Movistar wins extra 1900MHz spectrum, ups investment to USD535m, delays LTE to 2014

24 Sep 2012

Movistar Venezuela, part of the Telefonica group, has announced that the country’s telecoms regulator, the Comision Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Conatel) has awarded it an additional allocation of 20MHz of frequencies in the 1900MHz band. Movistar’s chairman, Michael Duncan, welcomed the award by saying: ‘With the award of this new portion of spectrum, we can now ensure that the company strengthens its position as the leading provider of voice and data over 3G HSPA networks in Venezuela’, adding that the company will continue to optimise its services, while also continuing to work with the regulator to define standards of fourth-generation Long Term Evolution (LTE) networks. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that Movistar operates 3.5G HSPA-based services in over 150 areas of Venezuela using 1900MHz band spectrum, while it has lobbied the regulator to accelerate the process of allocation of new spectrum in the 700MHz band for comprehensive rollout of LTE infrastructure, and announced that it had reached its second phase of 4G pilot network testing earlier this month. Movistar previously revealed an aim of introducing LTE by the end of 2012, but with no final decision from the regulator on 4G frequency licensing forthcoming, chairman Duncan indicated that the Spanish-owned cellco will not deploy LTE until 2014.

In June 2012 CommsUpdate reported that Movistar Venezuela and both its cellular rivals, Movilnet and Digitel, responded to Conatel’s tender for 1700MHz, 1800MHz and 1900MHz spectrum split into three blocks: 1930MHz-1940MHz paired with 1850MHz-1860MHz (2×10MHz); 1945MHz-1955MHz paired with 1865MHz-1875MHz (2×10MHz); and 1810MHz-1825MHz paired with 1715MHz-1730MHz (2×15MHz). Although neither Movilnet or Digitel have yet been confirmed as winning a new licence, the auction should result in all three national operators receiving spectrum needed for expanding and upgrading their mobile broadband services nationwide. The trio have all deployed HSPA-based networks in cities across the country, whilst Digitel holds ambitions to utilise 1800MHz band frequencies in the near future to roll out LTE services, according to TeleGeography.

Alongside the announcement of its new frequency award, Movistar Venezuela said that it has increased its 2012 infrastructure investment budget to VEF2.3 billion (USD535 million), mainly to expand capacity of its 3G+ network, by installing 230 new cell sites and upgrading 860 additional base stations nationwide by the end of this year, which will near-double its data network capacity. In the next three years Movistar expects to invest a total of VEF10 billion, including spending on LTE development.