San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Telefónica and América Móvil bet on Costa Rica's mobile phone market

Tuesday’s bidding was an important step toward opening up Costa Rica’s formerly state-run mobile telephone sector to private competition. Competition between Mexican-owned America Móvil and Spain’s Telefónica is expected to generate $3 billion in revenue and create 3,000 jobs. Final approval of the deal is expected in January, and the companies would start operating here in 2011.

The Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), approved on Jan.1, 2009, ended a long-standing state-run telecommunications monopoly held by the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE).

If the deal goes through, America Móvil would be known locally as Claro Costa Rica, and Telefónica would become Azules y Plata.

“This has been a long process to provide Costa Rican consumers a wider selection of cellular telephone options,” said George Miley, president of the Telecommunications Superintendency (SUTEL), a Costa Rican agency that regulates the mobile telephone market here.

“But we consider today to be a great success and first step in opening a market that the people of Costa Rica have been waiting for,” he said. 

For more on this story, see the Dec. 17 print edition of The Tico Times

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