Latin American LTE on hold pending spectrum allocations

Many Latin American mobile operators are poised to deploy LTE but spectrum issues nonetheless threaten to hold back the market.

"There are concerns regarding the timely allocation of appropriate globally harmonized spectrum bands in Latin America," said Erasmo Rojas, director of Latin America and the Caribbean at trade group 4G Americas, in a statement. "The governments in the region are working to bring out more spectrum in free market-oriented auctions. In order to incentivize the sizable operator investments needed, 4G Americas stresses the need for fair and transparent rules for auctioning internationally harmonized spectrum bands throughout the Americas region."

According to the industry association, spectrum bands that are well-suited for successful deployment of LTE in the Americas include 700 MHz, 1.7/2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz. The bands harmonize with spectrum targeted for LTE in the United States. "These spectrum bands are important considerations for the successful future of mobile communications throughout the Americas region," said 4G Americas.

 LTE service is commercially available from five network operators today in Latin America AT&T and Claro in Puerto Rico, Antel in Uruguay and UNE in Colombia are operating mobile LTE-FDD networks, while Sky Telecom in Brazil is operating a fixed TD-LTE network.

4G Americas said LTE has been tested by incumbent operators in countries such as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Mexico and Peru. The group expects 40 Latin American operators to LTE services with more than 20 million LTE subscriptions by 2015, based on data from Informa Telecoms & Media.

 There are 79 commercial HSPA networks in 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 33 of those in 20 countries have been upgraded to HSPA+.

Last year, consultancy Maravedis said Latin American regulatory bodies are facing many challenges in freeing up the 700 MHz and 2.6 GHz spectrum and in making the transition TV stations from analog to digital. It said Mexico's Telecommunications Federal Commission (COFETEL) had announced its intention to auction 700 MHz digital-dividend spectrum in 2012.

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