5G in Mexico: When, How and Who?

There is a lot of discussion about 5G. It is been rolling out in different countries such as Australia, China, Germany, India, Slovenia, South Korea, the UK, the US, … and plenty of stories appear in the headlines every day. But where does Mexico stand? In this article, we will identify the current status and expectations of 5G in Mexico from different perspectives.

First things first. What is 5G? Put simply, is the fifth generation technology of wireless connectivity that will bring higher speeds, lower latency, more capacity and reliability, best quality and additional new services to our mobile devices and generally within an Internet of Things (IoT) or even an Internet of Everything (IoE) environment. For example, imaging a multiplayer cloud game using virtual reality or a shopping experience with interactive augmented reality. Plus, consider living in a smart city with a connected and autonomous vehicle where you can identify in real time available parking slots, traffic, live subway/bus status, air quality, efficient street lighting, … And the list of cases goes on and are just around the corner.

The existing situation of the mobile market in Mexico is summarized in the following facts. According to the telecom regulator (Federal Institute of Telecommunications, IFT), by December 2019, 20.9 percent of the mobile data was transmitted through 3G technology, whereas 78.9 percent was transmitted under 4G technology. Based on the latest survey (2019) performed by the National Institute of Statistic and Geography (INEGI), around 29 percent of Mexican population lacks any kind of internet access and 90 percent of mobile users use a smartphone. Finally, a study from the Competitive Intelligence Unit shows that by Q2 2020, there were 94 mobile lines per 100 inhabitants, whereby the market share by operator was as follows: 63.3 per cent by Telcel (America Movil), 19.9 percent by Telefonica Movistar, 15.1 percent by AT&T and 1.7 percent by all MVNOs.

Now, what is needed for the deployment of 5G? Generally speaking, the following components: more spectrum (high, medium and low frequency bands), new equipment and networks (wireless and fiber optic), devices and technologies. That is, more investment but that will bring more employment, consolidate digital transformation, reactivate the economy, foster new businesses and growth along different sectors (all of which is even more required due to the current pandemic). However, the foregoing is impacted, for good or bad, by public policies and regulation.