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ICE 5G spectrum battle gets political

23 Mar 2022

Costa Rican presidential candidate Jose Maria Figueres has disclosed plans to recover the bulk of the dormant 5G frequencies held by Grupo ICE if he is voted into office next month. The National Liberation Party (Partido Liberacion Nacional, PLN) election hopeful confirmed his intention to seize two-thirds of the disputed spectrum in a discussion with members of the Costa Rican Chamber of Information Technology (Camara de Tecnologias de Informacion y Comunicacion, CAMTIC) earlier this month. (Note: Mr Figueres secured a leading 27.3% share of the vote in February’s presidential election, but because no candidate obtained at least 40% of the vote, a second-round run-off election will be held on 3 April.)

The comments come as the incumbent government seeks to increase pressure on ICE to relinquish the frequencies – a battle that has rumbled on since last summer. Indeed, on 4 March the government signalled its intention to explore ‘legal and contractual breaches’ in relation to the sought-after 3425MHz-3625MHz spectrum block held by ICE sister company Radiografica Costarricense (RACSA), as it seeks to gain leverage.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, on 25 June 2021 the Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications (Ministerio de Ciencia, Tecnologia y Telecomunicaciones, MICITT) notified Grupo ICE of its intention to retrieve the operator’s 5G-suitable frequencies, as it seeks to further the country’s wider 5G ambitions. Subsequently, in November 2021 Sutel informed the MICITT that it was unwilling to reimburse ICE for its unused frequencies, prompting the state-backed company to dig its heels in. ICE has been accused of ‘under-use and non-use’ of 5G-suitable spectrum in the 1400MHz, 2600MHz, 3500MHz and 26GHz bands.

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