Carlos Slim’s América Móvil said on Tuesday it would roll out 5G mobile coverage in 120 Mexican cities and invest US $1.8 billion in its home network by the end of the year.
In the largest rollout of 5G in the country so far, the company said the technology was now available in 18 cities in Mexico and would expand to 120 by year-end. Some eligible users would automatically be switched to the faster service, while lower-paying subscribers could take out separate plans as add-ons, executives said.
The country already has 1 million 5G-compatible phones, company executives estimated, adding that Mexicans were spending more on better phones that were also becoming less expensive.
“When we launched 4G and 4.5G the phones were much more expensive than they are now,” Daniel Hajj, América Móvil chief executive, said.
Earlier this year América Móvil, which operates across Latin America and in eastern Europe, said it would launch 5G in 90% of the countries it operates in this year, investing some $8 billion in capital expenditures.
América Móvil, which has around a 70% share of the mobile market in Mexico, is owned by the family of billionaire Slim, once the world’s richest man.
The company had been locked in a public war of words with its biggest local rival, AT&T. The U.S. giant complains that it has to deal with monopolistic practices and a lack of regulatory oversight in the sector.
AT&T, which has around a 17% share in the mobile market, entered Mexico in 2014 after constitutional reform was passed to increase competition. The company, the third-largest U.S. wireless operator, announced its own Mexico rollout of 5G at the end of last year in a three-year plan.
Hajj said on Tuesday that América Móvil would have 5,000 5G towers by the end of the year and he considered AT&T’s launch as more of a “test” run. “I understand that our competitor has made a small investment and it’s not a launch but a test,” he said. AT&T did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Earlier this year IFT, Mexico’s telecoms regulator, declined to rule on whether to allow América Móvil to enter the pay-television sector, a restriction that Slim’s company has been trying to fight for years.
The office of the U.S. Trade Representative reportedly had intervened, expressing concern to Mexico’s authorities at the competition issues involved, particularly as related to the USMCA, the U.S., Mexico and Canada trade deal.
The global rollout of 5G technology has raised questions of national security across the world, with the U.K. and U.S. governments restricting Chinese technology group Huawei from supplying equipment in their countries. Hajj said his company used equipment from Swedish group Ericsson in the north of the country, which borders the U.S., while it uses Huawei in the south.
© 2022 The Financial Times Ltd. All rights reserved. Please do not copy and paste FT articles and redistribute by email or post to the web.