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11 January 2017
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
Mexico’s plan to set up a wholesale LTE wireless network has been thrown into doubt after the government started an investigation into the bidding process.
The internal control body of the Secretariat of
Communications and Transport (SCT), which awarded the Red Compartida –
"shared network" – contract in November, has begun
investigating claimed "administrative irregularities".
A consortium called Altán, backed by the Morgan Stanley
Investment Bank and the World Bank and supported by a number of
Mexican cable and telecoms companies, won the 20-year deal after a bid from Rivada
Networks, an Irish company, was excluded.
"We think justice will prevail in Mexico," Rivada CEO Declan
Ganley told Capacity in an interview. "All we want is
that our bid is opened."
The SCT rejected Rivada’s bid after claiming that
it did not include a bond for one billion pesos ($49 million).
Rivada says the money was provided and that details of the bond
were included in the bid. "All they need to do is open it,"
Rivada says that it plans to present evidence to the enquiry
that Altán "used privileged information from the SCT for
the preparation of its proposal".
The company added in a statement: "This is part of the various
actions that the company has undertaken to safeguard its rights
against the illegal disqualification of its proposal by the
Separately from the SCT’s internal investigation,
a Mexican district court – which specialises in
economic affairs, including broadcasting and telecommunications
– has asked the SCT to let is see the Altán
proposal "for review and comparison" as part of the process to
see whether privileged information was used.
"That means we’re in two different Mexican
courts," said Ganley.
Rivada says that it will submit to the Mexican enquiries a
deposition made to a US district court on 20 December by a
consultant who advised the SCT. The consultant was told, he
says in the sworn deposition, that "one of the bids was
essentially a photocopy of our … work [for the SCT], or
a 1% differential". He claimed in the deposition that SCT
officials wanted the Altán consortium to win.
Despite the legal issues, Ganley praised the overall Mexican
plan for a shared wireless network, that will allow operators
to buy spectrum dynamically on a wholesale market to compete
with the country’s dominant mobile operators. "The
Red Compartida reform is brilliant," he told Capacity.
"We are talking to a number of other significant