Canieti doubtful on possible Cofetel reform

Monday, March 7, 2011

Any actions aimed at overhauling Mexican telecoms regulator Cofetel may be too little, too late, the president of Mexico's IT association Canieti, Santiago Gutiérrez, told BNamericas.

Last month, US communications industry association Comptel slammed Cofetel, alleging a lack of independence and authority, and claiming that the regulator's weak position against telecoms incumbent Telmex (NYSE: TMX) has created high fees and unfair practices against competitors.

Gutiérrez agreed that work needs to be done to assure the regulator's autonomy, but expressed concerns over how effective a Cofetel reform may end up being.

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"If you look at the organization's recent history, it [a reform] doesn't seem like a realistic option. We cannot establish objectives based on what has happened," he said, noting that a lack of political willpower represents one of the factors at the crux of Cofetel's woes.

"The most important step would be to strengthen the organization judicially so that it has the tools necessary to efficiently carry out the measures that it proposes," he said. "Cofetel doesn't have any bite."

On a positive note, Gutiérrez said Canieti, together with the federal government, is putting the finishing touches on a digital agenda plan. The initiative, which will be released later this month, focuses primarily on extending broadband and facilitating ICT adoption among SMEs.

"It will have elements pertaining to public policies, the organization and promotion at both the federal and state levels, the development of content and also society-wide training," he said.

Canieti also applauded the 3G market entrance of Nextel Mexico, part of NII Holdings (NYSE: NII), saying that its arrival will increase service coverage, improve customer service and lower prices.

Gutiérrez said the association will continue to push for new spectrum tenders, "not only in 3G, but, in the near future, also in 4G," and added that such actions are surely on tap for this year.

Canieti expects Mexico's total ICT industry to expand roughly 11-12% in value terms this year, after posting similar growth rates in 2010, the executive added.