MEXICO CITY, April 4 Mexico's competition
watchdog Cofeco said mobile phone company Telcel dominates the
country's phone market, opening the door to tougher regulation
of the company owned by Carlos Slim, the world's richest man.
The announcement on Thursday confirms a 2010 ruling by
Cofeco, against which that Slim's company had appealed.
The decision could pave the way for Mexico's regulators to
force Telcel to reduce the fees it charges smaller rivals for
connecting to its vast network.
Telcel, the Mexican unit of phone giant America Movil
, is the country's biggest mobile operator with
about a 70 percent market share. Spain's Telefonica is
a distant second with about 20 percent of the market.
A spokeswoman for America Movil said the company is
reviewing the announcement and considering its legal options.
Separately, Cofeco said on Wednesday it would temporarily
suspend a $53 million fine levied against Slim's fixed-line
phone company Telmex in February after the company requested a
review of the fine.
Mexico's competition watchdog has been trying to increase
oversight of Slim's companies, but with little success to date.
Mexicans were overcharged $13.4 billion a year from 2005 to
2009 for phone and Internet services as a result of the lack of
competition in Mexico's phone market, according to a January
2012 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development funded by the Mexican government.
America Movil has said the OECD report is flawed and does
not "provide a correct vision of the state of the Mexican
Mexico's president Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office in
December, has said he wants to increase competition in the
sector and last month presented a plan for sweeping reform of
the telecommunications industry.
The telecom reform was backed by Mexico's lower house and is
now before the Senate.
America Movil shares are down more than 16 percent since the
start of the year, partly due to concerns Pena Nieto's
government could step up regulation.
About 35 percent of America Movil's revenue of 775 billion
pesos ($60 billion) in 2012 came from Mexico.