America Movil owner Carlos Slim has been defending his right to participate in a Colombian auction of 4G spectrum amid accusations that his business has become too powerful for the good of the market and should be excluded from the process.
Speaking to reporters on a trip to Colombia, the Mexican tycoon insisted that America Movil’s market lead was entirely the result of customer preference, and that any attempts to bar the company from involvement in the forthcoming spectrum auction would damage Colombia’s reputation among investors.
Colombia is set to hold an auction of frequencies for use with new 4G technology during the first half of 2013.
Some government officials would like to prohibit America Movil (Mexico City, Mexico) from bidding as a way of curbing what they perceive to be the operator’s growing might.
Since the 1990s, when it entered the market, America Movil’s market share has grown from about 50% to 60%, with Spain’s Telefónica (Madrid, Spain), the next biggest player, serving just 20% of subscribers.
America Movil is no stranger to accusations of unfair play, having been accused of stifling competition in Mexico, its home market, by maintaining interconnection fees that are way above the industry average.
Slim’s objections follow similar comments made by Daniel Hajj, America Movil’s chief executive, during a conference call with analysts on Friday last week.
Hajj went as far as suggesting that some parties in Colombia would prefer to gain market share by tweaking regulation than by investing in new technology and services.
The barbs may have been aimed at either Telefónica – whose Colombian Movistar operation is part-owned by the government – or UNE, a small state-owned operator.
UNE is reportedly the only telecoms company in Colombia that is already providing 4G services in some parts of the country.