Last month, HIP Consult visited Bogotá, Colombia and Mexico City, Mexico, where the team met local ICT stakeholders and explored some of the challenges to achieving ubiquitous connectivity within these major Latin American markets.
Bogotá represents the wealthiest region in Colombia, but its mountainous landscape, like much of the rest of the country, creates geographical difficulties for the deployment of fiber optic networks and other digital-critical infrastructure. Mexico City, one of the world’s most, sprawling, populous cities, represents a challenging case for efficient infrastructure planning. While the Colombian and Mexican governments are keen to close the digital gap in their capital cities and other urban metropolises, they are also cognizant and concerned about the widening digital divide in more rural, underserved parts of their countries.
Columbia’s telecommunications regulatory body, la Comisión de Regulación de Comunicaciones (“CRC”), has been working to strengthen the sector by creating an agenda to identify and address challenges related to the promulgation of new technologies, while seeking to simplify regulatory frameworks to promote the digitization of the economy. On the infrastructure side, Colombia’s nationally-funded fiber backbone, operated by Azteca, has delivered connectivity to substantial numbers of municipalities previously unconnected, with commercial sustainability next in focus.
In Mexico, five years after the constitutional telecommunications reform, there has been a significant increase in access to both fixed and mobile broadband. Projects like Red Compartida and Red Troncal will continue to improve the country’s connectivity, particularly in rural areas. Mexico is perhaps the first country in the world to release 600 MHz spectrum for 5G use, with distribution of the freed up frequencies to take place as early as 1Q19. The creation of an autonomous regulatory body, the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT), that also acts as the competition authority, has improved coordination between the public and private sector helping boost service availability and affordability in the process.
While Colombia and Mexico have made impressive strides in broadband access and penetration, the digital divide persists. During the "Capacity Media Central America & Andean" conference in Bogota October 3-4, telecoms executives debated the roles of private vs. public players in the deployment of network infrastructure, as well as perceived bottlenecks and potential incentives to catalyzing further sector investment. In Mexico City, regulators and other stakeholders attending the IIC’s Communications Policy and Regulation Week could be heard contending with how to motivate additional private sector participation in extending their broadband footprint to less commercially viable areas.
In a sense, the ICT infrastructure developments of these two countries can be seen as a microcosm of wider trends at work across the Latin America region. Just as Colombia and Mexico are focused on the promotion of universal access and alignment public policies to facilitating an increasingly digital economy, other countries in the region have begun to prioritize digital inclusion and broadband connectivity in their national development plans.
With the digital ecosystem across Latin America in continuous evolution, public and private sector players should endeavor to coordinate efforts in order to facilitate a more expansive, higher quality, and more affordable ICT service footprint. Greater transparency among operators and other broadband players, along with regulatory bodies, will help to bridge the digital divide for both urban and rural populations. Interactive visualization and analytical tools can assist governments, service providers and investors alike to identify coverage gaps, harmonize investment and monitor progress.
“It is essential to take advantage of the power of modern digital tools; not only to complement efforts for universal access and higher quality infrastructure, but also to remain relevant in an industry that is rapidly evolving,” noted Judah J. Levine, Chief Executive Officer of HIP Consult. HIP Consult will continue to collaborate and support stakeholders in the region to more effectively plan, manage, build and commercialize broadband networks in pursuit of greater connectivity and economic growth.
Interested in learning more about our work in Latin America? Contact us at email@example.com.