Uruguayan state-owned telco Administracion Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Antel) has been ordered by a court to give up wireless frequencies in the 900MHz band which it currently uses for its ‘Ruralcel’ wireless in the local loop (WiLL) telephony service, following complaints from mobile operators wishing to use the frequencies for cellular services. According to NextWireless Latam, the Contentious Administrative Court ruled that Antel must return its 900MHz spectrum to the telecoms regulator Unidad Reguladora de Serviocios de Comunicaciones (URSEC), because its possession of the frequencies for fixed-wireless services in the interior of the country ‘jeopardises equality and free concurrence principles’ while ‘there are [mobile] operators in the market interested in exploiting the same band.’ The decision followed an objection lodged by Spanish group Telefonica’s local cellular unit Movistar Uruguay, the country’s second largest cellco by users, which had expressed interest in the 900MHz band, although the frequencies went to Antel in 2005. The president of Antel, Carolina Cosse, indicated that the telco would comply with the court’s order and that customers would not be affected, stating: ‘We will work with the regulator URSEC [or] with whom it may concern to make users completely indifferent to the compliance of such ruling.’
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that in April 2007 Antel announced it would be phasing out Ruralcel’s legacy TDMA-based WiLL network, replacing it with GSM-based infrastructure by the end of 2009. Modernisation in the areas around Montevideo was completed in October 2008, with 18,000 TDMA WiLL connections replaced with fixed-wireless GSM lines and some fixed copper pairs.
Mobile networks in Uruguay do not currently use the 900MHz band. Antel’s cellular subsidiary Ancel is the market leader and offers GSM services in the 1800MHz band since April 2004. Nearest rival Movistar launched GSM services in late-2005 in the 850MHz and 1900MHz bands. Like Movistar, the market’s third largest player, Claro Uruguay, has expressed its disagreement with the lack of firm regulation surrounding spectrum allocation and ‘discrimination’ in favour of state-run companies. Claro, a subsidiary of Mexico’s America Movil, launched its GSM-1800 network in late-2004.