According to an unconfirmed report by BNAmericas, Nicaraguan telecoms regulator Instituto Nicaraguense de Telecomunicaciones y Correos (Telcor) has awarded the country’s third mobile licence to Beijing-based research and development firm Xinwei Telecom Enterprise Group – one of seven companies to have acquired bidding documents last autumn. Xinwei was widely considered the front-runner for one of the two concessions in the 1785MHz-1805MHz band, and the rumoured licence award has sparked a flurry of speculation linking the company to Laureano Ortega, son of President Daniel Ortega, and the head of investment agency ProNicaragua, which is said to have had a hand in the deal. Further, the price of the concession is said to have been slashed from USD90 million to USD20 million, again prompting accusations of nepotism. While Telcor has yet to formally confirm the licence award, its chief Orlando Castillo has told the media that Xinwei has promised to invest USD700 million in the first stage of launching operations, rising to USD2 billion by 2015.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, in September 2012 Telcor launched a tender for two new mobile licences in the 1800MHz band, with a view to breaking up the long-standing Claro/Movistar duopoly. Both concessions will allow the introduction of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology and be geared towards operators which are prepared to concentrate on the deployment of rural-focused services. Little is known of the other interested parties, although Costa Rica’s state-owned power and telecoms company Grupo Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (Grupo ICE), which offers mobile services in its domestic market under the ‘ICE Celular’ brand, confirmed in November 2012 that it was no longer interested in participating in the tender.