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Ing. Augusto Espí­n Tobar

ECUADOR - Telecoms & IT

A Great Deal

Minister of Telecommunications and Information Society, Ecuador


Augusto Espí­n Tobar is an electronic engineer with a specialization in telecommunications. He holds a Master’s degree in Telecommunications Management from Oklahoma State University. He was Vice-Minister of the Coordinating Minister of Strategic Sectors, a member of the Special Committee of Hydrocarbons Tenders and vice-minister of MINTEL’s Information Society department.

"We investigate potential new operators that might enter the Ecuadorian market."

How would you assess the process of negotiations for 4G technologies between the government of Ecuador and the private sector?

This government has set the pace for an aggressive negotiation process for 4G. These negotiations have been well structured and all main parties have taken part; we have been the driving force throughout the entire process. We reached a global pre-agreement last October and ever since have been formalizing everything under the main regulatory framework and public bodies. The final and official agreement was reached in January with that the formulation of key legislation, and we are now in the process of implementation. We have already granted licenses to operations—Movistar and Claro for example. There has been a great deal of interest from the main international operators in obtaining an operational license. This has been a long process for all parties and has generated $330 million for Ecuador to date; the Ecuadorian government has long been investing in network and technology for the implementation of 4G technologies. This also means an improvement in the national network and in service quality for all Ecuadorians.

What is the motivation behind the Ministry’s efforts to increase cooperation with other countries in the ICT sector?

We have a vision for our country in light of which we aim to increase the offer of our network and its capacity. We investigate potential new operators that might enter the Ecuadorian market, and the new telecommunications law creates a highly favorable framework for foreign investment. I believe that Ecuador needs, at least, a fourth operator in the sector—one bringing in an aggressive strategy. We see the development of broadband in the country as the key element for the ITC sector in terms of taking a decisive step forward. Over the past five to ten years, the government has invested considerably in ITC education and training, and yet I argue that we need to step up these efforts to take both sector and country to the next level. One of the challenges ahead of us is to increase broadband penetration in Ecuador, and we aim to offer a $10 dollar per month service to broadband users and consumers. Clearly, a larger number of internet users would also make a positive contribution to the software development industry. Meanwhile, the country is currently engaged in the implementation of a national cloud system that should become the basis of all of the abovementioned developments.

“We investigate potential new operators that might enter the Ecuadorian market.”

What are the competitive advantages of Ecuadorian R&D and how can this sector contribute to nationwide efforts to change the production matrix?

Ecuador offers numerous opportunities for R&D, especially in terms of the shift in the production matrix. Ecuador has huge agricultural potential and is a leading international exporter of certain products; R&D can make this, and other potential sectors, still more competitive, increasing their technological threshold. Certain challenges lie ahead and to cope with them we first need a large consumer base with internet access. The ICT sector along with R&D has a key role to play in changing the national production matrix. We are in the process of aligning ourselves with the government’s strategy and contribute by making sure that more Ecuadorians have internet access, improving services in fixed telephony, and investing in key segments of the sector such as education to boost future development. 4G technologies are therefore a key component in our efforts to contribute to the development of the ITC sector.

What have been the main changes the telecommunications law brought into the sector and the country as an overall?

It created a clearer regulatory framework for all parties involved in the sector, providing the operation basis for operators, and stimulates the sector as a whole. It has also eased up the licensing process for operators; operators today know the benefits and rules of the game. The law also provides support and protection to consumers and sets a clearer understanding of rights, duties, and fines for all parties. The new regulatory framework in the sector represented a turning point in Ecuador’s ITC industry. For example, the law now foresees several levels of fines for operators and today a sole regulatory body monitors and implements regulatory policy. All this is vital in such a fast-paced changing industry as ITC, a sector that will drive the growth of Ecuador and its economy in the near future thanks to its flexibility, and within this context, the new law is a key step.

What other challenges does the Ministry face in the near future?

I would say that after the new Organic Telecommunications Law, we are in the process of democratizing the mainstream media spectrum, especially radio and TV. This in itself poses a challenge for our country, as the main media channels are private and concentrate on the most populated areas, whereas cities and regions closer to the borders with neighboring countries better receive the signal of those countries than of their own. This reality must be corrected; there must be a balance in mass communication between the public and the private spheres that ensures nationwide coverage.

© The Business Year – March 2015



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