YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesIUSACELL NEGOTIATING TO OPERATE FIXED WIRELESS SYSTEM IN MEXICO

IUSACELL NEGOTIATING TO OPERATE FIXED WIRELESS SYSTEM IN MEXICO

Bell Atlantic International, through its 42 percent investment in Grupo Iusacell S.A. de C.V., is in the heart of negotiations with the Mexican government regarding Iusacell’s license to operate a nationwide fixed wireless network.

Meanwhile, Iusacell is gearing up to provide long-distance phone service throughout Mexico and abroad.

Bell Atlantic spokeswoman Karen Ann Kurlander said Iusacell’s fixed wireless network will operate at 450 MHz. Details of the license are being “ironed out” with the government, she explained.

The wireless network is intended to provide residential and business customers phone access, in many cases as an alternative to wired phones. Kurlander noted the fixed wireless service will be especially beneficial in rural areas where laying phone cable is expensive. In Mexico, there is only one phone line for every eight people.

Last October, Mexico’s Secretary of Communications and Transport granted Iusacell rights to start long-distance services. Iusacell expects to provide coverage in 69 principal cities by 2001. The first phase of service will include Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey. Bell Atlantic said its role in the project is primarily network planning.

Bell Atlantic partnered with Iusacell in June 1994. Kurlander said Bell Atlantic’s investment was motivated by perceived opportunities with Iusacell in cellular, long distance and fixed wireless services. Further, Iusacell, then wholly owned by the Peralta family of Mexico, was seen as a stepping stone into other Latin American countries. Iusacell currently has interests in Chile, Ecuador and Nicaragua, said Kurlander.

Cellular service has been available in Mexico since 1989. That year Iusacell began cellular service in Mexico City. Iusacell holds licenses in four of nine licensed regions of Mexico, encompassing Mexico City, Guadalajara, Aguas Calientes and Puebla. The four regions claim 64 million potential customers or 70 percent of Mexico’s population. Iusacell has 200,000 analog cellular subscribers, representing almost 50 percent growth from 135,000 when Bell Atlantic began its relationship with Iusacell.

Iusacell competes with telecom operator Telefonos de Mexico, or Telmex, which is owned by the Mexican government and a consortium of SBC Communications Inc., France Telecom and Grupo Carso. Telmex operates cellular service in all nine regions of Mexico.

Kurlander said Iusacell is evaluating various digital technologies for upgrade of its cellular network, but said timing of the upgrade is uncertain. However, Iusacell does use digital switching equipment based on the Time Division Multiple Access standard.

The Peralta family of Mexico is the majority owner in Iusacell. The company was founded in 1939 and began providing commercial radiotelephone service in 1957.

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