TDLC issues ruling on spectrum holding limits

6 Dec 2019

Chile’s Antitrust Tribunal (Tribunal de Defensa de la Libre Competencia, TDLC) has reached a decision regarding new spectrum holding limits, largely supporting the most recent proposals of sector watchdog the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel), for flexible limits. Under the new rules, limits are set by macro-band and are imposed on each territorial zone. The five defined macro bands are: ‘Low’ – less than 1GHz; ‘Middle Low’ – 1GHz to 3GHz; ‘Middle’ 3GHz and 6GHz; ‘Middle High’ – 6GHz to 24GHz; and ‘High’ – more than 24GHz. For the Low and Middle Low bands, the TDLC established maximum holdings of 35% and 30% respectively, whilst the Middle High range was given no limit as it is not currently assigned for mobile communications. For the Middle range, meanwhile, the regulator set out a gradual transition with Subtel initially instructed not to auction adjacent blocks that are less than 40MHz per operator. In the medium term, Subtel must ensure that there are at least four operators using the band with no less than 40MHz of contiguous spectrum apiece and in the long term a limit of 30% will apply, and each provider must have a minimum of 80MHz of contiguous spectrum. Concerning the High band, the TDLC similarly set short, medium and long term requirements for Subtel. To begin with, Subtel must ensure that there are two operators using the band, each with at least 400MHz, increasing to four providers in the medium term. Finally a cap of 25% will be applied, and the watchdog must ensure that there are four providers using the airwaves, each with a minimum of 800MHz contiguous spectrum.

The TDLC also notes in its decision that there should be a gradual transition to the new rules, carried out via future spectrum auctions.

As noted by TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the new system replaces the previous cap of 60MHz across all bands, which had been set by the Supreme Court back in 2009 but was then ignored by operators and regulators as being insufficient, leading to a legal battle over the allocation of 700MHz spectrum in 2014, which put three of the nation’s cellcos over that limit. The courts eventually ruled against the trio of licensees in mid-2018, chastising the authorities for simply ignoring the earlier order rather than taking measures to amend or remove the cap.