Argentina plans to reserve spectrum for a market newcomer in its forthcoming 4G auction.

The country on Tuesday published conditions for the 4G licensing process it announced in May, officially kicking off the bidding process. However, it has yet to state when the auction itself will take place.

"The tender reserves a portion of the spectrum for a future provider," the Secretaria de Comunicaciones (Secom) announced. It did not say how much spectrum would be set aside.

Argentina is auctioning off spectrum in the 700-MHz and AWS (1700/2100) spectrum bands for 4G; winners will be awarded national licences, which will be valid for 15 years. The licence holders will be required to cover 98% of the population within five years, fulfilling various staged coverage requirements in the interim.

Secom also called for infrastructure-sharing to make the rollout of 4G more efficient, as well as lowering costs and time-to-market, and reducing the visual impact of the networks.

The likelihood of a truly new provider entering the Argentine market through the 4G auction is relatively slim. A greenfield deployment would be a costly exercise, even with roaming agreements with existing players in place. However, the auction could provide a new lease of life for iDEN network operator Nextel, which has been struggling to compete and is the subject of takeover talk.

Although it has a tiny market share, Nextel is not technically a new player. However, participation in the auction could be structured in such a way that it, alongside a new investor, could pick up the reserved airwaves.

Argentina has tried before to introduce a new player into the market.

In 2012 the country cancelled its 3G spectrum auction, claiming the telco bidders did not meet its entry criteria, and handed a swathe of frequencies to state-owned firm Arsat.

The plan to set Arsat up as a new mobile network operator came to nought though and the frequencies in question – in the 1900-MHz and 850-MHz bands – will be reauctioned alongside the 4G spectrum, Secom said on Tuesday. As in the previous attempt to sell them off, those frequencies will be split into three regional

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