October 20, 2016 / 11:32 PM / 2 years ago

UPDATE 1-Two groups bid for Mexico's long-delayed wholesale mobile network

(Adds details on tender and context on network)

MEXICO CITY, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Two consortiums presented bids to build and run Mexico’s 700MHz wholesale mobile network, the communications and transport ministry said on Thursday, as the long-delayed tender for the ambitious but risky project nears completion.

The network, which must cover at least 85 percent of the population, was part of a sweeping telecoms reform aimed at curbing the dominance of Carlos Slim’s America Movil but the project has struggled to get off the ground on time.

A consortium called Altan, which includes Mexican companies Megacable and Axtel, presented one of the bids. The second group was made up of Rivada Networks and Spectrum Frontier, the ministry said.

Depending on the bids, the network could be one of the largest infrastructure projects under President Enrique Pena Nieto. He took office in 2012 vowing a series of ambitious works, but some of them have since been shelved.

The winner of the tender will be expected to build, via a 20-year public-private partnership, a massive 4G LTE mobile network that mobile companies and others can rent. In exchange, they will get cheap use of high quality spectrum in the 700MHz band.

Sector actors around the world have been intrigued by Mexico’s novel plan to put valuable spectrum into a shared network, rather than follow the industry practise of auctioning it off to operators.

Critics have questioned whether Mexico’s distorted telecoms sector, where Slim controls almost 70 percent of mobile subscriptions, and the country’s chequered history with public tenders, could complicate its execution.

The winner of the tender, which was launched in January, will be announced in November. (Reporting by Christine Murray; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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