16 February 2018
| James Pearce
The GSMA has claimed spectrum policies in Latin America are having an impact on the quality of mobile services in the region.
In its report "Effective Spectrum Pricing in Latin America:
"Policies to support better quality and more affordable mobile
services", the GSMA looked at pricing of spectrum across 15
countries in Latin America. It found pricing decisions by
regulators can have a negative impact on mobile deployments and
quality of service.
Average spectrum prices are around 60% higher in Latin
America than they are in Europe, according to the GSMA, while
the amount of spectrum allocated to mobile operators in the
region is much lower than in Asia, Europe or North America.
The GSMA put the higher prices down to two key factors: 2.6
GHz spectrum, which has generally fetched lower prices than PCS
and AWS because of its higher frequency, has not yet been
allocated widely across Latin America; and many of the awards
included in our sample are beauty contests or direct awards of
PCS and AWS spectrum where regulators effectively set the price
for spectrum upfront.
Future availability of frequencies forces mobile operators
to accept these higher prices to ensure long-term
competitiveness in their respective markets, the GSMA said in
In a wider report, the GSMA looked at 325 awards of spectrum
bands across 60 countries from 2000-2016, finding the final
price of spectrum sold increased 3.5 fold during the 4G era
(2008-2016). Average reserve prices increased over
The report makes a link between the total spend on spectrum
and the price of data, arguing that adoption of new services
can be driven by lowering the cost of spectrum. Other issues it
identifies around spectrum include high reserve prices, annual
licence fees, short licence terms, inappropriate coverage
obligations and uncertainty about renewals and new awards.
"Latin American countries that do not make spectrum
available for 4G and 5G networks and artificially inflate the
price are holding back their digital economies, not closing the
digital divide and hurting consumers," said Sebastian Cabello,
head of Latin America, GSMA.
"Operators require fair access to sufficient radio spectrum
in order to deliver high-quality and affordable mobile
broadband services. Governments and regulators must adopt
policies that support this in order to help their local digital
economies to grow."
Cabello went on to challenge policymakers to develop
spectrum prices and roadmaps that will encourage operators to
invest in next generation networks, ultimately giving consumers
affordable access to mobile services.
He added: "Consumer demand for mobile data services
continues to grow, but unless governments and regulators manage
spectrum efficiently and make the process more transparent,
affordable and achievable for operators, costs will not
decrease sufficiently and consumers will not see the
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