Venezuelan state-owned cellco Movilnet, a division of national telco CANTV, has disclosed that it will not launch commercial 4G LTE services until December this year – or two years after receiving an LTE-suitable spectrum licence in December 2014 which originally carried the condition that services should be launched within twelve months. Movilnet previously revealed that it had deployed significant 4G-ready radio access infrastructure ahead of a launch scheduled for December 2015, but its announcements subsequently dried up, while Venezuela continues to experience deep economic woes, and telecoms operators suffer from an equipment and handset shortfall due to a lack of foreign currency. Although Movilnet’s private sector rivals Digitel and Movistar have already launched LTE services, in 2013 and 2015 respectively, subscriber take-up has been slow, restricted by limited volumes of imported 4G smartphones and other devices.
TeleSemana and other Latin American news sites quoted the president of Movilnet, Jaqueline Farias, announcing the December 2016 launch target date during an event titled ‘Entrepreneurship In The ICT Sector And Its Social Impact’ held in Caracas on 17 May under the banner of World Telecommunication & Information Society Day. Movilnet previously said it was deploying an initial 600 LTE base stations under a USD154 million investment plan. However, the financial crisis has hit the telecoms sector hard, with all major operators recently forced to cancel various international calling and roaming services due to inability to pay foreign carrier partners, whilst another 4G licence recipient, DirecTV Venezuela (owned by AT&T) has had to postpone TD-LTE launch plans because of difficulties acquiring equipment.