5G’s zero hour has arrived in Colombia

This Wednesday, with tight physical and digital security measures in four cubicles located in Maloca, The long awaited airwaves auction will take place’Invisible roads’ in the sky are spreading mobile communications, so 5G is finally coming to the country.

It is a process developed in record time, with many obstacles along the way: Dominant complaints pointed out by majority of mobile operators against Claro; And the renewal of spectrum permits for almost all market players can be mentioned as the two biggest noises for the auction.

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Despite everything, ICT Minister Maurizio Liscano remains committed to the objective of modernizing networks and improving connectivity indicators. Move this auction forwardIt will be an undoubted milestone for this government amidst the tribulations of past administrations.

Of course, the union between Vom, Movistar and Tico and Telecom A new cast from Brazil – four players up for bid. In a conversation with EL TIEMPO, Minister Lizcano expressed confidence in the process, the logistics of the auction and the commitment of the bidders and predicted the auction’s positive impact on the revival of the country’s economy.

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It is predicted that we will reach 51% population in 36 months. The rest of the coverage may take four to five years because they are very remote areas.

Minister, the auction will be held the day after tomorrow. How do you see this?

It was the fastest auction in Latin America and the world: it was done in just eight months. Bidders had two months to submit comments. In short, it is a completely transparent auction, the best indicator of which is the number of bidders: five companies compete with four projects, one of which is a new operator in the market.

Why was it able to proceed with the 5G auction this time?

We achieved this for several reasons. First, because there was political will, clear decision, approach and highly disciplined technical training by all members of the ICT Ministry. A good team was formed. I devoted several hours each week to reviewing bids and leading all teams.

When will 5G service be available in Colombia?

It is a race that begins in the private sector and is the first to kneel, the first to acknowledge. In this case, the first to initiate investments will be the first to serve and have the most options to beat the market. It is predicted that we will reach 51% population in 36 months. The rest of the coverage may take four to five years because they are very remote areas. Of course we’re going to see 5G in some capital cities (the final decision on service authorization for companies that won the spectrum in the auction comes out in February) and more companies are going to start using it. The reason for this timing is very clear: antennas need to be built, infrastructure needs to be deployed. Installing a new antenna can take three to six months. 5G will take two to three months to replace old technology antennas and will arrive gradually, first in major capital cities. In the United States, current 5G coverage is 35% of users, while in Latin American countries it is between 25 and 27%. Colombia hopes to be above 50% within three years.

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How will mobile communication service improve users and their connectivity?

5G will positively impact other technologies like 4G. It will help replace older technologies like 2G and 3G and shift users to 4G and 5G. There are still many old antennas in Colombia. The construction of antennas across the country will be huge next year as the connectivity plan includes not only 5G but also spectrum renewal. Operating companies have to pay 50% with obligations (guaranteed coverage in some places) and the other 50% to be linked to sources of ICT finance (FUTIC). On the other hand, the President allocated 800,000 million in the nation’s budget for connectivity, and we estimate that next year we will improve the country’s connectivity by 10 points and that will be a growth of 0.5 percent of the national GDP. The strategy we designed aims to achieve 80% connectivity.

How much resources will the country get from this 5G auction?

An average of a billion pesos and we can more or less reach 1.5 billion. Incoming resources must be multiplied by two, because the other half is made up of obligations. It also doesn’t account for what operators will have to invest to set up 5G technology. In total, the influx of foreign investment, both in terms of infrastructure and job creation, has invested about $5 billion in the country. It should be remembered that the investment in resources is 20 percent of the total in the first year and the rest will be received in 20 years to ensure the sustainability of ICT funding for this government and the next government. The deployment of 5G technology is a milestone in revitalizing the country’s economy as it will bring new investments, new resources, job creation and new infrastructure. In that way, 5G is going to become one of the most important elements of foreign investment in Colombia next year, and will also help overcome the financial deficit due to the decision of the Constitutional Court that we cannot deduct the royalties we have generated. The financial gap for the state is about six billion pesos. From a macroeconomic perspective, this auction will help the country immensely.

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How will it affect or affect the review of competition in mobile services being carried out by the Communications Regulatory Commission (CRC)? Asymmetric actions against Claro due to dominance.

I think there is a confusion here. Market is different, spectrum is different. Although they are apparently related, in reality there is no relationship, ie: more spectrum, not necessarily a bigger market, because, if this were the case, Tico or Moviestar, with more spectrum, would be the dominant operator. Spectrum is not a market fix. This is proven mathematically. The best evidence is that Claro was banned from competing in certain bands at the last auction and that the company continues to command a huge market today. It is not true that spectrum is the way to fix the market, it is completely wrong. The way to fix the market is to take CRC through market measures. The Colombian telecommunications market is very competitive, but it has flaws and decisions must be made in order to have a greater balance between competitors, but this cannot be done with 5G, as many have wrongly requested. There are specific measures in this auction, for example, Claro cannot choose its position in the 3,500 group as recommended by the Industry and Trade Watchdog.

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What steps should the CRC take to correct the market?

Some of the measures proposed by the CRC are good, while others are not considered by us. It is an independent and integrated regulator. It is not for the ministry to take decisions and we have not regulated the telecom market for many years. We have a chair in the CRC, but it is an independent and plural body whose commissioners, many of whom are elected by merit. For example, we agreed with measures on portability, requiring companies to facilitate portability because they do not allow companies to carry out the process. We also support that the plans are completely specific and transparent, there are no hidden commercial schemes.

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Will 5G cost us as citizens and will it be more expensive?

First of all, it should be clear that no one needs to change their cell phone, they are all unusable. 5G antennas are incorporated into all types of cell phones. If your device has 5G connectivity and you have your plan, start using it without any problem. Second, you don’t have to pay more on the bill. In fact, one might think that in the future, prices will drop as this technology becomes more efficient and companies become more competitive. It obviously won’t be initially, but what is expected is that prices will not rise. Third, it is important to ensure that 5G does not harm health. It is scientifically recognized that antennas are non-ionizing and do not cause any harm.

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It will be a bidding process

– Location: It will be in Máloca, where a kind of 'studio house’ has been built in a large room with four transparent cubicles, where the representatives of the operators will be.

– Security: You may not enter with cell phones, smart watches, computers, USB drives, or any other technological device that allows external communication. The site will be cleared by military and intelligence experts.

– 'Software’: With Certicamaras, a dedicated app was created for the auction. It will have a restriction on maximum and minimum amounts to avoid errors in proposals (as happened in previous auctions) and it will be bid in billions (another error restriction). The software is installed on new computers and networked internally without internet access to avoid hacking attempts.

– Quantity: There will be four rounds with an interval of at least 15 minutes. Bidders will see the spectrum blocks, frequencies and amounts offered by others on the screens so that they can make decisions based on their interest. Claro is the only operator not allowed to choose a location in the 3,500 MHz band due to the recommendation of the SIC.

– Authorized persons: A bidder can enter a maximum of 10 people in each room. The entrant cannot exit until the end of the auction. They have their own food and bathroom.

Jose Carlos Carque R.

Editor Multimedia

X: @joscarlostecno

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