Is the Costa Rican telecoms regulator fit for purpose?

Is the Costa Rican telecoms regulator fit for purpose?

Will Costa Rica’s 5G rollout be delayed by problems with telecoms regulator Sutel? That, it appears, is the fear of the country’s IT sector.

It may have a point. According to the BNamericas news service, Sutel's board must have three members, plus one substitute. However, the terms of two members expired earlier this month, along with that of the substitute. No new officials have been appointed.

An additional issue involves public services authority Aresep, which appoints Sutel's board – or might, except that it doesn’t have a fully functioning board of its own.

Concerns about the situation have led to a joint statement from Mario Montero, president of Infcom, a grouping that brings together organisations and people linked to the telecommunications sector, and Uccaep, a non-profit entity that groups and represents Costa Rican private business organizations.

The statement points out that while the Sutel board is not formed there can be no extensions for companies that currently operate to continue providing telecoms services. There is also an issue relating to the impossibility, at present, of authorising the incorporation of new suppliers.

The associations also note that contracts, concessions and compliance with the national telecoms development plan will be affected by the lack of a Sutel board, as will measures that are part of the plan and linked to universal service fund Fonatel. The national telecoms development plan aims to increase fixed internet access and the penetration of fixed service speeds of at least 15Mbps.

The plan also covers 5G; its aim was to activate 5G networks this year. However, the country’s 5G spectrum auctions, meant to go ahead in October 2023, were held up by spectrum return issues. These have now been resolved, though, given the lack of a fully functioning regulator, the likelihood of a timely 5G rollout in Costa Rica is probably very small.

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