Wireless auction delayed indefinitely

10 Feb 2010

Costa Rica’s long overdue mobile spectrum auction has been delayed because of an enquiry into a possible conflict of interest involving Irish operator Digicel, writes IHS Global Insight Perspective. The Costa Rican regulator Sutel has confirmed that the mobile spectrum auction for frequencies in the 850MHz, 1800MHz and 2100MHz bands will be late because of a possible conflict involving a local legal firm that has been working with the regulator as well one of the companies interested in the tender process. According to Business News Americas, George Miley, the head of Sutel, has confirmed that local legal firm BLP was hired by US consultancy TGM, which at the same time advised the regulator in drawing up the bidding rules, but had previously worked with Digicel, one of the operators that is planning to participate in the auction, when the company was registering its brand in the country several years ago. Miley said that the operator is under no legal obligation to stop the auction, but it felt that it would be in the best interests of transparency to call a halt while the attorney-general and comptroller carry out their probe.

It is not clear when Sutel will resume the auction process, as the enquiry could take up to 20 weeks, but it is thought very unlikely that the licences will be awarded by September 2010 as first expected.

Costa Rica, Grupo ICE, Grupo ICE (Kolbi)