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Panama launches tender for new mobile operator

10 Jan 2023

Panama’s National Public Services Authority (Autoridad Nacional de los Servicios Publicos, ASEP) has announced that pre-qualification for its public tender for a new mobile licensee will commence on 12 January, with the first stage of the licensing process expected to culminate on 16 March. Public tender No. 01-2023-Telco will seek to fill the void created by the exit of Digicel Panama, by offering a new concession to operate and exploit the vacated PCS licence (No.106) as well as allowing for the purchase of certain Digicel assets.

The regulator notes: ‘We reiterate to all Digicel customers, as well as to its collaborators and suppliers, that the company continues to operate hand-in-hand with the auditor, providing its services without interruptions. Digicel will maintain its operations until the entry of the new operator and, in addition, it will accompany the new company in the transition process.’

In April 2022 Digicel Panama announced that it intended to apply for voluntary liquidation and withdraw from the Panamanian telecoms market as a result of the merger between Cable & Wireless Panama (CWP, +Movil) and Claro, which it said represented an ‘illegal economic concentration’. Digicel’s concession was duly transferred to the ASEP on 27 April 2022. On 2 August ASEP’s ‘intervention period’ was extended by a further 180 days; this is due to expire at the end of January 2023.

TeleGeography notes that the new licensee will become the third mobile operator, alongside the newly enlarged CWP/Claro, and Tigo Panama, which comprises the former Movistar assets acquired by Millicom International Cellular (MIC) in August 2019. (Note: the Claro brand is allowed to be phased out from 17 January 2023, after the expiration of a ten-month grace period.)

With LatAm-focused groups Millicom and Liberty Latin America (LLA) already present in Panama, and Telefonica, America Movil (AM) and Digicel all exiting the sector in recent years there is no obvious candidate for the new concession.

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