ICE thaw opens up wireless sector

9 Nov 2011

Mexico’s America Movil and Spain’s Telefonica have begun offering wireless services in Costa Rica this week, under the Claro and Movistar brands respectively. The commercial launch of the two networks marks the end of state-owned ICE Celular’s monopoly on the mobile sector, although the market had been partially liberalised prior to the arrival of Movistar and Claro, with two alternative providers using ICE’s infrastructure under mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) agreements. Movistar is offering a range of post- and pre-paid plans, with an additional data plan available for post-paid subscribers offering download speeds of up to 1Mbps. Claro’s network has also been activated, but will not be commercially available until Friday, according to local news source Inside Costa Rica. Meanwhile, the telcos have released details of their network coverage: both companies cover the greater metropolitan area of San Jose, Movistar’s network was available along much of the west coast, and along most main roads whilst the Mexican-backed cellco covered a much smaller area, concentrating on major urban centres. Ricardo Taylor, the president of Claro Costa Rica, claimed that his company is erecting between 20 and 25 towers daily to strengthen coverage in cities and on highways.

Teething problems are expected, however, and acquiring permits to construct infrastructure has been a problem for both market entrants from the outset. New problems such as interconnection failure have also been reported and the operators are attributing the fault to a technical glitch.