Panama Begins 5G Trials, ASEP Grants Temporary Spectrum for Network - Expat Community

Panama Begins 5G Trials, ASEP Grants Temporary Spectrum for Network

Apr 26, 2024 | News & Articles, Panama | 0 comments

By Katiuska Hernández

Armando Fuentes, administrator of the Public Services Authority, stated that a public consultation must be held to subsequently grant definitive concession of the bands for the use of 5G network to the two operators currently in the country. Más Móvil begins its trials.

The first trials of the 5G network began this week after the National Authority of Public Services (ASEP) loaned part of the 3.5 GHz band spectrum to the company Más Móvil de Cable & Wireless Panamá to implement this new technology that enhances connection speed.

Armando Fuentes, administrator of ASEP, explained that the temporary loan of this spectrum is not unusual, as it was also done during the pandemic to provide greater capacity to telecommunications companies to expand service due to increased connectivity in households for work and educational purposes.

Fuentes clarified that just as part of this spectrum was given to Más Móvil for their trials, the agency will also be able to allocate spectrum to the operator TIGO if needed for the same purpose.

“The Law gives the regulator the power to allocate spectrum to mobile operators for up to four months free of charge; on this occasion, it has been done for two months, and then, if more time is needed, two additional months can be granted,” Fuentes expressed during the MoveOn 2024 conference.

The administrator of ASEP stated that the commercial and official deployment of the 5G network is conditional on the regulatory agency conducting a public consultation to then officially designate the spectrum concession to each telephone and internet operator in the country.

“We are preparing this public consultation for this semester and intend to assign the spectrum for 5G to operators this year,” said Fuentes. However, the current administration’s term expires on June 30, so this issue will fall to the new Government.

The ASEP administrator admitted that the cost of spectrum in Panama is higher than in other Central American countries, but a recent decision was made to slightly reduce that cost in some bands.

He emphasized that the prices set by ASEP for the use rights of the low bands (700 MHz) and mid bands (1427 to 1518 MHz) are $1.46 million and $1.21 million, respectively, which paves the way for the initial development of technologies leading to the subsequent deployment of the 5G network.

The manager of Más Móvil, Rocío Lorenzo, stated that despite these new prices set by ASEP for these bands, they are still 30% to 40% higher than in other markets in the region.

“In the next step of the public consultation, we will have the opportunity to present our arguments on prices so that the 5G network can take off,” the executive added.

Meanwhile, Más Móvil’s 5G trials will last for a period of two to three months with a pilot plan for some corporate users in the commercial, tourism, and port sectors, revealed Rocío Lorenzo, general manager of the telecommunications company, during the announcement at the MoveON 2024 conference.

She also indicated that 5G infrastructure will be available at the Electoral Tribunal on election day, May 5, so that the media can use that network to transmit data and audiovisual information at a faster speed.

Lorenzo clarified that the trial is only for the business area, so no changes in service prices are expected since it is not yet an official deployment.

She specified that they are investing $100 million annually in infrastructure and new technologies.

As for the infrastructure to be used in deploying the 5G network in Panama, the ASEP administrator clarified that for now, the regulator will not limit companies on which infrastructure to use because the law does not foresee those attributions, so any of the companies offering these equipment and ecosystems can participate both in the trial period and later in the definitive concession with the operators.

The use of 5G infrastructure has been a controversial topic because the United States imposed restrictions on Huawei services and infrastructure and equipment in that market, one of the leaders in this network.

In Central America, Costa Rica closed the doors to Huawei, while Chile allowed Huawei to participate, and in Panama, they are more open to the operation of the Chinese company.

In fact, the infrastructure partly used by Más Móvil in the trial they conducted at the MoveOn event at the Megapolis Convention Center was operated with Huawei technology.

The general manager of Más Móvil specified that they have offers from three companies: Huawei, Ericsson, and Nokia. In practice, two different infrastructures can be used depending on the service and sector, and even by zones, but nothing is definitive yet.

“Currently, we are only in trials. We are studying the proposals of the three providers for these 5G matters: Huawei, Nokia, and Ericsson,” confirmed Lorenzo.

What are the benefits of the 5G network and how will it work?

During the trial period, the 5G connection that Más Móvil will enable in controlled environments, such as commercial, tourism, and port sectors, will reach data speeds of 500 to 600 megabits per second (Mbps), which is an initial speed and not commercial, because the spectrum they will use temporarily is limited.

The main difference compared to the current LTE 4G network is that with 5G terminals, data messages and information sent will arrive faster. “This means that when a data packet is sent from a terminal to a remote server with 5G, it will arrive much faster. And the third advantage is that 5G will allow many more devices to connect at the same time, which opens up great possibilities for the Internet of Things,” explained Juan Vega, Mobile Technology Director.


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