The telecoms ministry of Argentina, Secom, has detailed the rollout conditions that the winners of its upcoming 4G spectrum auctions must adhere to.
In addition, Secom has indicated that it will reserve a block of spectrum for a new market entrant.
The 4G licence auctions will cover the AWS (1.7GHz/2.1GHz) and 700MHz frequency bands. Following a winning bid, operators will be obliged to extend coverage to major cities, corridors, towns and localities with over 500 inhabitants within five years. Whichever incoming operator wins the reserved block of spectrum has an additional nine months to fulfil the rollout criteria.
The ministry also plans to auction off 3G spectrum in the 1.9GHz and 850MHz frequency bands, with licences split into three broad areas of the country – the north, the south and Buenos Aires. Licences for both 3G and 4G spectrum will be valid for 15 years.
Media group Grupo Veintitres has expressed interest in the 4G auctions, and is believed to be close to signing a takeover deal with NII Holdings that would give it control of Nextel Argentina (along with Nextel Chile) for almost $250 million.
The smallest of Argentina’s four operators, Nextel has just 2 million connections. It is so much smaller than rivals Claro (America Movil), Movistar (Telefonica) and Personal (Telecom Argentina), which each have around 20 million connections, that it could qualify as a ‘newcomer’ and obtain the reserved 4G spectrum.