When Mexico enshrined access to the internet as a constitutional right in 2013, it sought to upend a non-competitive telecommunications system that was notoriously expensive and offered patchy service. This led to the birth of Red Compartida, a wholesale national 4G-LTE network that garnered worldwide attention and put Mexico on the map as a leader in bridging the digital divide. This move will not only have lasting social impacts but will also fundamentally alter Mexico’s economy.
The social importance of bridging the digital divide
Often the digital divide is starkest between urban centers and rural areas. For example, according to data from the National Survey on Availability and Use of Information Technologies in Households (ENDUTIH), while 47.8% of Yucatán’s urban households had internet access in 2018, only 2.6% did in the federal state’s rural areas.
The social effects of increased internet access are clear – even the United Nations considers it a basic human right. Access to the information available online can level the playing field when it comes to education as well as setting up new businesses. Acknowledging the overwhelming positive impact that internet access has on development, the move to include it in the constitution was supported by nearly every political party.
The ambitious Red Compartida project
Red Compartida, which was launched on 21 March 2018, is set to offer coverage to 92.2% of the country’s population by 2024, lower prices, and make Mexico 5G-ready. For now, it looks like it will meet the requisite 50% benchmark set by the Mexican government by the end of January 2020.
As of December 2019, Altán Redes, the private company chosen by the Mexican government to build the Red Compartida network, covers Mérida and Izamal in Yucatán.
A revolutionary telecommunications model
Winner of the “Best Loan”, “Best Sponsor”, and “Best Infrastructure Financing” awards from Latin Finance, Red Compartida is unique in how its ambitious plans are to affect not only Mexico’s poor and rural communities, but also its economy as a whole. That’s because of the public-private partnership model that forms the core of Red Compartida’s effectiveness. This requires Altán Redes to provide non-discriminatory and wholesale access to its broadband telecommunications infrastructure.
Though the process of chipping away at Carlos Slim’s telecommunications monopoly has been slow going, there has been some marked improvement already. Wholesale partners that have already signed up as Red Compartida customers include MXLINK and Megacable.
The wholesale nature of the Red Compartida mobile network removes the largest impediment to competition in the telecommunications field: the cost of building sufficient infrastructure, which is even higher for 5G-technology than for 4G-LTE. That’s important if Mexico wants to remain competitive when 5G is rolled out, especially if its businesses are going to be able to take advantage of the internet of things. The effects of that capacity will be far-reaching, especially in Mexico’s rural areas due to its potential impact on the agricultural sector.
By focusing on expanding internet access to all of its residents, bridging the digital divide between its poor and wealthy, and its rural and urban areas, Mexico is poised to become a leader in the next tech revolution.
The Yucatan Times
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