Chile’s Minister of Transport and Telecommunications, Andres Gomez-Lobo has confirmed that Claro, Movistar and Entel will soon be able to begin using the 700MHz band frequencies that the trio won at auction in early 2014, Signals Telecom writes. The process of allocating the spectrum was delayed by the need for the Comptroller General to approve the trio’s concessions. The auction has been a bone of contention between the regulator and incumbent operators and would-be providers, with the latter arguing that the terms of the auction in 2014 prevented smaller operators from taking part, limiting competition. Further, opponents have argued that the allocation is illegal, as it will allow the operator to exceed the 60MHz spectrum cap set by the Supreme Court in 2009. Indeed, as noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, consumer rights group the National Corporation for Consumers and Users (Conadecus, Corporacion Nacional de Consumidores y Usuarios) took up the case and has sought for the allocation to be overturned. Most recently, Conadecus brought the matter to the Supreme Court earlier this month, after the case was thrown out by anti-trust tribunal, the Court of Defence of Free Competition (TDLC, Tribunal de Defensa de la Libre Competencia).
Entel, Movistar and Claro have been chomping at the bit to begin using the 700MHz spectrum, which will allow them to provide Long Term Evolution (LTE) service to large areas far more efficiently than the 2600MHz frequencies currently in use. As part of the award of the spectrum, the trio pledged to roll out coverage to unserved and underserved rural areas, and the official confirmed that the operators will have 18 months to meet these coverage requirements, from the date of the publication of the decree in the Official Journal.