The 5G network is holding back in Mexico

In Mexico, eight years after the launch of the fourth-generation commercial telephony network, the (4G) has not yet reached 90% and the tenders for the networks where 5G runs are frozen. This system is already a reality in some countries, but not yet in Mexico. Read how the 5G network is hitting the brakes in Mexico.

The need for faster connection, as well as the transmission of more and more specialized content will cause 5G technology to be deployed in Mexico faster. Stock image
The need for faster connection, as well as the transmission of more and more specialized content will cause 5G technology to be deployed in Mexico faster. Stock image

According to a study by Open Signal, the implementation of the 4G network is the first transcendental step for the transition to the next generation. In the first version of the fifth-generation network, phones need to connect to a 4G signal to use the 5G. In addition, many countries have not yet launched 5G. Only three countries in the world have joined an exclusive club of nations that have 4G network availability above 95 percent: the United States, the Netherlands, and Taiwan. Mexico ranked 44th out of 100 in the world average download speed experience at the end of the first quarter of 2020.

In the ranking, the two countries that lead the list are Canada and Korea, and since last year they have speeds above 50 megabytes per second, and were the only two to exceed that threshold in 2019. Today, the study adds, these nations maintain the best global performance, but the overall speed of connectivity grew by approximately 24 percent, although the 5G network is still far from being popular in the world.

Korea, the fifth-generation pioneer, began implementing the network only in the first quarter of 2019 and by early 2020, the technology had caught up with Canada. The large telecommunications companies in the country are already with their hand on the door to develop the network that will accelerate connectivity and allow the generation of infrastructure that will drive hitherto unthinkable issues such as remote surgeries.

With the implementation of the 5G network, latency is reduced in such a way that it enables other types of network uses, such as autonomous vehicles or remote medical operations, because they do not allow latency or lag between thought and action. In this sense, 5G will change the game.

In the case of the Mexican market, each market has its point of maturity where it is necessary to calculate the precise moment to launch the network.

Although the infrastructure to provide the service of the 5G network has not yet been installed, the company América Móvil, owned by the multimillionaire Carlos Slim, is the company that has the most concessions in the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) band. This is the spectrum used by the network to provide the service. Last July, Telcel reached an agreement with Axtel to purchase a 50 megahertz (MHz) package of bandwidth over the 3.5 GHz spectrum with national coverage.

This operation included nine concession titles that give Carlos Slim's telephone company the right to use the "highway" to run fifth-generation technology. The operation does not allow Telcel to use the band to provide mobile service, but it does allow Telcel to bring the 5G network to fixed telephones in Mexican homes and offices.

This purchase is in addition to an operation made by Telmex last January, in which it gave Telcel another 50 MHz of bandwidth, so that the company already has 100 MHz to operate the network as soon as the physical deployment is ready, although it will only be able to use half of it for the deployment in mobile telephony. Also, AT&T, the operator of the world's largest 5G network, has concession titles that allow it to exploit 50 MHz of this band, according to data provided by the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT).

Eight years after the commercial launch of the fourth generation (4G) network in Mexico, the country still does not achieve universal infrastructure coverage for this network, as it barely reaches more than 86 percent of the national territory.

The Ministry of Communications and Transport owns the "highway" that the 5G network uses to run, that is, the radioelectric spectrum that functions as a channel for signal transmission. This highway includes the bands in the 2.3 to 2.6 GHz, 3.5 GHz, and 4.9 GHz range, but the allocation process for the private sector to use them is still undated. The bidding process for the rest of the 3.5 GHz band is currently on hold due to the behavior of the Mexican economy.

In November 2019, the IFT said that towards the end of this year it would start the bidding process, but everything would be subject to the behavior of the Mexican economy. Only in July, the director of the Radio Spectrum Unit of the IFT, Alejandro Navarrete Torres, said that it could be until the end of the year when the regulator has the bases to bid up to 150 MHz of the 3.5 band.

The regulator also said that so far neither Telcel nor AT&T take advantage of 100 percent of the signals in some states of the Republic, so it did not rule out that the IFT will start a process of recovery of frequencies to have the first bidding of the spectrum until next year. The cancellation and delay of the bids in Mexico are the common denominators in Latin America, since it is a path that was also followed in Brazil and Peru.

The company Siemens Mexico is already doing industrial pilot tests for the handling of equipment, but only through private networks.

In Spain, there are already several companies, such as Vodafone or Telefónica, that offer the 5G network service and request more public resources for the development of the necessary infrastructure. Antonio Coimbra, President, and CEO of Vodafone Spain, asked the Spanish State to invest two billion Euros, equivalent to just over 50 billion pesos, in the development of the 5G network.

This is equivalent to 10 percent of European recovery funds, but the private sector would allocate an additional three billion for the same purpose. And while in Spain they are asking for resources to expand the presence of the 5G network, in South Korea the sixth generation prototype is already under development.

According to the newspaper Business Korea, the government of South Korea plans to launch a pilot project for the 6G network in 2026, which will be 50 times larger than the 5G network and ready to be launched on the market between 2028 and 2030. Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun outlined the research and development strategy for telecommunications networks at a ministerial meeting with the science and technology cabinet.

The strategy, the newspaper adds, consists of the preventive development of new generation technologies, ensuring standards and patents with high added value, a project for which the South Korean government allocated 200 billion won over the next five years, equivalent to 3.581 billion pesos.

Can Mexico build a 5g coverage with the 800 MHz band?

In Mexico, the current federal government has promised to bring telephony and the Internet to all those remote or economically poor communities; it has also promised that recently one of the three big national operators of the mobile market decided to return to the State the frequencies it had in a concession in the 800 MHz spectrum and as a result of a business strategy designed to migrate its users from 2G to 4G and to concentrate on capacity bands better used in urban centers, such as 2.5 GHz.

The Mexican government then has, through the recently created state-owned CFE Telecomunicaciones and Internet for All, a single concession title for social use of national coverage, frequencies between 16 and 35 MHz of bandwidth in 800 MHz, depending on the region of the country, and operators of services from free use spectrum and also satellite operators on which it can rely to meet its goal of connecting Mexicans.

It has also designated an item of almost 56 million dollars, 1,095 million pesos so that the state can start operations in areas of zero coverage or in those where the networks are 3G technology and lower. This budget is scarce to meet the government's plans, but indicate a good intention to want to expand coverage.

Occupying the regional pieces of the 800 MHz returned to the State is an alternative and it would be necessary to verify if these bands can be used in the future for these purposes or to enable their use for this purpose.