February 23, 2022
5G services are slowly arriving in Mexico, even though the country has yet to hold its long-awaited auction of 5G-enabling spectrum.
Telcel is deploying 5G in 18 major cities including Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, covering a total population of 48 million people. It expects to expand coverage to 120 cities by the end of the year.
Figure 1: Go, go, go: Telcel launches services in 18 cities and targets 120 cities by the end of the year.
(Source: Xinhua/Alamy Stock Photo)
Reuters reported that about one million Mexicans are now connected to the Telcel 5G network. The Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT) cleared Telcel to launch the 5G network earlier this month. According to Reuters, Telcel spokesman Renato Flores said the operator had been anticipating the approval, allowing for a quick rollout.
Telcel also said it is using Ericsson equipment in the north of the country and Huawei kit in the south to build the network. The Reuters report indicated that América Móvil plans to spend $1.8 billion "to kick off" the network.
Telcel is not the first to launch 5G in Mexico: rival AT&T Mexico said in December 2021 that it had launched 5G services, reportedly using its existing license in the 2.5GHz band. However, the network being rolled out by the Carlos Slim-owned América Móvil group is expected to become the largest 5G commercial network in Latin America.
Telefónica Movistar Mexico, meanwhile, appears to be holding back from launching 5G, at least for the time being.
Ana de Saracho, head of regulation at the operator, recently told local news site DPL News that regulatory and competition conditions were not conducive for a 5G launch, pointing to the dominance of the Telcel group on the market and the cost of spectrum.
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In 2019, Movistar signed an agreement with AT&T Mexico that allowed it to access capacity on the latter's nationwide 3G and 4G networks, along with future access technologies. The move enabled Movistar to relinquish its entire existing spectrum holding.
Meanwhile, the IFT recently said its annual work program for 2022 includes plans to auction off 5G-enabling spectrum frequencies in the 600MHz, 3.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands, along with the L band (spectrum in the 1500MHz range).
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading
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