Latin American mobile giants such as America Movil and Spain’s Telefonica are among the firms that are in talks to enter Costa Rica ahead of a spectrum auction next month that will break a 40-year telecoms monopoly in the country. The Financial Times reports that five international firms are considering acquiring spectrum. Other firms interested include Millicom, the Luxembourg-based specialist in emerging markets, and two Caribbean operators: Jamaica’s Digicel, and CWI, the international division of UK-based Cable & Wireless. “Collectively, these five strategic investors account for some three out of every four mobile subscriptions in Latin America and the Caribbean,” noted the International Telecommunications Union in a recent study. “No other region has such a strong presence of multinational mobile groups.” According to the Costa Rican regulator (Sutel), there will be three winners in the auction, one for each of the bandwidths on offer. The auction is scheduled to close and the results announced on 5 May.

The new entrants will compete against the state monopoly, the Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE). According to Wireless Intelligence data, ICE had an estimated 1.7 million mobile connections at the end of last year. Opening up its telecoms markets to new competition was a condition of Costa Rica joining Cafta, the free trade agreement binding the US with Central America and the Dominican Republic, notes the Financial Times. The country may only have a population of 4.5 million but living standards are considered relatively high and mobile penetration is low, making it an attractive proposition.