Although it may not be as large as gargantuan markets like China and India, Mexico is still a mobile battleground of sorts, with roughly half of the population still not connected to the internet. A federal wireless spectrum auction, not unlike the one set to take place in America near the end of this month, promised to up the mobile ante a bit in the country and spur competition. The spectrum at stake in the auction found itself between the 1710-1780 MHz and 2110-2180 MHz spectrum bands. Although not as easy to build out or powerful as lower-band spectrum, the airwaves on offer were more than adequate to allow bidders to start building out wider, more powerful mobile networks. Some of the top names in the country participated in the auction, including new entrant to the Mexican space, AT&T. Despite their deep pockets, they were outbid by Mexican carrier America Movil.
America Movil, owned by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, was in the middle of a financial crisis of sorts, with changes to the markets and law in Mexico, Columbia and Brazil sending their profits tumbling down to a loss for 2015 of nearly $2.7 billion. In Mexico, they cover roughly 75% of all telecommunications, both mobile and landline, making a loss of this scale particularly telling of market conditions. Despite this, they handed over roughly $117 million to the Federal Telecommunications Institute, beating out AT&T’s investment of about $57 million. AT&T made an investment to the tune of $4.4 billion last year to scoop up carriers and spectrum in order to enter Mexico’s burgeoning market. They had vowed to spend another $3 billion to cover 100 million Mexicans by 2018, but if the auction’s results are any indication, they either have something up their sleeve or are choosing to take things slow.
According to financial firm HSBC, AT&T’s best-laid plans in Mexico won’t get them much of anywhere until around 2019 with current market conditions. According to their analytics, AT&T will likely be seeing an average revenue per user of only $14, meaning, unless things change, it will take AT&T a while to start seeing significant returns on their fairly large investments in Mexico.