On July 5, 2015 the Mexican regulator, Ifetel, approved the scheme for the reorganization of the 2.6GHz band. It plans to auction this spectrum during 2016, which should be a welcome boost for mobile operators as they strive to increase their holdings for their 4G LTE networks. Ifetel is expected to auction the 2.6GHz band (and, beforehand, the 2.1GHz band this year) with an eye on competition, because Telcel is currently better placed than all other operators with regard to spectrum holdings across all existing bands and regions.
Ifetel is expected to focus on promoting competition in the next set of auctions
Mobile operators in Mexico can look at the near future with some hope, because the national regulator, Ifetel, looks set to auction more spectrum for 4G LTE between 2015 and 2016.
In designing the rules for the auctions in both the 2.1GHz and 2.6GHz bands, Ifetel is expected to aim to protect and foster competition and ensure that smaller operators have a chance to increase their own spectrum holdings. Telmex's mobile arm, Telcel, currently appears best placed, given that it holds spectrum across all bands and in all regions. The tough stance taken by regulators since the introduction of the reform and Telmex’s status as “preponderant agent” in the telecoms market suggest that the two upcoming auctions are likely to be designed to favor smaller operators and potential new entrants.
The 2015 spectrum plan, released by Ifetel in 2014 and amended earlier this year, already included plans for an auction of 2×70MHz in the 1.7–2.1GHz bands, explicitly reserved for mobile broadband. It is noteworthy that Ifetel added an extra 2×10MHz in the latest version of the plan (1770–1780MHz and 2170–2180MHz, which are still in the process of being standardized for 4G LTE).
On July 5, 2015 Ifetel made another welcome announcement, releasing details of the scheme for the reorganization of the 2.6GHz band. The scheme includes few surprises: it has an FDD band made up of 2×70MHz (2500–2570MHz paired with 2620–2690MHz) and a TDD band of 50MHz in between the two FDD blocks. However, the fact that the auction is planned for 2016 means that Mexican telcos are now much closer to getting hold of that spectrum and offering services over it.
Spectrum in the 2.6GHz band in Mexico was a controversial matter until recently; regulators have envisaged its allocation to mobile broadband since 2008, but broadcasters fought hard to retain their licenses (particularly MVS Comunicaciones, which held 42 of the total 68 licenses and tried to launch a mobile broadband service in recent years to avoid losing that spectrum). Only in August 2012 did the Secretariat for Communications and Transport announce that any renewal of existing licenses would be blocked with a view to refarming the band.
Mexico (Country Regulation Overview), TE0007-000839 (October 2014)
“A wholesale network for LTE could increase competition in Mexico, but MNOs still need more spectrum,” TE0007-000890 (March 2015)
Luca Schiavoni, Senior Analyst, Regulation