The government of Argentina has called off its planned auction of mobile spectrum and has instead awarded the frequencies to state-owned satellite and telecoms operator Arsat, according to a statement by Planning Minister Julio De Vido. America Movil-owned Claro Argentina, Telecom Personal (the mobile arm of fixed line incumbent Telecom Argentina), Nextel Argentina, Multitrunk, Vietnam’s Viettel and Superfone, the ISP arm of local cable TV company Supercanal, all submitted bids for the 3G spectrum, but only Claro met the financial requirements of the tender, De Vido said. The government has decided to hand the spectrum to Arsat, however, on the grounds that awarding the frequencies to Claro would give the operator an unfair advantage in the market and create a virtual monopoly. According to the minister, Arsat will operate 25% of the country’s 3G frequencies and could use them in partnership with small- and medium-sized companies and local cooperatives to provide services in rural areas. The state-owned firm provides broadband and digital TV mainly in rural and underserved parts of the country, and also oversees the deployment of the government’s ‘Argentina Conectada’ national fibre-optic network project.