3G network rollout on schedule, says NII Holdings

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

The 3G network rollout for Latin American mobile and trunking operator NII Holdings (Nasdaq: NIHD) is on schedule, as the company seeks to improve its competitiveness in key markets, CEO Steve Dussek told a conference call with investors.

According to Dussek, NII Holdings, which operates in the region under the Nextel brand, is planning a soft launch in Chile toward the end of the year, as it did with the rollout of its first 3G network in Peru in December 2009.

In September, Nextel Chile launched a pilot service for existing customers. The full commercial launch is expected in early 2012. Mexico will follow in the April-May timeframe and Brazil midyear.

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Nextel also operates in Argentina with its traditional push-to-talk service (PTT).

HIGH PERFORMANCE PTT

In September, Nextel Perú launched a PTT solution on its new HSPA 3G network to provide what it calls "high performance PTT," as well as mobile data.

Dussek said the idea is to launch high performance PTT on all of the 3G networks.

NII CFO Gokul Hemmady said the new service in Peru "has met and exceeded our expectations and the customers' expectations" with quality and interoperability between users on the HSPA network and the traditional iDEN PTT network.

Nextel Perú started offering the high performance PTT with Huawei's U3220 handset, and Hemmady said he expected another 3-4 handsets to be available in the next 60 days, one of those a smartphone. In 2012 the number of handsets should expand to a dozen, including four or five smartphones.

SPECTRUM

Asked about whether NII would participate in upcoming auction for 2.5 GHz spectrum in Brazil, which the government this week confirmed would go ahead in April, Hemmady said the company would probably want to acquire more spectrum in the medium term.

However, "we're very happy with what we have in Brazil and other markets in 1.9 GHz, 1.8 GHz and in the 800 MHz band we have for iDEN. We will analyze those options as the auctions get closer," he added.