, meaning they could eventually attract around two million users. If they were to receive Movistar’s spectrum they expect it will take no longer than 90 days to build the necessary infrastructure and launch services. However, government figures from May suggest that mobile penetration in Argentina is already at 89%, which raises doubts about the degree of success the cooperatives can expect.