Argentina overhauls 1972 telecom law

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Argentina's SeCom department has drafted a new telecom bill taking into account developments in convergent technologies and allowing operators to have a single concession license for multiple fixed and mobile telephony, TV and Internet services.

The bill would replace the current law dating from 1972, and comes at a time when the government is frantically trying to play catch up in the telecom space due to the spike in Argentina's use of smartphones in recent years.

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On Friday, SeCom will hold auctions for 3G and 4G spectrum, the first in 15 years. On the same day, regulation that establishes guidelines for mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) will come into effect. The operation of MVNOs has been contemplated by local law since 2000, but regulation is just being published 14 years later.

Meanwhile, the government has moved to break up the powerful Grupo Clarín through a new media ownership law, and launched its first satellite to improve Internet coverage and digital TV transmission.

The new law will make telecom networks an "essential and strategic public service," which will force infrastructure players to rent capacity on the networks at a rate fixed by the government.

The measures are designed to promote competition, better quality of service and reasonable prices for consumers. Cooperatives and SMEs that do not have their own spectrum or infrastructure are expected to benefit.

A SeCom statement said the new law would optimize the use of telecom infrastructure, "generating an open network architecture that favors interconnection between different players in the ecosystem."

The law would also eliminate national long distance rates, and all calls would be charged at local rates.

"This law embraces convergent technology and guarantees access to ICT, narrowing the digital divide," said communications head Norberto Berner.

"Access to information and communication is a human [right] and for that reason requires a legal framework. The objective is to guarantee that access to networks will not be monopolized," said economy minister Axel Kicillof.

The bill also establishes minimum broadband speed and quality standards, which will be reviewed every two years.

In addition, a universal access fund will be set up to help finance the expansion of telecom services in areas that are not of economic interest to operators. The fund will be managed by the state and financed by a tax on operators.