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Colombia watchdog welcomes 700MHz tender plans

Bnamericas Published: Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Colombian telecoms regulator CRC has welcomed the ICT ministry's (Mintic) announcement this week that it will auction in October the 700MHz band, saying the decision is long overdue.

On Saturday, during a visit to Boyacá department, Iván Antonio Mantilla, deputy minister for connectivity and digitalization, said "in the second half of this year we will tender the 700MHz band."

CRC's executive director Carlos Lugo, who attended the ministerial program of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona last week, told BNamericas that during the congress he witnessed many countries that are preparing for 5G, while Colombia has yet to tender spectrum to complete the rollout of 4G.

The official said he hoped that an ICT reform bill, in congress since last year, would soon be approved and not become politicized.

"This country is very behind in its allocation of spectrum ... it would be sad if the reform bill was not approved for political reasons," he said.

"There are technologies available today that, with the appropriate spectrum and the right investment conditions, would enable us to rapidly migrate from 4G to 4.5G in a matter of months," Lugo said.

"The view of the CRC is that this reform is necessary. It will modernize and improve the conditions for the allocation of spectrum."

Speaking to BNamericas during MWC, Mintic minister Sylvia Constaín said the ministry is seeking to consolidate 4G infrastructure in the country before thinking of 5G.

She said Mintic aims to tender 75MHz in the 700MHz and 1.9GHz bands this year. Integral to the reform is the simplification of the regulatory framework by merging telecom and TV regulators CRC and ANTV, as well as more favorable terms for spectrum concessionaires.

Concession licenses would be extended to 20 from 10 years and the government would move away from the idea of maximizing income from spectrum licenses to prioritizing coverage and other initiatives designed to reduce the digital divide.

"The reform will change the focus of spectrum auctions to prioritize social benefit over maximizing income generated from the tender. This will help encourage investment," Lugo said.

According to Mintic, investment in ICT has fallen 33% since 2014 to 0.80% of GDP. Lugo said this was largely to do with a "dispersed" regulatory environment and the ICT reform was more urgent than ever.

700MHZ BAND

According to 5G Americas, the 700MHz tender would comprise 70MHz of the 700MHz band (713-748 / 768-803MHz) and 5MHz of the 1.9GHz band (1865-1867.5/1945-1947.5MHz).

Colombia has spectrum caps for "high" and "low" bands. The caps were modified during 2018 moving from 85 to 90MHz per operator for high bands and 30 to 45MHz per operator for low bands.

The national spectrum agency (ANE) has said that in the short term (2019-20) it is planning to auction spectrum in the 600MHz, 900MHz, AWS-3 and 2.5GHz bands.

In addition, the 3.4-3.7GHz range is being studied as a "spectrum reserve" for 5G in Colombia.

Colombia has awarded 362.5MHz nationally for mobile services, which is equivalent to 27.9% of the amount of spectrum suggested by ITU-RM 2078 for 2015 and 18.5% of that for 2020.

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