Costa Rica spectrum issue resolved – but will 5G auctions follow?

Costa Rica spectrum issue resolved – but will 5G auctions follow?

A long-running dispute over unused spectrum in and around the 3500MHz band in Costa Rica appears to be at an end after an agreement this week between the government and the state utility that owned the spectrum.

The widely reported agreement, between Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves Robles and Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (Grupo ICE), the Costa Rican government-run electricity and telecommunications services provider, will see frequencies in the 3400MHz-3500MHz and 3600MHz-3625MHz bands returned to the state.

News website BNamericas says the aim is now for the frequencies to be put out to tender so that private operators can deploy 5G services in the country. Indeed, a tender for 5G frequencies is expected within 18 months.

In addition to 125GHz in the 3.5GHz band, Costa Rica has available frequencies in the 700MHz band and other portions in higher bands that could also be included in the bidding process.

As we reported at the time, in May this year the president decreed that ICE had to hand over 5G spectrum that the Ministry of Science, Innovation, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT) had awarded to its subsidiary Radiografica Costarricense SA within six months. This week’s agreement comes two months before the deadline.

MICITT has apparently confirmed that efforts will continue to recover unused or underused  spectrum in other frequency bands.

This is an important point. While the returned spectrum is undoubtedly suitable for some 5G uses, its seems that ICE still has the whole of the 2600MHz band to itself. This, some analysts suggest, is unlikely to make 5G spectrum bidding look quite so attractive for operators Claro and Liberty Latin America, let alone attract new entrants.

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