Chile looks to gain regional 5G lead with vendor-neutral approach

Chile looks to gain regional 5G lead with vendor-neutral approach

Chile is accelerating an already-ambitious deployment plan to extend 5G coverage across most of the country within the next two years.

The roll-out was confirmed to Reuters by Telecommunications Undersecretary Pamela Gidi, who added that Chile would be open to suppliers of any nationality as long as they adhered to a strict set of rules, saying: “As long as [these regulations] are respected, we neither have nor are we going to influence the supply chain nor the nationality of the companies.”

Chile lists China and the United States among its major trade partners, and given the tension between the two powers around cyber security and data protection relating to 5G technology, Chile considers its strict level of oversight necessary to its deployment plans if it is to take a vendor-neutral stance.

The US has blocked its operators from using Chinese-made network equipment, placing Chinese firms such as Huawei and ZTE on supplier blacklists and pressuring its allies to shun the providers for their 5G networks.

In February, several firms won licences to provide telecoms services using 5G spectrum in Chile. Among them were local operator Entel, Spain-based Movistar, and WOM, an operator backed by UK-based investment group Novator Partners.

Local analysts believe WOM is likely to select Huawei as an equipment provider for its 5G build-out, and while it has neither confirmed nor denied speculation, Gidi noted that all licence holders could “make their commercial decisions freely provided the [cybersecurity] technical standards are respected.”

If Chile sticks to its schedule, its 5G deployment will be significantly ahead of other Latin American countries. Gidi told Reuters that the government was hoping that this could convince Amazon Web Services to install a southern cone data centre in Chile rather than mooted alternative option Argentina, saying: “We think obviously [5G deployment] can help in the decision of Amazon and other companies that in the future decide to settle in Chile.”

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