Phoenix Tower International
Convergencia Research
Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Mobile Services Map 2019

The region paves the way for 5G while squeezing 4G potential

Latin America joins the boost of 5G worldwide, which is not just a result of marketing but is supported by concrete tests that are carried out in most countries of the world because the technology promises to multiply by billions the things connected to the most varied segments of the economy.

With a business outlook unthinkable until the emergence of a 5G offering low latency, high transmission speeds and reliability, several countries have already identified frequencies and even held tenders. To such an extent 5G is being analyzed as the key technology for the economy of the future, that it is one of the treasures disputed in the trade war between the United States and China. The thing is that the country more rapidly developing 5G will have advantages both for contracting services and for investment.

As for the preparations for the new generation of mobile networks in Latin America, 12 operators conducted 5G tests at local level. While the region awaits the definitions of the next World Radiocommunication Conference 2019 (WRC-19), which will determine the bands that will be used for the new technology, operators are evaluating 5G possible uses.

In a year with few spectrum tenders- only the bid held in Mexico in the 2.5 GHz band can be highlighted- the operators focused on improving their LTE networks: in the region there are already 36 operators that launched carrier aggregation (also commercially called 4.5 G) and 18 operators already have voice over LTE (Volte).

For the next two years, there are already several spectrum bid announcements that will improve the amount of MHz allocated to the mobile service: in Argentina it is expected that the spectrum reserved by Arsat in the 700MHz and AWS bands will be tendered; in Bolivia there are plans for the delivery of 2.5 GHz by March 2019; in Brazil this year they want to distribute 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz and 3.5 GHz; in Colombia it has not yet been defined what will happen with the 700 MHz tender; in Costa Rica once the analog blackout is finished, the 700 MHz band will be available; in Ecuador there is still no tentative date for the AWS and 3.3 GHz tender; in El Salvador, Panama and Guatemala, AWS is pending for this year; Mexico will be the first country to tender the 600 MHz frequency; in Paraguay they want to make available the 2.5 GHz frequencies; and in Uruguay the Executive Branch already announced the AWS extended and 2.5 GHz tender.

For the 5G to work, all available mobile spectrum will be required. That is why the industry began to consider the possibility of shutting down technologies less used, such as 2G or 3G. Mexico is the country where operators are more prone to 2G blackout to be made before that of 3G. In second place is Colombia, this alternative is favored by the three most important operators and must have regulatory approval. On the other hand Brazil aims to shutting down 3G first.

The most important corporate movements occurred by the end of this edition: América Móvil bought Telefónica Guatemala for US$333 million and entered into an agreement to acquire the Spanish company business in El Salvador for US$315 million. Telefónica wants to divest itself of several units to reduce its bulky debt, and it is expected for it to do the same with Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and Mexico. For its part, Millicom was negotiating with Liberty to sell its Latin American business, although it ultimately did not materialize.

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