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Argentina lining up 4G auction as operators prepare investment plans

Argentina lining up 4G auction as operators prepare investment plans

Three of the largest operators in Argentina have all declared their interest in bidding for the 90MHz of 4G spectrum that the country’s government is putting up for auction.

Claro, Telecom Argentina and Telefonica are all likely to lodge bids for the holding, which constitutes 60MHz of spectrum returned by the company Arlink along with 30MHz held by the state-owned firm Arsat. The auction is expected to raise as much as $800 million for the government.

The country’s Modernisation Ministry has pointed out that certain regulations need to be changed by either a new law or presidential decree before the government can put Arsat’s spectrum to auction. This is expected to happen midway through 2018.

In January this year, Telecom Argentina pledged a further $5 billion of investment into its communications infrastructure and services over the next two years. Speaking about the auction, the operator said: “We view a government spectrum auction as good and necessary, keeping in mind the huge growth in the use of mobile data, with permanent connectivity demand from users.”

Following its recent merger with cable TV firm Cablevision, Telecom Argentina’s spectrum holding now exceeds the limit of 140MHz for participating in the auction. Theoretically this would oblige it to return 80MHz of spectrum in order to bid, but since the government is aiming to increase the spectrum cap, the operator may be allowed to enter the auction without relinquishing any airwaves.

Other operators have also laid out their investment plans, with Telefonica – branded as Movistar in Argentina – lining up $2 billion for the next year. It has also stated that it would be interested in an “eventual auction.”

Similarly, America Movil’s Claro has earmarked $400 million of investment annually up to 2020, and has expressed “interest in growing and developing the networks that benefit service to its customers, be it through deployment or acquisition of spectrum.”

Since taking office in 2015, President Mauricio Macri has been rewriting regulation to foster competition in the telecoms sector in the hopes of inspiring more investment and therefore better connectivity. In January, the country’s regulator Enacom signed off on new rules enabling companies to deliver converged mobile, fixed, pay-TV and internet services.

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