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Authorities push back LTE auction again, now slated for December

21 Aug 2012

The Ministry of Information Technology and Communication in Colombia and the country’s spectrum agency (Agencia Nacional del Espectro, or ANE) have once again postponed the planned auction of spectrum licences suitable for the provision of Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in the country. RCRWireless reports that the latest delay was revealed by officials at the International Spectrum Congress this week via a document titled ‘4G Auction Analysis’, which set forth its new auction deadline and responded to criticism from operators and senators. Under the latest plan, the 4G spectrum auction will now take place in December, with the ministry accepting comments from companies interested in participating in the tender until 24 August. The auction draft will be published in the first week of September, it said.

The government hopes the spectrum auction will, amongst other things, encourage a new player to enter the domestic mobile market, but its plans have been derailed once already this year. In July the 4G auction, previously slated for June, was pushed back to 5 September – although no reason was given for the postponement. 225MHz of spectrum is up for grabs this year, with the government hoping to auction between four and six new licences under an ultimate goal to auction 300MHz of spectrum by 2014. According to the 4G Auction Analysis paper, the first sub-band is from 1710MHz-1755MHz, paired with 2110MHz-2155MHz; the second sub-band is comprised of 2525MHz-2570MHz, paired with 2645MHz-2690MHz (for FDD allocations), and 2575MHz-2615MHz (for TDD allocations free of guard bands). The third sub-band is 1865MHz-1867.5MHz, paired with 1945MHz-1947.5MHz.

The document also sets forth the general terms and conditions for the auction process, including coverage requirements, national roaming and the plans in place to encourage a new market entrant to enter the fray. The 700MHz band (the so-called ‘digital dividend’) was also mentioned in the document, with the government hinting at the possibility of auctioning 90MHz of spectrum in the 700MHz band by 2013. However, it noted that this spectrum is not currently available.

The government document notes that the primary purpose of the LTE auction is to drive internet uptake in the country. As such, officials argue that it is necessary to allocate more bandwidth for 3G and 4G/LTE services, as under the its ‘Vive Digital’ strategy plan, the government is targeting 3G services in all municipal capitals, with LTE coverage in at least half.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, at present the only operator offering 4G services is state-owned Une-EPM, which launched commercial service over its LTE network in June, though the trio of other operators – Claro Colombia (previously known as Comcel), Movistar Colombia and Tigo Colombia – are all interested in acquiring 4G spectrum. Also expected to weigh-in for the concessions are Chile’s Entel, NII Holdings, DirecTV and International Communications Network.

Colombia, Ministerio de Tecnologias (MinTIC)

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