Argentina round-up: SeCom publishes draft MVNO legislation as part of long-awaited overhaul; Clarin could throw spanner in 4G works

30 Oct 2014

Argentina’s Secretaria de Comunicaciones (SeCom) has published resolution 68/2014, effectively laying down the rules and procedures for the provision of services by mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs). The entry of MVNOs has been planned since the turn of the century, with the watchdog preparing decree 764/2000, which laid the foundations for market liberalisation, but never passed into law. The new regulations will come into effect following the conclusion of tomorrow’s (31 October) multi-band spectrum auction (see below). According to the regulator, mobile network operators (MNOs) will be expected to prepare reference offers for would-be MVNOs, setting out reasonable economic and technical conditions. Further, MNOs will be obliged to make available up to 5% of their respective network capacities to accommodate virtual operators.

According to SeCom, the MVNO resolution forms part of a wider regulatory overhaul, which will see the long-awaited introduction of the ‘Digital Argentina’ bill. The draft document, which was unveiled earlier this week by a number of government officials, provides for the creation of a national single licence for ICT services, and also includes clauses regarding mandatory minimum transmission speeds, and technological convergence. Somewhat surprisingly, the basic legal framework for the provision of telecoms services in Argentina is still dictated by the National Telecommunications Law (No. 19,798) of 1972, a document that is more than 40 years old.

Meanwhile, according to online business journal Cronista, Argentine media giant Grupo Clarin is considering filing an eleventh-hour injunction to prevent SeCom’s 3G/4G spectrum auction from taking place on 31 October. The media group – which remains at loggerheads with the authorities over its long-running separation plans – has reportedly alleged that some of the prequalified companies – Claro Argentina, Telecom Personal and Telefonica Moviles (Movistar), alongside media conglomerate Arlink – should have been disqualified for failing to meet certain terms set out in the bidding rules, including guarantees. It also argues that the requirement that guarantees be deposited in US dollars discriminates against local companies facing foreign exchange controls. Clarin originally intended to lodge a bid for frequencies via its Cablevision unit.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, SeCom is offering national 4G LTE spectrum in the 700MHz and 1700MHz/2100MHz (AWS) frequency bands, as well as surplus regional 3G spectrum in the 850MHz (SRMC) and 1900MHz (PCS) ranges. Winning bidders of the 4G spectrum will be required to provide coverage of all localities with more than 500 inhabitants (around 98% of the population) within five years, with the licences valid for a period of 15 years.