It’s not entirely clear who is to blame for the standoff between the incumbent Colombian operators Claro and Tigo and new arrival Partners, but tension, especially between Claro and Partners, has been ramping up, according to local press reports.
The argument of Chris Bannister, the CEO of Partners, is that both Claro and Tigo have refused to sign interconnection agreements with his company, leaving Movistar as the only operator willing to agree terms.
However, according to TeleGeography's CommsUpdate, Partners may have upset its rivals by using its 700MHz spectrum allocation (it has also successfully bid on 2500MHz band spectrum) to bolster the networks of its recently acquired mobile subsidiary, Avantel. The 700MHz spectrum has now apparently been withdrawn, pending an investigation.
The regulator has tried to mediate but this has so far had no result, partly, it seems, because Claro claimed that its lawyer was otherwise engaged and unable to attend the talks.
Much of this argument is being played out in the Colombian press, with Bannister arguing that Claro is trying to hinder Partners’ entry into the country and Claro suggesting that Partners is being unhelpful and that it does not feel further meetings are worthwhile until the regulator offers guidance on the next steps.
Partners is part of the portfolio of Icelandic investment group Novator Partners. In July 2020 Novator Partners acquired an unspecified majority stake in Colombian mobile operator Avantel and launched a restructuring of the business.
Claro Colombia has about 30 million subscribers to its voice and data services and is a subsidiary of Latin American giant América Móvil.
Chris Bannister – who is the former CEO of Novator’s Chilean subsidiary, WOM – has been quoted as saying he is targeting 25 per cent of the Colombian market within five years.