MEXICO CITY Mexico said on Friday it aims to recover an attractive broadcast spectrum held by private firms within five months and then resell it, a move that could break billionaire Carlos Slim's dominance of the telecoms industry.
The government hopes to reclaim the 2.5 GHz band, which is ideal for servicing data-hungry devices like tablets and smartphones, and resell it to companies that could challenge Slim's America Movil.
"We estimate the entire (recovery) process could take five months. We will listen to everyone," said Communications and Transport Minister Dionisio Perez Jacome in an interview with Reuters Friday evening.
In a surprise move, the Mexican government said on Wednesday it wants to take back 68 existing licenses for the 2.5 GHz band. Privately-held media company MVS Comunicaciones holds 42 of those licenses, 15 percent of which have already expired.
The government moved after MVS and other companies failed to develop high-speed networks with the spectrum.
Perez Jacome said companies will have the right to legally challenge the government's decision, which could drag the recovery process out. MVS declined comment on Friday.
MVS has several pending appeals in courts over expired licenses that it wanted to revive but the government refused to renew. In Mexico, appeals can take years before they are resolved in courts.
Perez Jacome said MVS and the other holders of licenses will be paid a yet to be determined compensation.
The government's move comes less than five months before president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto takes office, suggesting the new government will have to finish the process. Once the spectrum is recovered, it will be re-auctioned.
The communications ministry and telecom and competition regulators will all contribute to setting the terms of the new auction, Perez Jacome said.
MVS holds 190 MHz of the 2.5 GHz band. Analysts have estimated that capacity alone could service three companies the size of America Movil (AMXL.MX), Mexico's top cell phone company.
America Movil controls around 70 percent of the mobile telecommunications market in Mexico, while Spain's Telefonica (TEF.MC), the second biggest player has about 20 percent.
(Additional reporting By Tomas Sarmiento; Editing by Michael Perry)