To attract more investment in technology, Guatemala must resume frequency auctions, says Millicom

Mauricio Ramos, executive director of Millicom International Cellular, SA, who visited the country after the acquisition of Tigo Guatemala on November 11, assured that “there is a great opportunity, but something must be done to make the country much more digital , and at the same time, take advantage of the business opportunity ”. This, when asked about the investment potential that Guatemala has in the telecommunications sector.

The executive disclosed in an interview with Free Press last Monday, that in each conversation that is held with world investors -of Tigo Global-, they talk about Guatemala and report that the penetration and use of fixed broadband is 35% and that of mobile broadband is only 40 % to 45% of the population, so “here there is opportunity and growth.”

The executive stressed that one of the objectives is for telecommunication networks to reach more users, to have more capacity and for Guatemalans to navigate faster, which will require part of the investments that the firm plans for the country.

He cited as an example – like Tigo – that today the 4G network covers 73% of the population, but for next year, the goal is for it to reach 80%, because “we want to reach more than two million homes in Guatemala.” .

But more spectrum is needed

Along these lines, Ramos stated that Guatemala has to put the electromagnetic radio spectrum to work “which it has not put to work, because the tenders and licenses of the spectra have been lagging in time and have been contested, which causes its delay”.

“I believe that the Government has the commitment to carry out the auctions, tenders and licenses of the network -band- 700 MhZ and the AWS band, to achieve a greater spectrum that Guatemalans can use,” he said, adding that the The subject was explained to President Alejandro Giammattei during a meeting held with him.

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When asked what the use of more space in the spectrum depends on, he replied that “more spectrum results in greater digital connectivity. What is needed at this time is for the industry to work hand in hand so that it benefits all Guatemalans and I am convinced that it will take it forward. “

Marked lag

For Ricardo Flores, an expert in telecommunications issues, the position of the Millicom executive is valid, since Guatemala is one of the countries with the most lag in the use of 4G technologies and even greater, in 5G.

On the other hand, he expressed that it is already necessary to design a national digitization plan, which is known as the digital dividend. “Guatemala does not yet have 4G and we are already being overtaken by another technology that is 5G and the digital dividend,” he said.

Regarding the auction or tender of frequencies by the Telecommunications Superintendency (SIT), the expert stated that it has three components: the technical, the legal and the political.

Regarding the first, the SIT has available frequencies, but then it goes to the legal link that is trapped in the jurisdictional bodies, and there are processes that are being diluted in the appeal courts, which delays all the auctions. “It is not that the regulator does not want to take out the tenders; It is in the legal process and the resolutions are still missing to be able to move forward ”.

And on the political side, he pointed out that to improve technology and digital change, the General Telecommunications Law must be modified and updated.

Mauricio Ramos, CEO of Millicom visited Guatemala. (Free Press Photo: Byron García)

Make up time

Regarding the importance of reactivating auctions or tenders, Ramos indicated that “regardless of the mechanism, the important thing is that the spectrum is put at the service of Guatemalans, since telephony and mobile data can only work on spectrum, and the more space is available, the more capacity operators can put at the service of users ”.

In this regard, he mentioned that Guatemala is a little behind in making some blocks of spectrum available to citizens, in particular the network -band- 700 MhZ, and the AWS band, and the time has come to make up for lost time, and this government administration has that vision.

In addition, he considered that the telecommunications industry has to respond at the same time to the public administration, being present, and acting jointly so that this spectrum is made available to Guatemalans. “I am convinced that he can take it forward in the following months and there is Tigo’s commitment to the president, since it is essential for the industry,” he remarked.

Flores considered that once the legal issue is resolved and the bidding progresses, the benefit would be for the user since it would have more speed, as well as all the services and technological platforms for health, education and commercial development.

Make the leap to 5G

Finally, the top executive of Millicom recognized that 5G technology is built on 4G, so the task must be completed not only in the country, but in Latin America. “In Guatemala, only two out of every three cell phone users use broadband and data, so there is a lot to do for Guatemalans to use data on their cell phone in 4G and build a very solid foundation for 5G when this technology arrives” .

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When asked, how long can that take? He replied that time is determined by the needs of consumers. “We will be ready when consumers are ready.”

Auction statuses

Asked about the 700 MhZ frequency, and the AWS, the head of the SIT, Marco Antonio Baten Ruiz, explained that there are legal appeals that different entities and institutions have filed for various processes to be evaluated. “As an institution, we are carrying out the formalities and procedures to advance in the evacuation of various resources,” he said.

And he cited as an example in the 700 MhZ band, for which there are two appeals for revocation, which are in administrative processes and analysis by the higher authorities to continue with the corresponding process.

In the case of the AWS, the hearings are already being evacuated, as well as the legal procedures, so that it is reserved and in due course, make the analysis of use and appropriate uses, which could advance in 2022.

The 700 Mhz band would remain for the use of mobile telephony, and is currently working on a reorganization. This band will allow the implementation of 4G, which is a technology that allows greater data transmission capacity and accelerates internet speed.

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