ICE, Competitors Debate Opening of Cellular Market

June 12, 2009

A structured debate was held Thursday between the heads of telecommunication operators, in which they all seemed to agree Costa Rican authorities must clarify the rules that determine how operators enter the newly opened market.

The debate took place in the heat of the day, but inside a chilly, air-conditioned conference room at the Marriott Hotel in San Antonio de Belén. The day was dedicated to a series of debates concerning the opening of the telecommunications market in Costa Rica, with panelists from across Latin America arriving to share their commentary.

But the most interesting event was the debate between the head of the telecommunications monopoly – the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) – and representatives from two companies that have been earnestly courting the new market.

The debate focused on how long the approval process for entering the market ought to take and how much of a role the new Superintendence of Telecommunications (SUTEL) should play in the process.

The president of ICE, Pedro Pablo Quirós, compared the process to a soccer game, with SUTEL as the referee.

“When there are fouls, you need to intervene,” Quirós said. “But when there are no fouls, you just need to let them play,” indicating that SUTEL was slowing the process with unwritten rules.

Representatives from ICE’s two potential competitors, CableTica and Tigo-Amnet, expressed frustration over the lack of clarity in the application process. They also criticized ICE’s services – albeit indirectly – saying an improved market with innovative services hinged on allowing new competitors.

All three officials said they are interested in working together throughout the opening of the market as well as in the process of building the new infrastructure that will be necessary to ensure that cellular waves aren’t bogged down.

– Daniel Shea

 

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