Mexico will miss its digital television deadline

In a recent turn of events, Mexican opposition senators voted in favor of extending the deadline of the conversion of TV signals from analog to digital by the end of 2016. Notably, a couple of weeks ago, Mexican telecom regulator, Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT or Ifetel), had reaffirmed that the digitization of TV signals across the nation would be completed by the end of this year. The revised decision was taken on the grounds that an attempt to meet the Dec 31, 2015 deadline would leave millions of viewers across the nation without TV access.

The Senate’s proposal will now be sent to the country’s chamber of deputies as it will require an amendment to the constitution. The initial 2015-end deadline, which was set five years ago, had been included in the constitution then as part of the reform of the Telecoms Act in 2013.

The switchover to the digital format will free up important 700 MHz spectrums which the government of Mexico plans to use instead to install a nationwide wholesale wireless network. Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transport (SCT) is looking to launch an auction for the 700 MHz shared broadband network early next year.

In 2014, the government had undertaken this massive project to instil healthy competition in the highly monopolistic telecom industry. Small-scale telecom operators can use this state-owned network for their wireless coverage instead of installing their own network which is highly capital intensive. In Mar 2015, the SCT opened tender inviting participation in the project.

In May 2015, the Mexican government slashed its planned expenditure from $10 billion to $7 billion for the proposed deployment of nationwide wholesale mobile network over the next 10 years. The primary factor responsible for the cut in planned outlay was the government’s changed belief that 12,000 mobile towers will be sufficient for installing this network as against 20,000 estimated earlier.


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