Telefonica, America Movil Likely to Face New Argentine Rival

Argentina is close to a decision on whether to let Cablevision SA’s Nextel unit offer mobile-phone service in the country, Communications Minister Oscar Aguad said, creating a new competitor against Telefonica SA, America Movil SAB and Telecom Argentina SA.

More competition is needed to push the phone carriers to improve quality and reduce prices, Aguad said in an interview in Buenos Aires. A decision on Nextel’s license will come as soon as this month, he said.

Cablevision, the nation’s largest cable-TV company, is controlled by media giant Grupo Clarin SA, whose telecommunications ambitions have expanded since President Mauricio Macri took office in December with an agenda of market-friendly reforms. The cable provider agreed earlier this year to acquire full control of Nextel Argentina from NII Holdings Inc.

The mobile-phone industry is one of many Macri is targeting to encourage competition and rein in prices as he seeks to contain inflation that has exceeded 40 percent this year. While prices rose only 0.2 percent in August from the month before, communications fees climbed 3.2 percent.

Telefonica, based in Madrid, splits the Argentine mobile market roughly equally with Mexico City-based America Movil and Buenos Aires-based Telecom Argentina, which is controlled by investor David Martinez’s Fintech Advisory.

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