On December 29, 2017, the Ministry of Information Technology and Communications in Colombia (MinTIC) announced it had adopted its decision to increase spectrum caps. The aim of this policy is to allow operators to expand their network capacity to meet the growing demands of subscribers. The cap for sub-1GHz frequencies has been raised from 30MHz to 45MHz per operator, while the cap for high bands (1710–2690MHz) will be raised from 85MHz to 90MHz.
With the higher caps now finalized, the regulator should ensure the much-needed spectrum auction is not delayed any further
Since 2015, Colombia has been planning the auction of much-needed spectrum in the 700MHz band and remaining spectrum in the 900MHz, 1900MHz, and 2500MHz bands. Initially the auction was scheduled to start in 1H15, but was delayed while the ministry reviewed existing spectrum caps. Now that the decision to raise the caps has been finalized, the auction can get back on track and is now expected to start during 2018. The Colombian market urgently needs spectrum, so the MinTIC should not delay the auction any further as this could severely hamper the country's technological development.
Under the terms of the license, the winners of the upcoming auction will be mandated to follow certain provisions, such as supporting an emergency network, national roaming services, and infrastructure sharing, and will be required to provide mobile coverage with at least 100Mbps download speeds and 35Mbps upload speeds and cover up to 50 hard-to-reach areas of the country. The licenses will be for a period of 10 years; however, within 5 years of the allocation, operators will need to have upgraded their networks to the best technology standards.
According to Ovum's Colombia (Country Regulation Overview), both Claro and Movistar will benefit most from the cap increase in sub-1GHz spectrum, as each currently holds 25MHz in the 800MHz band. Under the previous cap of 30MHz, both operators would have been severely restricted in what they could purchase at the next auction. The raised cap of 90MHz on higher bands would benefit all operators. Claro and Movistar currently hold 85MHz of spectrum across these bands (60MHz in the higher bands and 25MHz in the low frequencies), Tigo-UNE holds 85MHz in high bands (including 30MHz from a joint venture with ETB), Avantel holds 30MHz, and DirecTV holds 70MHz (2500MHz band).
Colombia is a leader in the region in terms of spectrum policy, which is overseen by a highly specialized and independent government spectrum agency (ANE). The regulator not only handles the strategic planning of spectrum but also controls spectrum usage and advises MinTIC. Recently, ANE has pushed hard to release additional spectrum. In 2017, for example, Colombia was the first country in Latin America to adopt TV white spaces (TVWS) regulation, through dynamic spectrum access technologies. This allows operators to use broadcasting frequencies in places where they are not used locally on a secondary basis to increase their mobile capacity.
Colombia (Country Regulation Overview), TE0007-001103 (January 2017)
"Latin America needs to develop a roadmap for 5G spectrum," GLB007-000018 (December 2017)
"Colombia acknowledges increasing convergence of TV and telecoms through a combined regulator," TE0007-001203 (October 2017)
Sarah McBride, Analyst, Regulation