Following last week’s news that 5G spectrum is finally about to go on sale in Argentina, the country's three main mobile operators have been quick to express concern at the terms laid down by regulator Enacom – and now have been joined by industry association the GSMA.
First of all, says the BNamericas website, Claro, Telecom and Movistar are worried about what is seen as a very high price. The base price for each of the blocks is set at US$350 million and the spectrum will be provided for a period of 20 years.
Other worries include issues over payment terms (in pesos due to limitations on access to foreign currency), and the potential for price controls via a mooted service plan for low-income sectors in certain circumstances.
The operators are also exercised by the allocation of 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band to state-owned operator Arsat, which they see as anti-competitive, let alone the possibility that any lots that are not awarded in the tender could also be assigned to Arsat.
The operators also want the tender to include the allocation of available 4G spectrum, some of it reserved in the past for Arsat, but never used.
Operator grouping the GSMA has also warned about the conditions of the spectrum auction for 5G in Argentina, according to DPL News, saying: "The proposed design goes in the opposite direction to the best international practices in spectrum allocation and puts the future of 5G in the country at risk.”
It agrees that the suggested price is very high and says: “This assessment does not take into account spectrum as a tool for inclusion and development." It adds: "The free spectrum for Arsat compromises the future availability of the resource."
These three operators have a pretty clear run at the spectrum in one sense: only operators with at least 50,000 declared accesses, that provide services in 10 locations in the country and which have net assets of at least 10 billion pesos (about US$28.5 million) may participate in the tender. That pretty much describes Claro, Telecom and Movistar.
This may make it easier to meet deployment commitments that require at least one base station in a number of major cities and provincial capitals within a year and further reach in stages. After 84 months, a network must reach towns with 20,000 residents.
Bearing in mind the many delays to date, regulator Enacom seems keen to push on with these plans, leaving itself little time to work on a settlement. The question is whether the operators really would, as has been implied, refuse to take part in the spectrum auction if the terms remained unchanged.