Subtel suspends use of 3.5GHz during 5G spectrum studies in Chile

SANTIAGO – Chile’s telecoms regulator Subtel has prohibited concessionaires of the 3.5GHz band from using it while the watchdog studies its potential use for the development of 5G technology in the South American country.

The Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) has ordered Claro, Entel, Grupo GTD, Movistar and VTR to halt commercial use of the 3.5GHz band after its inspection department found that the spectrum was not being used efficiently by the operators.

In a statement, the regulator explained that it had monitored 60 locations and found that 73% had no signal, whilst other ‘anomalous situations’ were also detected. These included the companies operating at a higher power than is permitted by their concession and exploiting the spectrum commercially in an ‘irregular’ manner.

Subtel added that it also needed to carry out an in-depth study of the band and its potential use for the development of 5G technology in Chile.

Subtel found that Movistar, VTR, and Grupo GTD – which hold concessions that cover two regions apiece – were not using the spectrum band, whilst Entel and Claro were underutilising their nationwide licenses. The regulator criticized the latter duo for spectrum hoarding, pointing out that the pair had not used the spectrum but had announced products that would operate in a 5G network, despite the fact that a standard for the technology had not yet been accepted by the Chilean authorities.

As no framework for 5G has been established by Subtel, the regulator warned that it could not be commercialized without sanctions being imposed. The watchdog went on to point that the current distribution of frequencies in the 3400MHz-3800MHz band would provide Claro and Entel with a ‘privileged position’ allowing them to ‘monopolize spectrum to the detriment of free competition that allows multiple offers and lower prices to users.’

As part of its ruling, Subtel instructed Entel and Claro provide operational continuity by migrating customers currently using the 3.5GHz band to other technologies and bands.

Diario Financiero reports that Entel has rejected the regulator’s order, stating that it has not received any official direction and that ‘press communications do not account for any formal legal action.’ The provider said it would exercise all legal actions to fight the ruling, which called ‘incomprehensible’ and ‘arbitrary’.