Colombian 5G auction sees big sales for 3.5GHz

Colombian 5G auction sees big sales for 3.5GHz

The 20th of December at 9 am local time saw the start of an auction to assign 5G spectrum to various players in Colombia. But was everyone happy with the result?

After nine rounds involving various participants, four 80MHz blocks were awarded in the 3.5GHz band, for a claimed value of US$1.37 billion. Each of four operators was assigned a block.

Tigo-Movistar – aka Union Temporal Colombia Movil-Telefonica – bid US$318,306 million for its block. As we reported in October, plans for Colombian operators Tigo and Movistar to move towards unifying their networks have been approved by Colombian business regulator the Superintendencia de Industria y Comercio (SIC), but the companies are expected to stop sharing infrastructure in July 2025.

WOM, which entered the market in 2021, bid US$318,340 million. The even newer entrant Telecall offered US$318,333 million. Claro put forward US $411,384 million.

However, the news in other bands wasn’t quite so positive. According to TeleGeography's CommsUpdate, a number of other bands were for sale. Claro bid US$157.057 million for a block of 4G-suitable 2.5GHz spectrum. There were no other bidders. The 700MHz, 1900MHz and Extended AWS bands, which range from 1,700 MHz to 2,100 MHz, attracted no bids.

As for who has benefited, despite the apparent indifference to bands outside 3.5GHz and the fees of US$347 million earned by the government coming in well below the hoped-for US$500 million, ICT Minister Mauricio Lizcano suggested that 82.5% of the total available spectrum was acquired during the process. He was also quoted as calling this auction "Historic,”  adding: “5G is a reality for Colombians,".

But operators don’t have a completely free hand by any means. BNamericas says that under the coverage obligations established in the auction, operators must implement networks in nearly 1,200 schools across the country. 4G coverage will also be expanded on some 700 kilometres of primary and secondary roads in the country.

It may not have earned as much as the government hoped but the auction may be good for the country in other ways, with projections of potential long-term investments of around US$7.11 billion.

All four bidders will be able to go ahead with technical trials from January 2024. Commercial 5G deployments are permitted not long after this, in February 2024.

Sign-up to our weekly newsletter

Keep up-to-date with all the latest news, articles, event and product updates posted on Developing Telecoms.
Subscribe to our FREE weekly email newsletters for the latest telecom info in developing and emerging markets globally.
Sending occasional e-mail from 3rd parties about industry white papers, online and live events relevant to subscribers helps us fund this website and free weekly newsletter. We never sell your personal data. Click here to view our privacy policy.