Claro Puerto Rico has revealed that it is ready to launch commercial Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile broadband services this month in the capital, San Juan. Company president Enrique Ortiz de Montellano told a media conference that the America Movil subsidiary has ‘full’ coverage of the San Juan area, with a combined HSPA+/LTE population coverage of 45%, which it expects to increase to 75% next year. Data-only devices including USB modems will be the first LTE products released for Claro’s Puerto Rican customers, said Ortiz de Montellano, adding that total investment in upgrading its mobile networks on the island this year will reach USD250 million, with a further USD200 million of investment in 2012 earmarked largely for LTE. Previously, the Mexican-owned firm said it would roll out LTE on the island in early 2012 but its plans appear to have been accelerated in light of rival AT&T Puerto Rico’s LTE launch in November, which trumped local cellco Open Mobile’s planned 4G debut by the end of the year. Claro demonstrated to members of the press LTE data speeds of 27.6Mbps using modems capable of 30Mbps.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Claro Puerto Rico owns frequency blocks earmarked for LTE via the March 2008 licensing of the 700MHz band in the US, which included the commonwealth country. Claro won the ‘A Block’ licence (2×6MHz, 698MHz-704MHz paired with 728MHz-734MHz) whilst it shared eight ‘B Block’ licences with four other bidders. Concessions stipulated that licensees must cover 35% of the market area within four years of the award (by Q1 2012), rising to 75% by the end of the ten-year term. Claro’s frequency resources were augmented by the Federal Communications Commission’s follow-on July 2011 auction, in which the Mexican-backed company won four additional regional B Block 700MHz licences on the island. AT&T and Open Mobile are also using 700MHz frequencies to deploy LTE, making services easily compatible for roaming with US networks.