Colombia eyes raising $499 million in cell service auction

By Luis Jaime Acosta

BOGOTA (Reuters) - Colombia hopes to raise up to $499 million in an auction to award four blocks to operate 5G cellular data services in the country on Dec. 20, the Minister of Information and Communications Technologies said on Wednesday.

Colombia hopes to improve connectivity as it joins its Latin American neighbors, including Argentina and Mexico, which already have 5G services.

"We're going to award up to four blocks of 100 megahertz in the 3,500 frequency," Minister of Information and Communications Technologies, Mauricio Lizcano, said in an interview.

"The operation could be worth between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion pesos ($374.5 million to $499 million)," he said, adding that the auction will include bids in the extended AWS band of frequencies, which range from 1,700 megahertz to 2,100 megahertz.

Any public or private telecommunications company with more than three years of experience will be able to participate, the minister said.

Auction winners will be able to begin adapting the networks in 2024, he added.

"Whoever pays the most wins the spectrum, ... it's impossible for there to be a defect in the procedure," Lizcano said.

Cellphone users who have 5G technology enjoy faster download and upload speeds, the minister said, adding that a 5G network will benefit the business, health and education sectors.

To avoid any one company taking a dominant position, operators with fewer customers will get the first pick of the available spectrums, Lizcano said.

Colombia had 80.8 million cellphone subscribers at the end of 2022, spread among operators including Claro, Movistar, Tigo and WOM.

($1 = 4,005.06 Colombian pesos)

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Oliver Griffin;editing by Diane Craft)