Mexico’s shared LTE network goes live, but will MNOs sign up?

Mexico’s shared, wholesale LTE network has gone live, covering 32.2% of the country’s population so far, just ahead of the 30% mandated by the government for March 31 2018.

The Red Compartida project is a public-private partnership with Altan Redes, which is investing $7bn in building a network in 700 MHz spectrum. By the end of the year, it will be completed and will cover 92.2% of the population.

The resulting platform can be used by “network and non-network operators in a non-biased wholesale business model”, according to the government which insisted on this shared approach, though none of the country’s large operators have yet signed an agreement to use it.

Indeed, the largest, American Movilhas said categorically that it has no plans to do so. Though Telefonica has said it would “certainly consider using it” to extend its coverage, the tepid reaction to the scheme has echoes of other government-driven shared network schemes in countries like Kenya, South Africa and Russia.

All these were designed to reduce the cost of deployment for individual operators and accelerate the availability of new mobile services, but they all fell apart because of political wrangling and the suspicion of most MNOs of any deal to share active infrastructure with rivals, rather than control their own networks.

The main investor in Mexico’s platform is a fund managed by Morgan Stanley, while the China Mexico Fund also has a major holding. The main suppliers are Huawei in the RAN and Nokia in the core.

As well as the wish to extend mobile broadband services, the government has a second agenda, to reduce the market dominance of America Movil.