AT&T Said to Work on Tower Rental With America Movil Spinoff

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AT&T Inc. is working on a deal to rent towers in Mexico from Telesites, the recently spun off unit of America Movil SAB, according to people familiar with the matter.

A renting agreement would grant AT&T access to the most pervasive network in Mexico with about 11,000 wireless towers. The people asked not to be identified because the matter is private.

AT&T made its entry into the Mexican market this year with the acquisition of Grupo Iusacell SA, the country’s third-largest mobile-phone operator, and Nextel Mexico. The Dallas-based carrier plans to build a national wireless service in that country and the first phase of a cross-border mobile service with the U.S.

“Our priority is to begin work to expand our network and enhance our mobile Internet offering,” AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook said in an e-mailed statement. “As we assess our options, we expect fair pricing, an expedited process, and efficient access similar to other tower companies.” He declined to comment beyond the statement.

An America Movil press official declined to comment.

The Telesites spinoff, approved in April, creates Latin America’s second-largest renter of tower space after American Tower Corp. Controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, America Movil is studying how to break apart operations in Mexico, where sanctions are cutting into profit. The company, which controls about 80 percent of landlines and 70 percent of mobile-phones in Mexico, was declared dominant in its industry last year by the IFT.

AT&T shares fell 0.5 percent to $34.71 at 3:09 p.m. in New York. America Movil gained 0.5 percent to 15.82 pesos in Mexico City.

Mexico estimates it needs about 80,000 radio bases -- a fourfold increase from current levels -- to handle growing demand for mobile capacity. Telesites has significant opportunities for growth, America Movil said in a regulatory filing in April.

As part of the IFT’s rules, Telesites must allow access to its network to any operator for a fee. If a fee agreement can’t be reached, the IFT will determine the rate.

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