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Mexico's shared 4G wholesale network (Red Compartida) is approaching an important milestone as the Altán Redes consortium has promised to be covering at least 30% of the population by the end of March.
In January last year Altán was awarded a 20-year concession contract to build and operate the wholesale network.
Under the contract, Altán has to provide coverage to 30% of the population by the end of this month, 50% by the third anniversary of the contract signing date in 2020, 85% by 2022 and 92% by 2024.
However, as the first deadline approaches, experts have expressed concern that there might not have enough smartphones in the country that are compatible with the 700MHz band. Red Compartida is designed to cover mostly lower-income consumers in underserved areas of the country, where there will be a scarcity of 4G phones.
In November, telecoms regulator IFT decreed that all 4G smartphones sold in the country had to be compatible with the 700 MHz band (also known as band 28) by early 2018 in order to support the growth of Red Compartida.
However, only about 22% of active smartphones currently have the capacity to be connected to Red Compartida, according to a report by local telecoms think tank, the CIU.
"To oblige new 4G devices to be compatible with band 28 ... might make lower-range handsets more expensive," the CIU said, adding that this would go against the goal of Red Compartida of providing better and cheaper telecoms access for all Mexicans
About 78% of the country's smartphones belong to the lower range category, according to CIU.
Market leader Samsung (with about 35% penetration) and smaller players Motorola (8%), Alcatel (6.5%) and Huawei (4%) have been quoted in local media saying they have devices on the market that are already compatible with Red Compartida.