5G Frequency Frenzy: A Guide to Latin America’s Upcoming Spectrum Auctions


By Tom LeinsJun 20, 2023


In sharp contrast to other regions, only a handful of Latin American telecom markets have seen 5G launch activity to date, with notable examples including the likes of Brazil and Chile.

However, a number of eagerly awaited 5G spectrum auctions are expected to take place in the region in the coming months.

Today we take a closer look at the LatAm markets where we can expect to witness 5G auction activity before the end of the year. 


Proposed Auction Date: Summer 2023 (TBC)
Available Spectrum: 1500MHz, AWS-3 band, 2.3GHz, 3.5GHz, 26GHz, and 38GHz

After a series of delays, Argentina’s multi-band 5G spectrum auction could now get underway as early as this month. The new timeline was revealed by Gustavo Lopez, Vice President of the National Communications Agency, at the May 2023 Internet Day event in Buenos Aires.

The 5G auction is expected to include the following frequency bands: 1427MHz-1518MHz (1500MHz band); 1770MHz-1780MHz/2170MHz-2180MHz (AWS-3 band); 2300MHz-2400MHz (2.3GHz band); 3.3GHz-3.6GHz (3.5GHz); 24.25GHz-25.75GHz (26GHz band); and 37GHz-43.5GHz (38GHz band).

As per government projections, the auction could raise as much as $1.4 billion.


Proposed Auction Date: December 20, 2023
Available Spectrum: 700MHz, 1900MHz, 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, and 26GHz

At the end of 2022, Colombia’s Ministry of Information Technologies and Communications (MinTIC) revealed that a total of nine companies had expressed an interest in securing 5G spectrum licenses ahead of its December 29, 2022 deadline.

The list included established mobile players such as Claro, Tigo, Movistar, Empresa De Telecomuncaciones De Bogota, and Partners Telecom Colombia, alongside unknown quantities like Colombia WB Hots, Global Play, EGC Colombia, and OSC Top Solutions Group.

The government is poised to distribute spectrum in the 700MHz, 1900MHz, 2.5GHz, 3.5GHz, and 26GHz bands, although MinTIC stressed that not all would-be applicants are interested in bidding on all bands.

In June 2023, MinTIC announced that the multi-band spectrum auction will commence on December 20, 2023.

The watchdog says it will publish a resolution setting out the technical conditions and legal requirements for participation in August 2023. The reserve price, obligations, and guarantees will be revealed the following month.

MinTIC has set a tentative November 10 date for applications.

Costa Rica

Proposed Auction Date: H2 2023
Available Spectrum: 2.6GHz, 3.5GHz

In May 2023, Costa Rica’s Ministry of Science, Technology and Telecommunications (MICITT) formally instructed the Superintendency of Telecommunications (Sutel) to initiate the country’s 5G auction process. The decision was included in the Official Gazette on May 2, 2023, via Executive Agreement No. 031-2023-TEL-MICITT.

Sutel was placed in charge of staging a public consultation, establishing eligible bidders, and running the tender process.

While the 5G auction will chiefly comprise spectrum in the 3.5GHz band, frequencies in the 2600MHz band may also be included in the spectrum sale. The auction is earmarked to take place in the second half of 2023.

Dominican Republic

Proposed Auction Date: H2 2023
Available Spectrum: 700MHz

Also in May 2023, the Dominican Telecommunications Institute (Indotel) announced plans to stage an auction of unused 700MHz frequencies. The tender will be launched in the coming months, with the auction process expected to conclude at the beginning of 2024.

The 700MHz frequencies were originally included in 2021’s 5G spectrum auction, alongside 3.5GHz airwaves, but failed to attract any bids. Nine 2×5MHz blocks of 700MHz spectrum were included in the original tender.

Last year, Indotel Executive Director Julissa Cruz admitted that the obligation to offer local roaming access to rival operators not in possession of low-band spectrum for three years was the key factor in dissuading the country’s cellcos to bid the first time around, hinting that the original terms would now be revised.

Other, as-yet-unspecified spectrum blocks could also go under the hammer.

As noted by Indotel: “The administration … has focused on the reorganization of disused radio spectrum, so that it can be used to improve the coverage of the services offered by the providers in the national territory … In the same sense, they have taken concrete measures, such as the closure of more than 50 stations that were operating illegally, the recovery of idle spectrum and the cleaning up of radio communication bands.”


Proposed Auction Date: H2 2023
Available Spectrum: 600MHz, 1500MHz, and 3.3GHz

Mexico’s planned 5G auction has already generated plenty of controversy—in spite of the fact that a date hasn’t even been set for the spectrum sale.

Mexico’s planned 5G auction has already generated plenty of controversy—in spite of the fact that a date hasn’t even been set for the spectrum sale.

In Mexico, successful bidders pay an upfront fee as well as an annual frequency usage fee for the duration of the concession. With licenses generally valid for 20 years, the prices of the licenses are far higher than the equivalent concessions in other markets.

In October 2022, Alejandro Navarrete Torres, Head of the Radio Spectrum Unit at the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), observed that the cost of spectrum in Mexico is “up to 186% higher than the international average.”

The main 5G spectrum bands scheduled for inclusion in the IFT’s auction are: a 70MHz block in the 614MHz-698MHz (600MHz) band, a 50MHz block at 3300MHz-3350MHz, and 90MHz in the L-band (1427MHz-1518MHz).

The IFT is also weighing up the potential inclusion of unused spectrum in a number of other bands, including 800MHz, 850MHz, 1900MHz, AWS, and 2.5GHz frequencies—some of which were relinquished by Movistar in 2020.

However, as things stand, America Movil-backed Telcel could be the only Mexican cellco to participate in the spectrum auction, with industry insiders tipping both AT&T and Movistar to sit out the process on cost grounds.


Proposed Auction Date: TBC
Available Spectrum: 3.5GHz

In November 2022, the Nicaraguan Institute for Telecommunications and Posts (Telcor) outlined plans to utilize the 3.5GHz band to support the country’s future 5G ambitions.

As per Administrative Agreement No. 002-2022—which appeared in the country’s Official Gazette on November 24, 2022—the watchdog has reserved the 3300MHz-3400MHz, 3400MHz-3600MHz, and 3600MHz-3700MHz bands for the provision of 5G services.

Telcor observed that the currently awarded spectrum holdings in the 3.5GHz band—believed to comprise a 50MHz block held by Claro—are “not technically adequate to satisfy the bandwidth specifications” of 5G. This means that a reorganization will take place before any new concessions are distributed.

The introduction of 5G forms part of the government’s “National Plan to Fight Poverty and for Human Development 2022-2026.”

Nicaraguan spectrum auctions are something of a rarity. The last notable one took place a full decade ago.

Nicaraguan spectrum auctions are something of a rarity. The last notable one took place a full decade ago—in 2012/2013, when Beijing-based research and development firm Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group snagged a 1785MHz-1805MHz license.

On that occasion, the price of the concession was understood to have been slashed from $90 million to $20 million.


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Tom Leins

Tom Leins

Tom Leins is a Senior Research Analyst for TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database. Based out of the company’s UK office, he also contributes to the company’s daily CommsUpdate newsletter, which includes his popular weekly MVNO Monday round-up. MVNO industry aside, Tom has developed a strong specialization in the U.S., Latin America, and the Caribbean, tracking mergers and acquisitions, spectrum auctions, regulatory developments, market opportunities, and growth trends.