Although it seems that today the heads of telecommunications operators in Colombia are 100% focused on the December 5G auction, The reality is that a series of changes in the rules of the game in the mobile services business have them waiting because they will mark the direction of the sector in the coming years. The adjustment is so relevant that even Claro perceives that they are going to tie his hands so as not to compete.
It is all based on the fact that the Communications Regulation Commission (CRC) identified an absence of effective competition in the retail market for mobile services in Colombia, for which formulated a regulatory proposal published earlier this month and which will be open for comments until Friday.
The project contemplates ten important changes for this segment, among them, prohibit operators from contacting users who have transferred to another company for three months; and that they provide clear and updated information on the tower infrastructure for mobile services that they have, with the aim of making it easier to share it with other players to have a greater deployment of 4G and soon of 5G.
Additionally, the CRC intends to extend the hours so that customers can request portability of their number, then it would no longer be 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., but would go one more hour, until 4:00 p.m.; Likewise, this service would now also be provided on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays. Added to this is that companies would have to make public their retention and loyalty plans so that the market evaluates the rates they manage in this regard.
That’s where the controversy begins. Of course he said yesterday in a manifesto that “the proposed measures tie the company’s hands so that it cannot compete. This may result in other operators growing, but they will not do so because their offer is better but because they will not have competition.”
The company also considers that prohibiting commercial offers from being made to people who have switched to another operator for three months “reduces competition to the detriment of the benefits of users.”
And he also referred to another important point that contemplates the review of regulatory measures. “Imposing a rate for the National Automatic Roaming (RAN) service for Claro, which allows any operator to provide service to its users where it does not have coverage, discourages investment by all operators. Of course you will not want to invest in remote areas if you cannot recover your investment.”
What does the competition say?
During a forum held in Bogotá, where opinions were heard from various voices in the sector in relation to these changes, Tigo’s Regulatory Affairs Manager, Iván Mantilla, expressed concern because, according to him, every time there is a spectrum auction in Colombia Market concentration is increasing, an alarming panorama in the face of 5G.
Mantilla made a timeline of the evolution of the business in the last 15 years and warned that Claro has been dominant since 2009, then in the mobile voice market; By 2015, that dominance was extending to mobile data – which would be declared in 2021 –, while today “there is a risk that it will spread to the fixed market.”
“We have been talking about dominance for more than 10 years, the CRC has taken measures, but these have not had the effects they should,” continued Mantilla, who also questioned that Claro captures 6 out of every 10 pesos that enter the market and that it has the 68% of the pole infrastructure, but of that total it only shares 33%.
Meanwhile, Jaime Casasbuenas, regulatory coordinator of Telefónica Colombia, stated that the CRC project “does not take any operator by surprise” and regarding the proposed measures, he suggested some adjustments such as that portability restrictions do not cover operators. non-dominant.
Likewise, he affirmed that the associative figure of Tigo and Telefónica will not modify the competitive condition in the next two years and projected that the implementation of 5G in the country will take about 24 months after the auction.
In response, Santiago Pardo Fajardo, director of Corporate Affairs and Government of Comcel SA, stated that today Colombia has a highly competitive market and in the last two years concentration in terms of access has fallen 13 percentage points (pps), while income fell 11 pps.
“We consider that competition occurs in multiple scenarios and not just one,” analyzed Pardo Fajardo, who exemplified that Claro competes with coverage, while WOM does so with low prices. According to him, “you cannot gain through regulation what you cannot achieve by competing in the market.”
The pulse is still hot and what follows is to wait for how the new rules of the game will be for the mobile services market after the comments received by the CRC. Likewise, on December 20, the 5G auction will be brought forward, which has among its participants a new competitor: Telecall, a firm of Brazilian origin that seeks to enter Colombia.