Anti-trust agency cancels tower location contracts

3 May 2013

Ecuador’s anti-monopoly watchdog, the Superintendency for Control of Market Power, has suspended around 2,000 exclusive contracts used by mobile operators to gain access to network tower sites. The country’s two private sector cellcos, America Movil unit Conecel (Claro) and Telefonica subsidiary Movistar Ecuador, will be forced to renegotiate the agreements in order to grant competitors – including the third cellular market participant, state-owned Corporacion Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (CNT) – access to the private and public land where their towers are located, said Pedro Paez, head of the anti-trust agency, quoted by Bloomberg. Affected companies can appeal the decision on a case-by-case basis, he told reporters in Quito, adding that the aim of the move is to increase competition and improve access ‘for smaller companies’ – clearly referring to CNT. The ruling ‘suspends exclusivity in contracts, because they are against the law, in the distribution of certain specific geographic points that will allow the installation of antennas and other devices, with the purpose of improving the national coverage of all operators.’

TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that with only a tiny niche carved out in the mobile sector so far – serving just 2% of subscribers – CNT is determined to grab a bigger slice of the lucrative market; having belatedly joined its two bigger rivals in the W-CDMA/HSPA+ segment during 2012 the state-owned firm appeared to receive a helping hand from the regulator in December that year with the award of an exclusive 4G frequency licence. The following month CNT announced plans to be the first in the country to roll out LTE services, revealing it was investing USD30 million in its LTE launch. There has been no indication so far that Conecel or Movistar have been allocated 4G frequencies.