Quality of service can be a problem for mobile users in Latin America, but regulators are not making it any easier with their heavy-handed tactics, 4G Americas said this week. Instead, they would be better off collecting and publishing data to enable users to make up their own minds about mobile service providers.
A key area of discussion for operator members of the 4G Americas industry body is the role of regulators and governments in fostering mobile quality of service, Bob Calaff, director for Latin America and the Caribbean at 4G Americas, explained to Total Telecom on the sidelines of Mobile World Congress.
Punitive measures - such as the automatic refund system currently in force in Colombia after complaints about call quality - are heavy-handed and regulators should consider taking a different approach, he suggested.
Peru in recent years had a problem with delayed flights. The government there tackled that by publicising data showing airline rates of delay, Calaff said. "That seems to have had a very positive effect…Consumers [are] voting with their pocket books," he said.
"It could work in a similar way," in the mobile industry, he noted. "It is better, arming customers with information," to enable them to make their own decisions. "[It's a] model the region ought to look at."
Of course, quality of service goes hand-in-hand with availability of spectrum, and that has long been an issue faced by Latin American operators. But there are some encouraging signs as countries move to allocate 700-MHz frequencies.
Chile is about to conclude its 700-MHz spectrum auction "any day now", and Brazil will auction spectrum in the 700-MHz band in August, Calaff said. Colombia has yet to announce dates for its auction, but it is likely to happen this year.
Mexico, meanwhile, plans to use a public-private partnership model to roll out a wholesale mobile broadband network in the 700-MHz band. Operators will then lease capacity on that network.
"The launch of that will happen next year," Calaff said.
The telcos will need all the spectrum they can get to serve the growing needs of their growing customer bases.
"There are about a million LTE connections in the region," Calaff said, predicting an increase to 6 million this year and more than 80 million in the next five years.