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Costa Rica Extends Deadline for Bids for State Telecom Monopoly

Costa Rica has extended by more than a month the deadline for bids from companies such as America Movil and Telefonica SA to end the 47-year state telecommunications monopoly after the comptroller sought more details of the sale’s conditions.

Costa Rica’s telecommunications regulator, known as SUTEL, will publish tomorrow a revised bidding request to open the Central American country’s cell-phone market to private companies, said SUTEL President George Miley.

The regulator in August published bidding rules for three 15-year mobile spectrum licenses, Miley said. The call for bids, with a floor of $70 million, was set to close Nov. 5 and has been extended until Dec. 14.

The comptroller’s order was triggered by requests from companies to include prices for interconnection rates between operators and details about the country’s microwave frequency infrastructure, Miley said.

“Some of the companies were concerned they did not have the full picture,” said Miley. “It was required by law so it’s something you have to abide by.”

SUTEL aims to grant the concessions by next September. They include options for 10-year extensions.

Companies interested in bidding include Kingston, Jamaica- based mobile operator Digicel Group Ltd., Mexico City-based America Movil, Latin America’s largest wireless-phone carrier, Madrid-based Telefonica, London-based Cable & Wireless Plc, and Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular SA, Miley said.

With the exception of Cuba, Costa Rica is the last Latin American country with a state telecommunications monopoly, Miley said. Costa Rica agreed to end the monopoly under the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the U.S., which passed in a 2007 referendum.

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