Fresh from its takeover of both Iusacell and Nextel in Mexico, reports have emerged suggesting that US telecoms giant AT&T Inc is planning to enter the Colombian mobile market. Business website Portafolio.co has reported that Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of the company’s AT&T Mobile & Business Solutions unit, is scheduled to visit the country in June to stage talks regarding the US firm’s Latin American expansion plans.
The Cuban-born executive has held various executive positions, including COO of Cingular Wireless and president of BellSouth Latin America. While at Cingular Wireless, Mr de la Vega was responsible for the integration of AT&T Wireless and Cingular Wireless, following the largest all-cash merger in US history at the time. As president of BellSouth Latin America, he was responsible for wireless operations in a number of countries and his background and involvement has sparked speculation that AT&T may now bid for at least one of Colombia’s smaller players, mirroring its recent tactics in Mexico.
The report adds that AT&T is expected to bid for 700MHz spectrum in the government’s planned frequency auction later this year; the company launched its 700MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the US in September 2011. Colombia’s National Spectrum Agency – Agencia Nacional del Espectro (ANE) – stated last week that the 700MHz frequency band will be cleared for 4G cellular network usage by the end of August ahead of an auction of 90MHz in the band later in the year alongside additional frequencies in the 900MHz, 1900MHz and 2600MHz ranges. Colombian cellcos currently operate 4G LTE services using the 1700MHz/2100MHz (AWS) and 2600MHz bands.
TeleGeography notes that AT&T is currently awaiting regulatory approval to complete its takeover of DirecTV, the US satellite-TV operator with considerable assets across Latin America. Interestingly, DirecTV’s current management team has launched Time Division-LTE (TD-LTE) fixed-wireless technology using 2500MHz spectrum via Sky Brasil, DirecTV Argentina and DirecTV Colombia, with plans afoot to initiate similar deployments in Venezuela and Peru.