How will Mexico's regulatory guidelines change to facilitate 5G deployment? What are the main challenges and considerations?
Telecom deployments like the upgrade of 5G require a large investment, with a long recovery period, so it's essential for companies to have certainty regarding regulation. Without a doubt, a regulator with technical autonomy to regulate and promote the efficient development of the sector is needed for a smooth transition to 5G.
Since the Telecom Law Reform Reform in 2013, actions have been taken to encourage and facilitate the deployment and adoption of new technologies, including 5G. Spectrum identification and allocation is one of the main items that we are working on, as well as the regulatory framework infrastructure sharing.
Red Compartida, a project that joins public and private sector efforts to expand and improve the connectivity throughout the country, is an example of an infrastructure sharing initiative. The IFT assigned 90 MHz of 700 MHz band for Red Compartida and since its launch, it uses 4G that eventually will be ready for 5G.
As part of the efforts to optimize spectrum allocation, the IFT has reallocated and opened up the bidding processes for frequency, which will be required for 5G. In fact, Mexico is the first country in the world to release the 600 MHz band for 5G services. 120 MHz of spectrum was made available in the 2500-2690 MHz band (Tender No. IFT-7) and 3.5 GHz band is in reordering process.
In terms of regulation for the deployment and sharing of infrastructure, the IFT will issue new guidelines this year for telecommunications and broadcasting infrastructure, which encourage more optimal use of networks and reduce the costs of infrastructure sharing.
Regarding the challenges, predictions point out an exponential increase in mobile data traffic as well as in the number of subscribers in the coming years. According to the Ericsson Mobility Report 2018, the average data monthly usage by a smartphone user in Latin America is 3.4Gb per month, which is predicted to increase to 18Gb by 2024.
New services and technologies, like self-driving cars and remote surgeries, will require more reliable telecom networks and with less latency in receiving data.
To facilitate the development of an ecosystem of new 5G services, with diverse needs in terms of coverage, transmission and latency, it will be necessary to have frequency bands throughout the entire spectrum, which underscores the importance of efficient spectrum management to meet those needs.
Spectrum, though, is useless without adequate and appropriate infrastructure deployment, though it is outside the scope of the IFT’s competency, it is also imperative to make the administrative processes across states and municipalities more efficient in order to encourage investment. The goal is a unified infrastructure policy in the three levels of government: federal, state and municipal, that standardizes the requirements and provides certainty to investors.
To what extent is Mexico ready for 5G? What benefits will 5G bring?
The IFT is working to ensure that the spectrum required for 5G is in place. Recently, the publication of the "Public Opinion on Identification of Spectrum Needs for the IMT’s between 24.25 GHz and 86 GHz in Mexico," seeks to establish the basis for designing an adequate spectral policy particularly in relation to the mobile technologies, which includes 5G.
Similarly, as a non-binding participation mechanism, the Radio-electric Spectrum Technical Committee was created (CTER), where industry, academics and stakeholders share opinions about the needs, strategies and studies on spectrum managed by the regulator, which contributes to the IFT’s decision-making process. The IFT is also developing a study on the feasible frequency bands for the deployment of 5G, in accordance with the international best practices.
Regarding the benefits, we know that 5G offers greater capacity, connectivity, and ultra reliability and low latency connection, which will support the development of better services such as connected cars, smart cities, enhanced virtual reality and thousands of new IoT applications. 5G is a catalyst that will improve and increase the services provided through telecommunications networks, which will translate into greater welfare for users.
How is the IFT promoting investment in infrastructure deployment in rural areas?
In Mexico, telecommunications are considered a public service and the State is obliged to guarantee all Mexicans the right of access to information and communication technologies, including broadband and Internet services. The IFT is in charge of the regulation, promotion and supervision of the use, exploitation and utilization of the spectrum, networks and the provision of telecommunications services.
In fulfilling its main function, the IFT has focused its regulatory policies on promoting deployment that brings telecom services to a greater number of people, with a better quality. Besides encouraging deployment in areas without coverage, the IFT seeks to reduce regulatory barriers to close the market gap to maximize operator’s ability to expand their networks so areas that require the State support are minimal.
We also include obligations and conditions of universal access for operators who are given spectrum. An example is the recent bidding for 2.5 GHz band, in which the winners were given coverage obligations in un/under-served areas.
The IFT has assumed itself as a facilitator, generating with its regulation the conditions to promote the development of the sector, and as a result, the deployment of infrastructure, investment in technology and effective competition. There will of course be areas where the market will be unable to meet the needs of the population, and this is where a comprehensive policy becomes relevant. Industry players, government and the regulator must come together to ensure universal coverage, as it’s importance increases when considering the potential benefits in new, adjacent services such as health, education, financial inclusion and access to information.