The Current State of 5G in Latin America

Latin America is still a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to 5G. Yet, there are signs that this situation could improve at some point in the future.

What are 5G small cells and why the interest now? Learn all about this technology here.

Introduction to Technical and Legal Concerns for 5G in Latin America

There are also many concerns on the technical side for implanting 5G in Latin America. For example, many operators are worried about having enough technical precision for 5G, and they’re concerned about having enough spectrum to support the new technology. Plus, there are concerns about making sure that the whole businesses will end up being worth it, monetarily, since it’s quite an undertaking to set up such an extensive network. So, in other words, there needs to be structures like companies participating in The Internet of Things already in place to make sure the investment pays off, and the network is going to be used at its new capacity.

Also, there are regulatory concerns since the law in many Latin American countries is behind the rapidly evolving technology.

Many people are concerned about Latin America’s development for 5G since they don’t want the region to fall behind in what experts are calling the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which will concern automation and connectivity on an unprecedented level globally. This is precisely why there’s so much concern about 5G for those in Latin American countries. Many are also interested in the possible efficiency abilities of 5G as well since some estimates show that the network could reduce global emissions by 15%, which would be a full third of the 50% target for 2030.

The Current Situation of 5G in Latin America

It’s no secret that the whole world is becoming interested in the better speeds and stability promised by 5G networks, with Latin America being no exception. This kind of boost from 5G could revolutionize many things in the region, including companies that wish to operate through the new Internet of Things trend, which could be worth a mountain of money for some industries, such as the home appliances market with state-of-the-art refrigerators that can purchase items by themselves, thermostats that regulate the household temperature, and the integrated control of connected lights, locks, and sensors

This is a global phenomenon that is happening right now. There was a State of the Industry Report at GSA that listed 201 different operators in 83 countries worldwide who have started 5G trials or even full launches. In terms of Latin America, however, 5G launches are not expected to happen until at least the middle of 2020.

There’s also an expectation that there will be a transitional period as the region moves from 4G to 5G.

Leading operators have been doing 5G tests in controlled areas to prove that they have the technical capacity to provide this service.

But for this service to reach customers, several challenges have to be overcome. The first one is to enable and bid for the 5G spectrum. The radiofrequency is through which information circulates. And this resource is divided into frequency bands that are used for different purposes.

5G needs three bands. One, below 1 GHz, to expand band coverage in urban, suburban, and rural areas, and to support IoT services. A second one between 1 and 6 GHz to offer a right combination of coverage with capacity. And the last one above 6 GHz for some services that need ultra-speed.

Mexico is already working on bidding for frequencies in the 3.4 GHz and 600 MHz bands, something that could be completed by 2020.

Brazil, for its part, announced during Mobile World Congress 2019 that it would bid for the 5G spectrum in March 2020. “It is the fourth time that the Brazilian regulator changes the planned date. First, it was going to be in 2018, but that idea was discarded almost immediately”, analyzes the specialized magazine Telesemana.

Chile also announced during MWC 2019 that it has already started the process to bid for the spectrum in the 700 MHz and 3.5 GHz bands. In Peru, this process is planned for 2020.

Colombia and Argentina are only running tests for 5G technology. But there is still a bid for the 5G spectrum, which is an essential step for the deployment of this technology, as mentioned earlier.

“For 5G, more spectrum is needed at fair values. The spectrum must be used as a tool for inclusion and development; and not as a collection tool. But, there is a tax issue. In many Latin American countries, the mobile industry has a rate of up to 50% higher than in other industries. Operators have a heavy tax burden specific to the sector, and that takes away the ability to make an investment. And finally, we must point to the deployment of infrastructure, because 5G will need more antennas,” says Lucas Gallitto, Policy Director at GSMA.

For his part, Jose Felipe Otero Muñoz, Vice President of Latin America and the Caribbean for 5G Americas, points out that more antennas will be needed: macro base stations and small cells that will require a series of spectrum frequencies that should be free of interference.

“Additionally, these antennas should be connected in turn with high-speed backbone networks, so large fiber optic deployments will also be required. This reflects that the 5G deployment will need a joint effort from the public and private sectors, and huge investments from network operators,” said the specialist.

For the 5G to arrive, it is necessary to big for spectrum, add investment, and generate a sustainable business model. And while this is beginning, there is still a long way to go.

What Latin America Can Learn from Other Countries About 5G

In trying to get past the financial, technical, and logistical barriers to 5G, there are already test cases to look at where there has been some success. Here are a few examples of these countries, including what operators in Latin America may be able to glean from the experiences.

South Korea

The country of South Korea has long been a technological leader in fields like telecommunications for some time now. There are already test cases of carriers within the country launching 5G. For example, the carrier KT Corp launched its worldwide 5G network at the Winter Games in 2018. They offered an unlimited plan for it, even.

There are lessons here to be learned about the importance of expediting regulation ahead of time for technologies that are on the horizon so that progress isn’t slowed. Additionally, the company helped to deal with signal loss issues by using ultra-compact microwave system links between LTE base stations. This means that they were able to cut back on laying down fiber for the entire area. The system uses ultra-high frequencies of 70 to 80 GHz. This has the advantage of maintaining high speeds of a bit over 3 GBps in remote regions like the Taebaek Mountains, which is where the Olympics took place. This was one of the first tests of a 5G network, and it went reasonably well.

These systems were able to transfer more data through the air than comparable systems, and the tech could serve as a model for operators in Latin America since there are plenty of places in this region where laying adequate fiber could be difficult, such as in the Andes Mountains, for example, or even in the rain forests. The transmitters could serve as stopgap solutions for connecting fiber lines.


Sweden put in the effort to set up their network for 5G in 2018. They did slow down the spectrum allocation just a bit in the 3.5 GHz and 2.3 GHz range recently to double-check that it had the security they wanted, proving that it’s possible to be at the forefront of launching 5G networks while also being cautious to make sure that it all works the way that the governments want it to generally. In the midst of this, they are still making sure that the new tech allows for networks to reach remote areas in the country, branching out from places like Stockholm.

This makes Sweden another good test case for Latin American countries to look at for security and coverage.

The United States

The FCC has everything thoroughly planned out for laying the regulatory framework, which would facilitate the use of 5G networks. Many operators in the US are planning to launch these networks for right around 2020.

Here again, you can see examples of how Latin American countries could follow suit. By reading the way the regulations were created, it would be a potentially simple matter for countries to adapt this language to their own countries and make sure that the way is opened for progress. This kind of regulatory expedience is going to be crucial to allow countries to grow and take full advantage of what more connectivity through 5G could offer these countries in terms of economic opportunities.

Part of this, of course, is the fact that the FCC started crafting these rules in 2016, ahead of just about every other country in the world in terms of preparation for 5G. So again, operators should take note and put pressure on their governments to get those rules coming out sooner rather than later. The technology to get this done is here, generally. The rules and infrastructure, however, are usually up to the individual nations.

In general, there’s no doubt that Latin American countries will be rolling out 5G, it’s just a matter of when. The solutions for breaking through the logistical barriers of all varieties are there; it’s now just a matter of studying the countries that have done so.

What are 5G small cells and why the interest now? Learn all about this technology here.

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