Mexican Telecom Reform: Where we stand?

Mexican Telecom Reform: Where we stand?

Photo credit: VIA Telecom Booth by VIA Gallery

Maybe you have been following my latest posts on the approval process for amending the Mexican Constitution in relation to Telecom (and anti-trust). If not, I suggest you read How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Telecom and Love the Pact or Don´t Panic: The First-Mover Guide to the New Mexican Telecom Bill.

House of Representatives delivered the Bill with amendments to the Senate for second time, and Senate will vote minor revisions by April 30, 2013. If approved, it will go for approval to all 31 States of Mexican Republic. A minimum of 16 States will be required, and then Congress will declare the Constitutional Amendment going for publishing at the Federal Official Gazette.

Along will come secondary laws and regulations to update the regulatory framework and catch up with new technologies, which is expected to happen during next 6 months. This is the major overhaul on telecom regulation since early 1990´s, when Telmex was privatised and a Telecom Law was published for first time.

However, while our eyes are all over the Telecom Bill, there are other events shaping already the telecom industry like:

1. MVS is got a major victory at the Supreme Court versus recall of spectrum for 2.5 GHz band. Mexican Government, must likely, will negotiate a license to use a part of this band to MVS. Could MVS pitch Intel and Clearwire to launch its broadband project?

2. Digital TV is arriving earlier to Tijuana (May 28). While this will not move the calendar for other cities, it will certainly be an incentive for independent producers of HD content to hurry up. Also, a part of 700 MHz band will be recovered.

3. Comisión Federal de Telecomunicaciones (COFETEL) started public consultation on satellite services. Mexico has already launched Satellite “Bicentenario” last December 19, to become first of three satellites in the MexSat Fleet. Connectivity is on the rise.

4. COFETEL is retaking the project for consolidating 397 long-distance areas to 173. While this will hit the long-distance business, it will certainly open opportunities for local services.

5. COFETEL has finished the process for approving the Regulations for the Telecom Registry. These Regulations will simplify the process for acts to be registered (i.e. tariffs).

6. The Service Level Interconnection Agreement is in process of being discussed and approved. The approval will mean certainty for new entrants to the market.

Mexican telecom industry grew 15.1% during 2012 (in relation to 2011), so I am thrilled to see how these Reform and secondary regulation will soar this growth. How about you? Let me know what you think.

Don´t Panic: The First-Mover Guide to the New Mexican Telecom Bill

Don´t Panic: The First-Mover Guide to the New Mexican Telecom Bill

Photo credit: Firefox Mobile by Johan Larsson

It happened Sunday just before midnight. Politicians from The Pact for Mexico, this is, an alliance made by major political parties for debating amendments to structural laws in Mexico, agreed on a Telecom Bill to be presented to the Mexican Congress.

Yesterday, at noon, The Pact for Mexico and the Federal Government made a press event to officially present the Telecom Bill to society.  This means that this Bill has already received pre-approval from majority of congressmen, and most likely will pass in essence.

As wrote in my Post: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Telecom and Love the Pact” the Telecom Bill was imminent with no way back. Increasing growth of telecom and IT services, would eventually make politicians to reach agreements to set things right in the telecom industry.

Certainly, this Bill will boost telecom business at mid and long-term, taking many industries with them. For first-movers, time is of the essence. Here are some highlights to understand the range of this Amendment:

1.There is a constitutional right to access broadband and access to information. Infomercials disguised as news are forbidden.

2. State will transform current COFETEL (telecom agency) and COFECO (antitrust agency) from subordinated government bodies to the Ministries of Communications and Economy, respectively, into two autonomous agencies with enough power to coordinate telecom industry and commercial markets (other than telecom).

3. Licenses and spectrum will be reorganised to allow converging telecom services. Meaning that companies may render converging services under one license, rather than having several permits, authorisations and concessions. New telecom agency will grant and revoke licenses, rather than the Ministry of Communications, as happened in the past.

3.Two new free-to-air networks will be placed under tender. Major players with 6 MHz are not invited.

4. Must-carry and must-offer obligations are included. Free-to-air TV has to offer broadcasted content and CATVs must carry those signals, both for free. There is an exception to “major” players, that would pay for them.

4. Foreign investment will be allowed at 100% in fixed and mobile services, and up to 49% in free-to-air TV and radio.

5. Local bundle for telecom, radio and TV networks of “major” players must be shared.

6. Government will grow its telecom network allowing private-public projects.

7. Bands of 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz will be reorganised, and a part used for wholesale.

It is important to notice that this Bill is to the Mexican constitution, and would require to have federal laws to detail all these aspects. However, the business expectations are great.

I can hardly find some time to discuss all aspects that come to my mind at this moment, of write “deep thoughts” of each topic. However, some topics come to my mind:

  • Mexican telecom operators, no matter size or network size, have just increased market value.
  • Content will be required to fill-in air time and CATVs.
  • Big data analytic will play a big role in the expansion of the services, as well as in the market defence.
  • The internet of things could have found broadband access, but also an emerging market that loves gadgets.
  •  Videocasting, internet-TV and VOD could explode during next years. Internet radio could find a niche too.
  • Advertising must find other lucrative niches other than infomercial news. Maybe migrate to the internet.
  • Telemedicine, electronic files and other e-health business will be pushed by this Bill.
  • Local governments will be more likely to implement e-government policies with better and cheaper internet access.
  • Digital products will find a bigger market.

Telecom Bill appears to have a “Do Business in Mexico” all over it, and will attract many players into the market share. Now, it is the time of Mexico embracing this historic transformation.

I will find some time to write on several topics of the Bill, and some other that are not covered by it. Meanwhile, so long, and thanks for all the first-movers …

How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Telecom and Love the Pact

How I Learned to Stop Worrying about Telecom and Love the Pact

Photo credit: Internet café by Jared Tarbell

This post is far from being a black humor political satire. In case you missed it, on December 3, 2012 members from 3 leading political parties signed the Pact for Mexico.

This Pact is a pre-agreement on backbone amendments to promote Mexico´s growing. In telecom, we find very interesting public policies that could boost that and other industries:

1. Anti-trust Agency (COFECO) will have authority for structural and functional separation of trusts.
2. Creation of special telecom and anti-trust courts.
3. Constitutional access to broadband.
4. New rules for challenging resolutions from Federal Telecom Agency (COFETEL) and COFECO.
5. COFETEL will be autonomous.
6. Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE)´s Telecom Network will grow.
7. The Bands of 700 MHz and 2.5 GHz will be reorganized. 90 MHz of the 700 MHz Band will be used for wholesale.
8. There will be free internet acess in public spots and buildings.
9. Promotion of public and private investment in apps for telehealth, telemedicine and electronic patient records.
10. New policies for e-government, open government and open government data.
11. A bidding for new free-to-air TV will be launched with obligations of free must-carry and must-offer for CATVs.
12. Dominant firms of telephony and data will be subject to assimetric regulation for tariffs, combo offering and M&As.
13. Telecom Law will be updated and reorganized in one single estatute.
14. New policies for TV, radio, telephone and data will be implemented in parallel.
15. Most of these policies will be implemented as early as first quarter of 2013 and finishing implementation on 2015 or 2018.

The fact that all political parties pre-agree on amendments forsee a majority on the Congress and of course, a coordination with Peña Nieto´s Administration for implementing them. The new Administration also has shown pre-consent from Telmex and Televisa, biggest telecom and media companies in Mexico. No Supreme Court support has been shown yet, though.

Take it with a grain of salt, but there are some rumors about an amendment on current foreign investment limitations to fixed telephony and free-to-air TV to boost competition.

If you google telecom bills and policies, sure will find most of these items. The difference goes beyond the manifest majority of the Congress to promote competition in telecom, but the State declaring that will lead the telecom growing during next 6 years.

However, there are other pledges hidden for the untrained eye. Sales of Mexican telecom industry growing at a 15.1% pace and mobile broadband at 56.4% during third quarter of 2012, shows consumer is demanding the coming of big data.

In parallel, official information from Ministry of Economy shows that IT Industry has 32 clusters nationwide with 1340 companies. During last 10 years, the industry has grown 12.9% and the jobs 12% As such, there are 115,000 IT professionals graduated annually.

Have you stopped to think on the potential of this combo growing?

The Pact is in fact pushed and guaranteed by data consumer, who actually creates the IT and telecom jobs by paying for higher end services, but also by new era technologies that make hard for firms to keep market share without competing and innovating.

As Muhammad Ali once said “Impossible is temporary”. Today we are thinking on mobile broadband, while some are starting to foresee a hardware-less future based on the cloud with big data crossing across converging networks.

Mexico is paving the road for this. If you are smart enough you can grab a bit of business. If you are smarter, you will prepare yourself for a terabit. Just do not be foolished by technology, a business plan still will be required covering financial, tax, legal, IP, marketing and other traditional aspects of doing business. The Devil is in the details.

Five events to consider when planning your next telecom business

Five events to consider when planning your next telecom business

Photo credit: Telecom Antenna by Alberto Esenaro

I believe it was Winston Churchill who said “He who fails to plan, plans to fail”. Telecom business is no different.  For that, it is important to consider all events related to the industry. November, final month of Calderon´s Administration, events on the telecom industry have happened, and could open many opportunities.

1. Federal Telecommunications Agency (COFETEL) resolved to recommend before Ministry of Communications (SCT) the granting of satellite license to Tangerine Electronics for public telecom network, private telecom network and value added services. Satellite “Bicentenario” will be launched next December 19, to become first of three satellites in the MexSat Fleet. One of the objectives of MexSat will be to connect isolated and low-income areas of Mexico.

2. Sigma Networks México, Megacable, Metronet, NII Digital, IP Matrix and Corporación Universitaria para el Desarrollo de Internet (CUDI) announced the formation of an association for operating the first Internet Exchange Point (IXP) in Mexico, in order to reduce cost of traffic exchange and data latency. This is a private project, but will have full back from Ministry of Communications (SCT) and Federal Telecommunications Agency (COFETEL). The modest investment of $200,000 USD will make more cost-wise the transport of big data (if other IXP are successfully set up).

3. SCT freed spectrum frequencies from 5,470 to 5,600 MHz and 5,650 to 5,725 MHz, to be used by general public without need of license, permit or registration, and for setting up local area networks. However, devices must still be certified before COFETEL, for preventing interference with other frequencies. There are some restrictions of maximums of 250 mW broadcasting power and 1 W equivalent isotropically radiated power.

4. Currently, many telecom licenses contain different obligations and rights, depending upon the time they were granted. This is because the original Telecom Law was not technology neutral and had excessive controls from Government. Last months, SCT has been working on making a standard telecom license for operators that do not use the spectrum. Likewise, SCT has just made official a new proceeding for requesting a telecom license.

5. Sales of Mexican telecom industry grew up 15.1% during third quarter of 2012 (in relation to 2011). In same quarter, mobile broadband grew up 56.4% and prices to internet service dropped 13%.  These figures are announcing a bigger demand of bandwidth in the near future: the mobile broadband future.

Many other events and regulations will come with new administration of Mr. Peña Nieto, who has been very emphatic that will open the telecom market for telephony and free-to-air TV.  Let´s see what open means.

The 700 Mhz will be A5-APT

The 700 Mhz will be A5-APT

Photo credit: Moon and antenna by Marcello Semboli

I discussed in my previous post “A Tale of Two Bands and other telecom stories“, the status of the Bands 2.5 Ghz and 700 Mhz. Well, during the Ordinary Meeting of COFETE of September 19, 2012, it was unanimously recommended segmentation of band 698 to 806 Mhz according to the A5 (Asia-Pacific Telecomunity). The Band will be segmented in 2 parts of 45 Mhz with a separation space of 10 Mhz and guard bands.  The decision of recommending A5 versus the American Model was to adopt a model for lower investment and faster roll-out of mobile broadband.  According to the official date of COFETEL, the A5 Model requires an investment of $150 M USD with a roll-out time of 1.5 years, while the American Model requires $800 M USD and 2.5 years. In addition A5 Model allows portability from one network to another with the same band.

Still, there is no official information on how Ministry of Communications or COFETEL will recover the 700 Mhz, but it is obvious that there are already some negotiations in place to recover and then, launch the auction.  The war between Apple and Android, and the efforts of RIM and Windows Phone to get a market share will push operators and Government to expedite LTE in Mexico.  With 94 Million Mobile Users, who would not?

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