Communications as an essential service during coronavirus (COVID-19) confinement


On 24 March 2020, an official announcement was published in the Federal Daily Gazette outlining the essential services that are required to remain operational in Mexico. These include telecom providers directly involved in the provision of telecom services, which must guarantee continuity of such services. Concession holders must continue operating their customer service centres, making opening hours and contact details clear to customers, as well as sanitary measures whilst in stores, such as self-distancing.

Commitment to providing telecom services and communication channels

At a multi-party meeting called by the Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) to discuss COVID-19, the following three commitments were proposed and approved: (1) maintaining operations of telecom and broadcasting networks; (2) boosting information and communication technology as indispensable tools for mitigating the effects of the crisis; and (3) providing the population with reliable and accurate information regarding preventative measures to avoid COVID-19 spreading, and to avoid fake news. The Ministry of Telecommunications and Transport (SCT) will be responsible for maintaining the Mexican Satellite System and other networks required to ensure continuity. With respect to (3) above, the Ministry of Health will send free informative text messages to the population.

The impact of COVID-19 on the launching of 5G networks

Although no official announcement has been made, Mexico’s planned spectrum auctions for 2020 are likely to be postponed following a conference call between the press and Arturo Robles, Head of the IFT. The IFT had planned to hold auctions in the 600MHz band, considered viable to facilitate a 5G network, in the second half of 2020. Axtel, AT&T and Telmex have already been awarded 50MHz of spectrum in the 3.5GHz band capable of facilitating 5G. Alejandro Navarte Torres, Head of the Radioelectric Spectrum Unit at the ITF, suggested in an interview with El Economista newspaper that additional spectrum may be released to cope with demand from increased internet activity through remote working and use of streaming services, but that this need is not immediate. Spectrum for commercial or private use in Mexico must be awarded through public tenders (Article 78 of the Federal Telecommunications and Broadcasting Law).

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