Rivada Networks dealt another blow in Mexico network deal, vows to fight on

Mexico City

Rivada Networks isn’t backing down after Mexico’s Secretariat of Communications and Transport awarded its landmark Red Compartida 20-year wholesale wireless broadband project to the Altán consortium, the only bidder left standing after Rivada was ousted from the process.

Rivada has been embroiled in a battle over the bidding process in Mexico, where authorities want to build a “shared network” that will cover 92.2% of the population of Mexico using LTE technology in the 700 MHz band. It’s believed to be the world’s largest open access wholesale network to be created, and Rivada has been working with its representatives in Mexico to compete for the contract. Rivada is also part of the Rivada Mercury consortium that’s bidding to provide the 700 MHz FirstNet public safety network in the U.S.

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The Ministry of Communications and Transportation of México (SCT) announced Nov. 17 that Altán was the winner of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) contract for the design, financing, deployment, operation and commercialization of Red Compartida. Altán is an infrastructure fund managed by a unit of Morgan Stanley Investment Management and the China-Mexico Fund.

The Red Compartida network is designed to act as a carrier-of-carriers kind of network, providing mobile broadband capacity to operators using spectrum freed up by last year’s switch-over from analog to digital television signals, The Wall Street Journal reports. The network is expected to start operating in March 2018.

Rivada Networks received word in early November that it had been disqualified from the bidding for the project, leaving only the one bidder, Altán. Rivada said in a Nov. 4 statement that it complied with “every requirement put before us by the Mexican government, despite the fact that the government repeatedly moved the goalposts on bidders in the final weeks and months.” The company, led by Irish telecom entrepreneur Declan Ganley, who’s been tweeting about the process, vowed to contest the decision in the courts.

News of the award to Altán wasn’t what the company had hoped for, but it’s not backing down. “We’re not done yet,” Rivada Networks spokesman Brian Carney told FierceWirelessTech on Nov. 18. “We’re still hopeful that we can overturn what happened yesterday.”

Ganley insists the Mexican people would get a better deal if Rivada were involved. “No surprise, Rivada's coverage plan is significantly higher than only opened bid. People of Mexico are being given a raw deal, which is sad,” Ganley tweeted Nov. 17

While the Red Compartida project is a government-led initiative that calls for the winning contractor to build a nationwide LTE network in the 700 MHz band, IWCE’s Urgent Communications points out that there are several differences between Red Compartida and the FirstNet effort in the United States.

Contractors for FirstNet will use 20 MHz of spectrum, while the Red Compartida project would provide the winning contractor with access to 90 MHz of contiguous spectrum. And while FirstNet focuses on public-safety users who will get priority over anyone else, Red Compartida is designed to provide broadband services to consumers.