CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNAmericas

CANTO Weekly Newsletter – BNAmericas

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The challenges of spectrum management in Latin America – Regional
Flow takes regulator to court over termination rate cuts – Jamaica
ICT: The week in 10 stories – Regional
Digicel reportedly planning US$50mn Hurricane Irma claim – Regional
Costa Rica sets minimum excess data speed – Costa Rica

The challenges of spectrum management in Latin America – Regional

Harmonizing frequencies across countries so that as many markets as possible use the same bands in the spectrum, as well as working for the release of further bands for telecom services to support the growing demand for data are seen as the main challenges in spectrum management in Latin America.

Coordinating the different interests of broadcasters, telecom companies, governments and satellite firms regarding a limited asset such as spectrum is another challenging task, one that is faced not only by Latin America but elsewhere in the world.

These topics were addressed at the Futurecom conference in São Paulo, either directly or indirectly, in more than one panel.

According to Oscar Léon, executive secretary of the Inter-American Telecommunication Commission (Citel), which is part of the Organization of American States (OAS), harmonizing spectrum between nations is difficult but important for economy of scale reasons.

Since this is not possible all the time, because each market has its own particularities regarding spectrum allocation, with the same band not being necessarily available or being occupied by a different service, an alternative found by technology providers was to develop so-called multiband chipsets.

Even if one country opts for a higher frequency and another country opts for a lower band, the chipset embedded in a smartphone enables it to function well in either of them. Still, this is of limited scope and a minimum standardization of bands is necessary.

Such is the case of the 3-5GHz bands, a high frequency that allows better transmission capacity for mobile services, which in general are occupied by satellite services (the C band).

While Colombia and Mexico, in line with the US and Canada, want to use the bands for mobile telephony services (IMT), Brazil wants to maintain them for satellite services, according to Léon.

This is something that needs to be coordinated with neighboring countries to avoid interference issues, especially in border regions.

Citel is currently fine-tuning a joint position of its 34-plus members, which include local and multinational telcos, regulators, OTTs and internet companies, for the next global 2019 World Radio Communications (WRC-19) congress of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU).

The entity also wants to coordinate a position on higher bands with respect to 5G.

Citel defends a greater amount of spectrum for mobile services. Latin America, in general, is still far from meeting the minimum recommendations of spectrum allocated for mobile services, according to the ITU.

Brazil leads the region in terms of spectrum allocated to mobile services. But while the Caribbean and Central America have a little over 300MHz allocated, the US has around 2,000MHz.

Another goal of Citel is to eliminate or reduce roaming charges among countries in the Americas, but operators defend self-regulation rather than regulators imposing the process.

Flow takes regulator to court over termination rate cuts – Jamaica

Telecom operator Cable & Wireless, which operates under the Flow brand, filed an application before Jamaica’s supreme court seeking to bar the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) from implementing cuts to termination rates for fixed line calls.

OUR had developed a plan to implement the rate cuts over a six-month period, from October 1 to April of next year. However, leading fixed telecoms operator Flow had been demanding a longer glide path extending over two years or more.

The office agreed to refrain from implementing the first rate cut before Flow’s hearing for an interim injunction, reported the Jamaica Gleaner.

However, OUR informed in a telecom industry notification that Flow wants a judicial review of its rate decision and sought the interim injunction to restrain implementation of the decision pending the outcome of its application to the court for the review.

Earlier this year, Flow argued that the regulator did not appear to have given consideration to the magnitude of the cuts on its immediate cash flow and the immediate and direct impact these would have on working capital and investment incentives.

OUR had initially determined that termination charges for calls that connect to fixed-line phones were to be reduced by 70-90%, which would lead to cheaper phone calls for subscribers.

Competitors Digicel and Verge Communications favor a swift implementation of the reduction in termination rates, saying it would unduly benefit Flow financially if done over an extended period.

ICT: The week in 10 stories – Regional

The Brazilian government and the country’s development bank BNDES announced at the Futurecom conference further details of the country’s national IoT plan.

The policy will focus on the verticals cities, health, agribusiness and industry.

According to BNDES research and planning director Carlos da Costa, IoT is forecast to generate a positive impact of as much as US$200bn on the Brazilian economy by 2025. In the cities segment, the impact could be up to 27bn reais (nearly US$10bn) alone.

***

A hotly debated topic during this year’s Futurecom has been the rational and efficient use of telecom assets in the form of infrastructure sharing between operators, not only physical infrastructure such as towers but also spectrum.

The issue is not new. But for Telefónica, however important the sharing of infrastructure might be, it cannot change the competition dynamics and should only happen when there is commercial parity.

***

Brazilian President Michel Temer said the major reforms and other measures undertaken by his government are “placing Brazil in the 21st century.”

Temer was speaking at the opening of the four-day Futurecom conference (in photo), considered Latin America’s largest ICT event, in São Paulo.

The president stressed his government is committed to pushing ahead with an unpopular pension system reform, which he expects to be voted on in congress this year.

MEXICO

Mexican regulator IFT has asked telecom giant and dominant market player América Móvil to modify its proposal to split fixed operator Telmex into two separate entities.

Back in March the watchdog ordered the separation of Telmex into two separate companies as an asymmetric measure. One of those units must be dedicated to the provision of wholesale services such as access to passive and network infrastructure.

Through this measure, the IFT seeks to foster competition by guaranteeing access to wholesale services under non-discriminatory conditions, it said in a press release.

ARGENTINA

Telecom authorities in Argentina and Brazil are in advanced negotiations for an international roaming agreement to benefit border cities, the head of Brazilian telecom watchdog Anatel, Juarez Quadros, told the Futurecom conference.

Four years ago, Brazil signed a similar agreement with Peru to benefit residents of border towns, which only took effect this June.

PUERTO RICO

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered the freeing up of up to US$76.9mn from the Universal Service Fund for use by telecoms operators to repair damage to wireless and wireline infrastructure in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands caused by Hurricane Maria.

VENEZUELA

Venezuela will launch its third satellite on October 9, the communications ministry (Minci) said in a statement.

The ministry said Venezuela will be able to put the cutting-edge satellite in orbit thanks to agreements with China, which also helped develop and launch the country’s two other satellites.

CHILE

Chile’s senate is due to vote in the next few weeks on a bill to guarantee minimum internet access speeds.

The bill, sponsored by congressman Guido Girardi who called it “revolutionary,” seeks to impose an obligation on operators to state clearly in contracts and advertising campaigns the average speeds promised, thus providing greater transparency.

COLOMBIA

Colombia’s ICT ministry Mintic has asked the industry and commerce regulator for clarification on the competitive conditions for tendering the 700MHz band, which has generated some debate among telecoms operators.

Mintic is seeking to raise existing caps for holding low spectrum in bands to 45MHz from 30MHz and to 90MHz from 85MHz in high bands.

Under the existing conditions, Claro and Movistar would be unable to participate in the tender for the 700MHz band, as both hold 25MHz each. Both operators would be able to take part if the cap is raised.

PERU

Finally, Peru’s telecom watchdog Osiptel proposed a change to its general guidelines that would enable a new entity to supervise the country’s telecom sector.

The entity would be composed of Osiptel staff or could be outsourced, according to a legislative proposal published in official gazette El Peruano.

The objective would be for the organism to help Osiptel with supervisory activities so the regulator can better respond to the needs and demands of a sector characterized by rapid growth and change.

Digicel reportedly planning US$50mn Hurricane Irma claim – Regional

Jamaica-headquartered telecom firm Digicel is reportedly planning to file an insurance claim of up to US$50mn for property losses stemming from Hurricane Irma.

Irma ploughed through the Caribbean last month.

Tokio Marine Kiln is the leader on the property direct and facultative placement, the remainder of which is placed broadly in the London market,” Insurance Insider reported, citing unnamed sources.

Digicel is present in about 30 countries across the Caribbean, Central America and Pacific islands.

Anguilla, Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, St Martin, St Barts and the Turks and Caicos Islands were Digicel’s most affected markets, Digicel Group communications head Antonia Graham told BNamericas at the time. The company deployed a team of 200 engineers and riggers to undertake the required network restoration work.

A Digicel spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the Insurance Insider report when contacted by BNamericas.

Catastrophe modeling firm Karen Clark & Company has estimated overall insured losses from Irma will total US$7bn.

Costa Rica sets minimum excess data speed – Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s telecoms regulator Sutel has set a minimum speed of 256kbps for postpaid mobile users who exceed their data consumption allowance.

The watchdog said its decision is to ensure that the applications most used by consumers continue to function and that it will review the rate at least every two years, or less depending on the rate of technological change.

Sutel was required to set a limit and repeal operators’ “fair use” policies after the country’s constitutional court ruled on September 28 that the arbitrary speed limit infringed the fundamental rights of mobile internet consumers.

Several other countries in Latin America have been introducing regulation to ensure that minimum quality of broadband is maintained.

Chile’s senate is due to vote in the next few weeks on a bill to guarantee minimum internet access speeds.

The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CANTO and/or its members

Copyright 2017 Business News Americas
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