El Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (MinTIC) led the match'Digital inclusion in Colombia: spectrum, 5G and the challenge of connecting everyone', in which experts from various countries shared their successful experiences regarding the implementation of this technology.

Officials and international experts participated in the event, including the ICT Minister, Sandra Urrutia; Lucas Gallitto, President of the Global Association of Mobile Operators (GSMA); Wayne Leighton, deputy head of the International Bureau of the US Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and Pamela Gidi, former Undersecretary of Communications of Chile, among others.

“Our responsibility is to know the issues in depth to make decisions based on data and experiences. That is the objective of this meeting: that it be a space for learning and networking for the Colombian telecommunications sector that allows us to be better prepared for the different processes that we will lead around 5G”, said Sandra Milena Urrutia, ICT minister.

The official reported that on February 2 the government made decisions regarding the renewal of 40% of the spectrum. "We have clarity and a schedule of how we are going to renew this initial 40% and there is only 26% left that we have to outline later".

By reiterating that the 5G spectrum should be a fundamental tool in terms of connectivity and development for Colombia, Minister Urrutia confirmed that the auction process for this spectrum is already progressing satisfactorily.

He said that in the first quarter of 2023 the objective selection process was completed, the draft of the auction process will be published in the second quarter and that it is expected that the objective selection will begin in the third quarter, which is nothing other than the award 5G.

Minister Urrutia also highlighted that in the process of renewing 40% of the mobile spectrum, The government has prioritized two fundamental principles: maximizing the social well-being of Colombians, as well as protecting the industry and caring for investment.

What should the auction model be?

The experts who participated in the event 'Digital Inclusion in Colombia: spectrum, 5G and the challenge of connecting everyone' agreed that the spectrum auction should not have a collection nature, but should focus on expanding the goals of connectivity and social and economic development for the population.

“To achieve an effective strategy that significantly increases connectivity and that generates development, it is necessary to have a spectrum policy that is compatible with that objective of greater connectivity. In other words, you have to have reasonable prices that are attractive for investment and forget the scheme of the revenue auction for the State”, said Lucas Gallitto, president of the Global Association of Mobile Operators (GSMA)

“We understand that States have financial needs, but it should also be noted that there are studies that establish that if -for example- spectrum prices in Colombia were at a lower level, similar to other countries in the region, today about 2 million of Colombians would already have access to mobile broadband”, Agregó.

Lucas Gallitto insisted that, in the long run, a non-revenue auction generates more economic benefits for the countries since it promotes productivity in all economic sectors.

In the same vein, Pamela Gidi, former Chilean communications undersecretary, assured that The spectrum in the hands of the State is useless if it does not generate social development for the population and increase the productivity of the countries.

“Although we clearly understand that the spectrum is a public good that must be regulated by the State, the spectrum in the hands of the State is useless if it does not contribute to productivity. Having said the above, it must be clarified that the spectrum auction in any country must respond to the principles of efficiency, competitiveness and transparency”. Gidi said.

The former official, who played a key role in the implementation of 5G in Chile, presented the successful model that currently operates in her country. "Our vision is to turn Chile into a Latin American communications hub and for this we have made progress in infrastructure, regulatory modernization and rapid deployment."

“5G implementation is not for talking on the phone. We understood in Chile that this spectrum must be used to improve the productivity of companies in all sectors. That's our bet." Gidi remarked.

It is important to highlight that, thanks to these policies, in 4 years Chile increased its level of connectivity by 20% and is currently the second country in the world in Internet speed, only surpassed by Singapore.

Arturo Azcorra, General Director of Telecommunications and Audiovisual Services of the Ministry of Economy and Digital Transformation of Spain, highlighted his country's progress in 5G implementation and the importance for this achievement of regulatory simplification.

"Spain was one of the first countries in Europe to implement 5G thanks to a simplified regulation that promoted rapid deployment within a framework of free competition between operators", Stressed.

Vitor Elisio Menezes, former executive secretary of the Brazilian Ministry of Communications and Julissa Cruz, executive director of the Dominican Institute of Telecommunications also presented the success stories of their countries in the implementation of 5G. In both cases, the key was to carry out tenders that will prioritize public welfare over the State's revenue interest.

To its turn Wayne Leighton, Deputy head of the International Office of the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) explained how in the United States 5G coverage reaches practically the entire country thanks to the implementation of subsidy programs that encouraged companies such as Dish, T Mobile Verizon and ATT to carry broadband to rural areas.  

"The US government has support programs for the implementation of 5G throughout the country, including rural areas where -even- subsidies have been established so that all the country's inhabitants have access to this technology."

Image: MinTIC