Colombia suspends 4G mobile broadband auction

(IANS/EFE): Colombia’s government has suspended a scheduled auction of 4G mobile broadband service after learning about a potential merger deal involving two of the participants, Information Technologies and Communications Minister Diego Molano said.

After Luxembourg-based Millicom and Colombian public utilities company Empresas Publicas de Medellin announced earlier this week they were in talks to combine their Colombian telecommunications operations, Molano said Thursday that authorities needed to “review the scenario” for the 4G auction, originally scheduled for Feb 11.

Millicom and UNE EPM Telecomunicaciones, a cable TV and fixed-line provider in which EPM is the largest shareholder, already jointly own Tigo Colombia, the Andean nation’s third-leading mobile provider.

The companies said Tuesday their potential merger is aimed at providing Colombian consumers with an integrated portfolio of telecommunications services in all regions of the country, but it could complicate their bid to participate in the 4G auction.

Regulators in November allowed leading Colombian mobile operator Claro, the local unit of regional giant America Movil, to bid for spectrum in the 4G auction, but only in the 2.5 GHz band.

“We are optimistic about the conversations with Millicom. It is our fiduciary duty to explore alternatives that will lead UNE EPM to improve its competitive position in the telecommunications industry,” EPM CEO Juan Esteban Calle said about the merger talks.

The Information Technologies and Communications Ministry said in November that the auction would award five 4G licenses among the country’s four mobile phone providers and facilitate the entry of a new operator.

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