Thursday 2 May 2019

Uruguay on 5G: Leading Latin America

Uruguay has the second highest mobile penetration in Latin American (the highest being Panama). The mobile market is dominated by Antel, with Telefónica’s Movistar as second-placed operators and América Móvil’s Claro a distant third. All three operators offer mobile broadband through 3G and LTE networks. Mobile broadband is the fastest growing telecom sector by far. Operators have achieved nationwide 3G coverage, which has attracted a growing number of subscribers outside of Montevideo. The number of mobile broadband subscribers continues to grow strongly. Antel has been at the forefront with LTE services, though the auction of multi-band spectrum in August 2017 has also enabled Movistar and Claro to widen the reach of their LTE offers.

Antel stands for Administración Nacional de Telecomunicaciones, the state-owned, national provider of telecommunication. It has a monopoly for landlines, but on mobile networks, it competes with Movistar and Claro. Still, it's the market leader with 53% of all cellular customers and the best network in the country

Early in April 2019, Uruguay’s state-run telecommunications company, ANTEL, deployed the first 5G commercial network in partnership with Nokia. This was the first upgrade not only in Uruguay but also in Latin America, kick-starting the regional race towards 5G.

ANTEL and Nokia made the first 5G call in Uruguay using the 28 GHz frequency band, demonstrating the low latency capabilities of 5G using a virtual-reality sports application. 5G portfolio is likely to provide ANTEL’s customers with high bandwidth and low latency services, alongside new applications in areas such as virtual reality, augmented reality and artificial intelligence. Enterprises will also gain from various IoT vertical use cases enabled by 5G as it will help improve operational efficiency and user experiences while providing new revenue streams.

This network deployment started in the Barra de Manantiales area, Maldonado Department, where the first 5G base stations are operational and ready to provide services. ANTEL showed the ultra-low latencies and high speeds of 5G to local authorities and press at a launch event, using a virtual-reality sports application called "penalty kick".

Nokia and ANTEL have a long and important partnership in delivering mobile, IP and optical services to the Uruguayan market. They continue to work closely together in delivering the full commercial deployment of the 5G radio network. Nokia's services expertise plays a key role in deploying 5G networks and the team worked closely with the ANTEL team to deliver this demonstration for Uruguay.

Andrés Tolosa, the President of ANTEL, stated: 

"We are very proud to be the first operator in Latin America to set a 5G network into commercial service. This milestone is in line with our strong commitment to the development of the industrial and entertainment sectors as well as a great impulse to application development. We are a worldwide reference in FTTH networks and pioneers in providing our subscribers with state-of-the-art mobile networks. This great step towards 5G, with Nokia's support, enhances our technological ecosystem. Once again, we confirm our technological leadership in the region."

The agency reportedly plans to add more networks in other municipalities in the upcoming weeks. Additionally, citizens should be able to equip devices with 5G technology over the next month.

ANTEL also introduced the first 28GHz frequency bandwidth with support from Nokia. The Finnish company provided the 5G infrastructure, the RAN radio access network, optical transmission and supporting services.

José Otero, the vice-president of 5G Americas for Latin America, stressed the importance of the cooperation between the public and private sectors around the world to obtain this new technology. What’s more, ANTEL’s and Nokia’s history goes a long way back, so this initiative also reinforces ties between the entities.

Movistar by Spanish Telefónica is the second provider in the country with a 34% share. It has good coverage on "American" frequencies (see above). 3G coverage is about 50%, 4G/LTE has started in Montevideo 

Claro by Mexican América Móvil is the smallest network in the country on "American" frequencies and a 13% market share. 4G started in 2014 in Montevideo and has spread to other towns. 

Both of the smaller telcos have yet to make progress on 5G. 

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