Bloomberg has run a report stating that AT&T Wireless is aiming to rent space on cell towers from Mexican business, Telesites, the business that was spun off a few months earlier from Am©rica M³vil. The report claims that this rental agreement would give AT&T access to a widespread network of close to 11,000 masts across Mexico. AT&T spokesperson Fletcher Cook said this on the matter: “Our priority is to begin work to expand our network and enhance our mobile Internet offering. As we assess our options, we expect fair pricing, an expedited process, and efficient access similar to other tower companies.” Am©rica M³vil has so far declined to comment. AT&T is keen to expand its network presence in Mexico in order to improve its LTE coverage beyond the urban areas and so bring its coverage to the countryside and Mexico’s growing middle-class consumers. AT&T has been acquiring businesses and so coverage in Mexico for some time now, closing the $1.9 billion deal for Nextel Mexico at the end of April, only a short time after buying Mexican carrier Iusacell for $2.5 billion. AT&T’s ultimate goal is to create a seamless LTE and 3G network between the United States of America and Mexico.
It was also back in April that Am©rica M³vil shareholders agreed the plan to spin off mast operator business, Telesites. This new business initially leases space on towers to Am©rica M³vil’s wireless carrier, Telcel, the dominant carrier in Mexico. Telcel boasts over two thirds market share and around 71 million subscribers. However, most of Telesites’ masts can support equipment from multiple carriers and so the business is able to lease space to competitor operators. There is also pressure from Mexican regulators for Telesites to allow other operators access to the masts to install their own equipment as well as wider pressure on Am©rica M³vil’s ultimate controller, billionaire Carlos Slim, to sell off assets owned by the company in the name of competition. Regulators are also able to set the rates that Telesites will charge carriers to lease space.
Mexico remains a high growth area for the wireless carriers but one that requires significant investment. There are currently around 20,000 masts in operation in the country but according to the Mexican government, the country will require around 80,000 cell sites to handle the growing demand for wireless network capacity. AT&T’s Chief Executive Officer, Randall Stephenson, said last month that it would take approximately eighteen months before the carrier can offer a “truly strong LTE data experience beyond urban areas in Mexico.” However, AT&T is being positioned to provide such coverage and the deal with Telesites will go some way into securing this future.