Mexico launches $3.5bn telecom tender

The long-awaited project, the largest infrastructure endeavour by the Pena Nieto administration, would guarantee cell network coverage for 85% of Mexicans. 

Mexico's Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (MCT) has launched a tender to develop the country's shared mobile network in an effort to boost low levels of cell network penetration and introduce stronger competition into the telecoms sector. 

The tender was two years behind schedule, having originally been proposed in 2014 in a bid to peel the sector out of the clutches of America Movil, the country's largest telecom operator.

The project calls for a private partner to design, install, deploy, operate, maintain and update the Shared Network Marketing and Wholesale Telecommunications Service through a public-private partnership (PPP; P3). The network must be brought to cover 85 percent of the population, an upgrade that the government says will cost roughly $3.5 billion. About 45 percent of Mexicans currently have broadband access.

The government will grant the selected partner a 20-year lease of a 90-megahertz (MHz) block of radio spectrum, with spectral allotments from 703 to 748MHz and from 758 to 803MHz included. For its ability to exclusively exploit these frequencies –  they may not be sublet – the private partner will pay the Telecommunications Agency of Mexico (Telecomm) an annual amount equal to “total fees for the use, development and exploitation of the band frequency spectrum” as designated by contractual arrangements. The partner will also be granted access to tap into one pair of dark fibre optic cables that are part of the country's telecommunications backbone.

The developer will bear all costs and provide all resources to complete its obligations under the contract, according to the tender document. This includes managing and obtaining permits, such as authorisations for rights-of-way and environmental impact statements.

To speed up the process and lower initial costs, several government-owned sites will be made available for the developer to rent this year, telecoms minister Monica Aspes said last week. 

The deadline for receiving inquiries and requests for clarification is 26 February, and on 3 May technical bids are due. They will be under consideration until 4 August, and on 8 August the bids will be opened. Results of technical bid evaluations will be unveiled 16 August. On 24 August the preferred bidder will be announced.

If the schedule holds together through the process as planned, the winner bidder will be presented a P3 contract on 7 November.