After recent energy and labor reforms, Mexico now appears focused on bolstering its telecommunications infrastructure. The North American country has set aside another US$227 million to build a stronger fiber optic cable network and a satellite system to plug what it calls “digital divide.”
Analysts see this as the second major step by the Enrique Peña Nieto government to overhaul the country’s telecom market which is heavily dominated by Carlos Slim’s America Movil. Under new regulations, however, Slim’s firms will ahve to sell off some of their assets and share their wires and mobile towers with competitors.
A large portion of the budget will go toward building the satellite system, an ideal tool to reach out to remote regions. The North American country is crossed by two high altitude mountain ranges, which means providing landline telephone service to remote mountainous areas is expensive.
Today, the total number of mobile lines in Mexico is nearly five times that of landlines.
Also on the agenda is a plan to set up about 32 ICT centers to train people in digital skills. All these centers will be powered by high-speed fixed or wireless broadband networks.
According to the documents disclosed last week, all government offices in metropolitan cities, healthcare centers, research institutes and schools will also hook up to the network in the months ahead. Schools placed in remote corners of the country will use the satellite network to access the Internet.
Mexico’s communication services market is among the largest in Latin America. It was liberalized in the 1990s, with the landmark privatization of Teléfonos de México (Telmex), a previously state-owned monopoly. Since then, new operators have entered the market, but Telmex remains the dominant player. Today, Telmex is a telecom subsidiary of Carlos Slim.