China Telecom, the third largest mobile operator in its home country, is reportedly preparing a bid to build and run a new mobile broadband network in Mexico.
Sources told Reuters that the Chinese state-owned telecoms company is looking for local partners to form a consortium.
China Telecom’s international subsidiary China Telecom Global is believed to have secured several billions of dollars of financing from state-controlled banks, including the China Development Bank.
The Mexican government estimates that the project will cost $10 billion over the course of 10 years.
In October last year, the Mexican telecoms and transport ministry (SCT) and Federal Institute of Telecommunications (IFT) agreed steps to have the network up and running by 2018, using a mixture of public and private investment.
It is unclear what proportion of the funding will come from each sector. The sources said Mexico’s government does not currently plan to take a stake in the company that will run the network.
The winning group will have a public-private partnership contract with the government, allowing it to use some state infrastructure. The network will have a concession for use of 90 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band.
SCT said in October that “six major telecoms suppliers” were carrying out field tests in the 700 MHz band.
Reuters previously reported that Alcatel-Lucent and Ericsson had helped a consortium of unnamed companies put together a bid to build the network.
This bid was apparently rejected by SCT on the basis that accepting it would have given the consortium an edge in the bidding process.
Chinese infrastructure vendor Huawei has expressed interest in the project, and is more likely to be involved if a Chinese player is leading the project. Nokia and Cisco have also been linked to a possible bid.
It is believed the government wants to select a winner by the middle of 2015.
The shared network plan is part of the Mexican government’s attempt to stimulate competition in a mobile market that has so far been dominated by America Movil. Existing operators and MVNOs will use the shared network to extend their network reach.