Cofetel, the Mexican regulator, said late last week that 17 bidders have registered to participate in the country’s upcoming auction of 3G mobile spectrum, reports Dow Jones Newswires. Bidders are thought to include the country’s four existing mobile operators; America Movil, Spain’s Telefonica, Grupo Iusacell and Nextel. In the case of Nextel – the country’s smallest operator – the firm has entered into a consortium with local media conglomerate Grupo Televisa. It was announced two weeks ago that Televisa is reportedly seeking to acquire a stake in Nextel parent NII Holdings in order to bid for spectrum. The regulator is hoping that the auctions will create at least one new player with nationwide coverage. Other firms expected to bid include Mexico’s number two fixed-line operator Axtel SAB and cable TV company Megacable.

Potential bidders had until Tuesday last week to submit documentation to the Federal Competition Commission, which has the final say about who can compete in the auctions. Cofetel is scheduled to announce the winners within 30 days after qualified investors submit bids on May 25. It plans to sell spectrum in the 1850MHz-1990MHz and 1710MHz-2170MHz bands in two separate auctions. It is hoped that the auctions will provide fresh competition to America Movil’s Telcel, which has over a 72 percent share of Mexico’s mobile market and is the only operator in the country to have rolled out 3G services to date.