‘Today what Colombia needs is the 4G connection and not 5G’, says Tigo
The president of Tigo Colombia, Marcelo Cataldo, spoke with EL TIEMPO about the balance of 2020, expectations for 2021 and the needs of Colombians in connectivity, as well as how to the movements in the market that would come with the new operator that it does not classify as new.
Tigo deployed 2,358 in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic, how did you handle restrictions to achieve this goal?
We started the deployment of this infrastructure in April. We can say that we have more than 9,000 additional covered square kilometers; 11,000 kilometers of road, which we did not have covered; that more than 4 million of our users have already used that new infrastructure.
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But those are Tigo data. For me, the most relevant thing is when a third party like Open Signal makes the corresponding measurements of all the competitors in the market and, of the seven variables that it measures, we win in six, one tied with Claro, and the other 5, alone. The challenge we have in Colombia is to migrate the users that we still have in 2G and 3G. There are 10 million Colombians who are still in that old technology.
How much did 2020 change compared to what you expected, after acquiring the blocks on the 700 Mhz frequency?
Regarding network implementation, management, and our implementation commitment, nothing changed. We had planned to install 2,300 antennas and we complied with 2,358. The price has not increased for our customers, the gigs have risen, plans that previously had 10, 15 gigs today have 40.
We have included Instagram in some of the plans at the request of our clients. Except for the economic situation, which is obviously challenging.
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Is there a new operator? There is no new operator. Avantel is going to change its poster and is going to be called Wom
The plans of Wom, the new operator, are close, and they assure that they will revolutionize the market …
Is there a new operator? There is no new operator. Avantel is going to change its poster and it is going to be called Wom. Let’s not fool ourselves. We were surprised at the beginning of 2020 with Wom saying that he returns the spectrum. A Ministry that does not apply everything it said in the tender document because it applied a derisory fine of 40 billion pesos when the government stopped receiving 1.7 billion pesos, which is what they put because they supposedly made a mistake in the zero. They don’t even know how much a peso is worth against the dollar.
Then they did all this matter of wanting to be incoming, but having Avantel, they have 2 million clients and 1,200 antennas, that is not being incoming. They are going to see that the same Avantel store is taken out today and they put the Wom poster on it. However, the competition is not in the press, nor in social networks, it is in the street, gaining a customer every day. So there we will be. There we are. And that is why we were recognized as the best mobile network operator in Colombia.
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What benefits does an incoming operator receive and how does this affect, say, Tigo?
The benefit is established in the regulation for 5 years, which began to run from May 5, 2020. The incoming operator receives a regulated rate in national automatic roaming, that is, it uses our networks while theoretically building its network. But the reality is that Avantel for five or six years abused our networks and did not build anything. It owes us 46,000 million pesos established in the restructuring process in Supersociedades. They also owe it to Telefónica and Claro. They only invested 1 or 2 percent of their income. We invest more than 20, which is the standard average of a telecommunications operator.
The time came when he would have to pay more because the five years of entry were over, and he did not, he continued for a year paying what he wanted. Now Wom buys it, they change the poster and they will have five more years of entry. When I look at it, from a competitive point of view it’s crazy.
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Speaking of Claro’s dominance, how does this affect the user? how this ad is reflected in your services
There is nothing, because it is a title. It was declared dominant, but there is none, no measure that makes that impact on the market and therefore on the client. Well there is nothing. There is no element for the user, except the investment we make, as a whole process. That, the investment goes in parallel with the legal and regulatory executions. And the government, which has to be in charge of solving.
We in Colombia are not ready for 5G
What are the objectives in deployment and the objectives also in the Tigo market for 2021?
We will continue to work hard on 4G. The need for Colombia and the moment for Colombia is 4G. Chile has a 91 percent 4G penetration. Brazil has about 76 percent and we are about 50. So we, the operators, the government, we have to focus on 4G. There are 10 million Colombians still using 3G with the commitment of a network operator, grow your network so that there is more availability of the 4G network. And that is where we have to aim and in the fixed business or continue to grow the speed and capacities of our fiber networks. So 90 percent of our investments go to our networks. We sell a network. The price can be any, I can put any price on the product, but it must work in that basement, on the 15th floor of your building, when you go to a rural area. You want to always be connected. So in 2021 we will continue to do what we did.
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This issue of making the leap to 4G is very important considering the progress that the ICT ministry wants to have with a 5G auction. How do you see the issue of 5G implementation, with the premise that we are still far from having a 4G connection throughout the territory? Are we ready?
So, the first point, there is a macroeconomic reality in the country and we have to understand having just gone through a tender. Second point, we are just starting to install. So we have not even started as telecommunications operators to implement the networks and we are going to have a second tender. This is not the time for a second tender. Third point, 5G is not what the end user needs. A 5G phone is worth four or five or six million pesos. Who can buy, a 4G phone is worth 150 thousand pesos. Ten million Colombians without 4G where the Government has to put the money, where the Government has to put its effort in that a few of the elite use 5G or that millions of Colombians enter the digital world, take ownership of technology and can live in this new digital world.
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