San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Mobile Phone Regulator to Select Three New Competitors by January

Although delays in opening the Costa Rican mobile phone market may seem never-ending, the Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL) reports that three telecom providers should be selected by mid-January to compete to provide cell phone service in Costa Rica. Currently, five cell phone providers – Digicel, Millicom, Telefónica, Cable & Wireless and América Móvil – have purchased the 200-page document prepared by SUTEL that outlines the guidelines and requirements for market entry.

The Costa Rican mobile phone market was opened for competition with the entry into force of the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the U.S. on Jan. 1, 2009. However, SUTEL has repeatedly delayed the market’s opening as confusion over frequencies, inadequate cell phone towers and complaints of inadequate guidelines for the bidding process have bogged down progress.

In June, Carlos Gallegos, telecommunications director for the international consulting firm Deloitte, said that the closed Costa Rican cellular market was “the biggest economic obstacle” facing the country. According to some analysts, the opening of the market could create around 3,000 jobs and generate $3 billion for the Costa Rican economy in five years.

On Aug. 30, SUTEL released a 200-page document spelling out the guidelines for companies interested in participating in Costa Rica’s mobile phone market. The companies were given 90 days to submit a bid. However, several companies complained that the guideline were inadequate, forcing SUTEL to make revisions and grant an extension for submitting applications (TT Oct. 5). The new deadline is Dec. 14.

To date, 35 companies, law firms and individuals have purchased the guidelines, although only five are telecom service providers. Carolina Mora, the spokesperson for SUTEL, told The Tico Times that the company will submit the applications of three companies to the Executive Branch for review by mid-January 2011.

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