Ari Lopes, Principal Analyst for Latin America at Ovum, discusses his predictions for 2018.
What developments do you think we are likely to see to the mobile networks of the Latin America region during 2018?
2018 will be a year to consolidate and develop 4G, telcos in Latin America will invest in activating the network in 700MHz (in those countries where it is available). In Mexico the wholesale network will finally start operating, this is a very innovative approach, and there will be a lot of interest around this company. Colombia raised the spectrum cap at the end of 2017, this was an important step towards preparing the next spectrum auction, that will include 700MHz. There will be also a drive for 4.5G, many operators are investing in carrier aggregation, 256QAM and 4x4MIMO. Finally, we expect to see the first NB-IoT and LTE-M networks in the region, enabling operators to be more aggressive in the Internet of Things market.
How soon do you think we will see commercial 5G networks in Latin America?
I believe 5G will start in Latin America with very focused, limited, deployments in fixed wireless deployments, possibly in the enterprise segment, to support customers requiring faster broadband. We can start to see these deployments can start by 2020, maybe mid-2019. But we also believe the large scale deployments will only start around 2021. There are some special cases, though, Puerto Rico, for instance, follows the agenda of United States, and it is possible that it will see 5G not long after US-based operators launch it, and these American companies already announced they will be among the first to deploy 5G.
What technologies do you think will be crucial in bringing 5G to the continent and why?
3GPP describes a number of technologies in the specifications for 5G, but from the perspective of Latin America, the most critical element for 5G will be the expansion of fiber networks, many cell sites are not connected via fiber, and this will be a major hindrance to 5G in Latin America. Networks in Latin America are not ready to offer faster mobile broadband speeds expected in 5G as well as implement some of the most innovative architectures of 5G, Latin American operators will need to invest in network densification as well as on a massive fiber roll-out in the back-haul. Telcos will also need to virtualize the core, in order to cope with all the new use cases in 5G.
Who are you looking forward to meeting at 5G & LTE Latin America 2018?
I believe the this event is a great opportunity to meet the main executives planning the mobile networks in Latin America, I expect to see them and look forward for the discussions an debate in the event.
Ari Lopes will be speaking at 5G & LTE Latin America 2018, taking place in Rio de Janeiro, 24 - 26 April. Learn more.