Merry 4G Access, Argentina!!!

Finally, this Christmas, Argentines can say, 4G is coming to town. Last week, Friday 19th, December 2014, Movistar and Personal have both announced the launch of 4G in the main three cities in Argentina; Buenos Aires City, Cordoba and Rosario.

The Argentine government finalized the auction and allocated the spectrum last month, mid-November 2014. Four companies won the bid, Claro, Movistar, Personal, and Arlink (this last one is a new company owned by couple of national businessman close to the current government). All the operators together will be paying 2,233M usd for this deal, which also includes 120 MHZ of 4G, and some 3G spectrum. These are the frequencies allocated:

Operator Allocated 4G Frequency
AMX/Claro 1720-1730 MHz & 2120-2130 MHz
Arlink No comment on the frequency
Telecom/Personal 1720-1730 MHz & 2130-2145 MHz
TEM/Movistar 1710-1720 MHz & 2110-2120 MHz

 

A month, after the allocation, Movistar and Personal are launching LTE. Movistar launched its network, with a major communication campaign, while Personal did it quietly. This last one, might not have done major announcement, as none of the Personal users that I know, have been able to access to the service. Claro was one of the first operator in obtain the spectrum; however, it has not yet announced any launching activity.

The hurry to launch the network, is not only to acquire commercial advantage, but mainly to solve the network saturation issues all operators have been facing in the last couple of years. It’s been 8 years since 3G was licensed, and with more than 60% of smartphone penetration (calculated based on unique subscriber); all the operators, between 2013 and 2014, have been having serious network saturation problems. These problems have been costing the operators millions of USD in sanctions from the regulators, and a vast number of unsatisfied customers.

Argentina is the last major country in Latam, and the last country in South America to launch 4G technology. Countries such as Mexico and Brazil have all launched LTE network by the end of 2011. The CNC (Argentine regulatory commission) requires all the operators to have coverage in all provinces’ capital and cities above 100k population, which about 60% of the population, 18 months after the allocation of the frequency. However, operators’ plans might be faster than government requirement, for 4G deployment, to ease their 3G network saturation problem.

In Argentina, currently only 14 models are LTE capable.   Many LTE capable devices such as Samsung flagship S4 or S5 or Sony ZL has been sold in Argentina without LTE support. Vendors that already have in their local portfolio, 4G capable devices, will have good competitive edge over those who have not. Especially as next year, 2015, local manufacturing and imports will be even more restricted, by the government, than it has been this year. It will be even less chances to get permission to assembly new models, or modifications on approved devises.

All these technology developments are very good news for the Argentine end users. This will allow Argentina to catch up with the technology that all its neighboring countries enjoy. Now let’s just hope that these consumers will have access to devices that supports LTE.