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Mony de Swaan

MEXICO - Telecoms & IT

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President, Cofetel

Bio

Mony de Swaan received his degree in International Relations from El Colegio de Mexico, receiving his Master’s in Comparative Politics from the London School of Economics shortly after. He then went on to postgraduate studies in National Security at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. As a public servant, he was advisor to an Electoral Councilor at the Federal Electoral Institute from 1996 to 2000. During the next four years he served at the Ministry of the Interior, as Chief of Staff to the Undersecretary for Political Development (2000-2002), as well as the Assistant Director General for Networking with the Federal Government and Civil Society Organizations (2002-2004). After two-and-a-half years working as Regional Director for Corporate Affairs at Pfizer Mexico and Central America (2004-2006), he continued his career in the public sector, holding the position of Chief of Staff to the Director General and Head of the Institutional Liaison Unit at the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS). After then working in a senior position at the Ministry of Communications and Transport he was appointed President of Cofetel.

"I have no doubt that Mexico soon will be at the same level as the most advanced countries in terms of telecommunications."

How is Cofetel implementing the national strategy to further develop the telecommunications sector in Mexico?

In the past, Mexico lacked public consensus in terms of telecommunications policies, and that negatively affected the development of the sector. However, that recently changed and the authorities have recognized telecommunications as a strategic sector for the development of the country, and the agreement signed in December 2012 under the “Pact for Mexico” (Pacto por México), which includes specific telecommunications commitments, should boost the development of the sector thanks to the consensus of all the parties involved in the political spheres and the sector. Cofetel welcomes such steps because they are much needed. In terms of national projects, the priority is to make the television industry more diverse and competitive, developing more infrastructure and establishing better policies and a legal framework for the telecommunications sector. Fortunately, the change in the national government has not affected our sector’s priorities, and therefore our main mission is to make sure that the country achieves the goals set up by the political forces in Mexico. We believe that, thanks to the telecommunications commitments included in the agreement, we reached a very high level of detail in the national priorities and future policies of the sector, and Cofetel believes that it’s time to support the national authorities in implementing the numerous projects the agreement established.

What are some of the main projects Cofetel will be focusing on looking ahead?

We have to separate our projects into two categories: broadcasting and telecommunications. In the latter sphere, we differentiate between infrastructure and regulatory framework projects. In terms of broadcasting, there are several ongoing projects such as the first free-to-air television tendering process in a country with over 200 years of history. We believe it will take about 18 months to complete the entire process, award broadcasting licenses, and see the first programming from these channels. The situation is also similar in radio, and we aim to award over 200 FM renewed broadcasting licenses over the next four years. Finally, in the broadcasting sphere, we are currently dealing with the “digital switchover,” and we have an ongoing pilot plan to switch to digital television in Tijuana already. Several border cities will follow Tijuana, and by December 2015 the entire country will have switched to digital television. Such steps are aimed at increasing competition in the industry. Regarding the telecommunications sphere, I emphasize several projects. We are currently working on the adoption of new regulatory policies at all levels. Also, we will continue to pursue policies that benefit the consumer, as we did regarding the interconnection tariffs and mobile telephony services sector, where prices have dropped by around 40% in the last couple of years. In terms of infrastructure, since we are not infrastructure developers, Cofetel will do what it can to contribute to the expansion and development of the national network and its backbone. Finally, we carried out the first extensive spectral report in Mexico in order to evaluate current spectrum usage and free space for new competitors. For example, at the 700 MHz level we need to speed up the switchover process in order to reclaim released spectrum. I would like to stress the fact that these priorities are all well detailed in the Pact for Mexico.

“I have no doubt that Mexico soon will be at the same level as the most advanced countries in terms of telecommunications.”

What measures are you taking to sanction those companies that restrict competition within the industry?

Overall, we have to strengthen sanctions against companies that dominate the market, and we are focusing on such elements along with other national institutions like Cofeco, the national competition authority. Regarding current legislation, we believe that Mexico needs to pursue the adoption of restrictions on legal challenges against adopted decisions on behalf of the regulatory body, a very important piece of legislation that has been exemplified in Europe.

How sophisticated is Mexico in terms of fiber-optic connectivity?

At the moment, Mexico is not very sophisticated in this regard. Ours is a wide and diverse country, where there are geographic markets with a wide range of service providers and high levels of infrastructure. For those markets, competition is clearly benefiting consumers. However, Mexico has another reality, which is that rural areas far from the main urban conglomerates receive little attention from the market. I believe that the government needs to build bridges between our urban markets and rural areas. In this regard, the Ministry has a very ambitious plan to promote the penetration of telecommunications services to Mexico’s rural geography. The plan has already been ongoing for the last couple of years, in which the government reached as many as 30,000 rural communities in Mexico, up from the 6,000 recorded in 2010. At the same time, we have midpoint zones, where a high percentage of Mexico’s population resides. Cofetel can play a very important role in strengthening market competition and network expansion in these areas. We have to keep in mind that the government must economically commit itself to such projects, because it is easy to talk about investments of around Ps45 billion. That is my only concern at the moment. We need to see the development of the telecommunications sector not only from the commercial and market point of view, but from a social development standpoint as well.

How much of Mexico still needs to be updated from analog to digital?

In 2011, Mexico’s digital television penetration rate stood at 13%, and thanks to a measure we implemented jointly with a number of other national bodies, the rate has risen to 22%. Therefore, digital penetration still remains a major challenge and goal for Mexico in the near future.

What is your general outlook for Cofetel and the sector for 2013?

It will definitely be a very exciting year at all levels. Cofetel and the industry as a whole have been long awaiting a much-desired political consensus covering all spheres of the sector in a balanced way. The Pact for Mexico ties all of that together. Therefore, I am very optimistic in terms of making the commitments of the agreement a reality, although I know that for the entire process to be completed we need several years because they are long-term projects that require large amounts of investment. Overall, I believe that we will start and finish many projects in 2013, and for that reason, key decisions will be made. I have no doubt that Mexico soon will be at the same level as the most advanced countries in terms of telecommunications. The conditions are given to do so.

© The Business Year – April 2013

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