Last Thursday, a consortium of several multinational investors was awarded a 20-year license by the Mexican government to build and operate a national fourth-generation LTE wireless network that is slated to cover more than 90% of the Mexican population. Touted by a spokesman for one consortium member as “the world’s largest open access, wholesale telecom network,” the new national network will operate on 700 MHz band frequencies that were freed up last year for wireless industry use as a result of the analog-to-digital television transition in Mexico.

Network development and operating rights for the “Red Compartida Project” were awarded to the Altan Consortium, a group led by Spanish telecommunications businessman Eugenio Galdon. Infrastructure fund Marapendi Holding BV holds the largest stake in Altan with a 33.38% share. Other key participants in Altan include the World Bank/IFCmanaged China-Mexico Fund (23.26%), Canadian pension fund Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec (12.68%), Mexican cable operator Megacable (4.01%), and Grupo Multitel of Spain (4.01%). 

The Red Compartida network is slated to provide wholesale capacity to competitive carriers for the provision of wireless broadband services nationwide and in remote areas of Mexico that remain unserved by America Movil, Telefonica and AT&T. Statistics show that 56 out of every 100 people in Mexico currently subscribe to broadband services, and Altan has promised national network coverage of 92.2% which exceeds the 85% level mandated by the government. Altan expects to invest US$7 billion in the network, which is scheduled to commence operations in March 2018. As Galdon proclaimed that “the investors that make up [Altan] are showing their confidence and their interest in the future” of Mexico, Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, Mexico’s secretary of communications and transport, hailed the license award as “an historic moment for the government of the republic, society as a whole, and the Mexican telecommunications industry.”