Secom, Argentina’s telecoms ministry, attached stringent rollout obligations for winners in the country’s upcoming 4G auction and signalled its intent to reserve a portion of spectrum for an “incoming” operator.

4G licences are to be awarded nationwide in the AWS (1.7GHz/2.1GHz) and 700MHz frequency bands. Winners must guarantee they will cover major cities, corridors, towns and all localities with more than 500 inhabitants within five years of the licence award.

The new winner of reserved spectrum (the amount of which is not disclosed) has nine months longer to reach that target.

Secom also announced its intention to auction off 3G spectrum in the 1.9GHz and 850MHz frequency bands. 3G licences are to be divided into three areas: north, south and Buenos Aires.

Both 3G and 4G licences last 15 years.

With a view to taking part in Argentina’s 4G auction, Grupo Veintitres, a media group, was recently reported to be on the verge of striking a deal with NII Holdings that would see it acquire Nextel Argentina (and Nextel Chile) for nearly $250 million.

Nextel is by far the smallest mobile operator in Argentina with two million connections. It could be considered eligible for reserved 4G spectrum.

The other three mobile network operators in Argentina, each with around 20 million connections, are Claro (America Movil), Movistar (Telefonica) and Personal (Telecom Argentina).