Thursday, June 9, 2005 - The Progress & Freedom Foundation Blog

Spectrum Reform in Guatemala

Guatemala is on the cutting edge of telecom policy, as I'm learning here at a conference at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin, which was founded 30 years ago with a law and economics focus and has arguably become the best university in Guatemala. Guatemala's 1996 telecom liberalization law is also one of the best around. The intent: to make it as easy to start a telecom company as it is to open a hot dog stand. In addition to privatizing the state-owned telecom assets, the telecom law opened the telecom market by providing for free entry and exit, freedom to integrate and use any technology, freedom to operate in any area and, perhaps most importantly, pricing freedom. But, the focus of the conference is on spectrum, where Guatemala is also leading the way and has a lot to teach us. The Guatemalans have created a new legal regime for spectrum, by treating it as property like land. The new law has moved a lot of spectrum into private hands, facilitating new entry into mobile telephony and creating a vibrant secondary market. Mobile telephone penetration increased from 64 thousand in 1997 to about 3.2 million in 2004 - almost triple the number of land lines. This in a country of about 12 million people. The major problem seems to be a significant amount of illegal radio operation, which the system has not yet learned how to cope with. But all in all, Guatemala's spectrum reform is a significant success, with a lot to teach the rest of the world.

posted by Tom Lenard @ 11:42 PM | Communications , Spectrum , Wireless