Spectrum Allocation in Latin America: An Economic Analysis

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21 Information Economics & Policy 261-78 (2009). Thomas W. Hazlett, Professor of Law & Economics, George Mason University School of Law, Roberto E. Muñoz, Senior Fellow, Information Economy Project and Professor, Federico Santa María Technical University, Santiago, Chile.

As elsewhere, wireless markets play a crucial role in Latin American economic growth. Mobile telephone networks increasingly provide the communications infrastructure that has largely been lacking throughout the region. Yet, governments have generally made only modest allocations of bandwidth available to Latin American wireless operators, either absolutely (in terms of spectrum each country could allocate at modest opportunity cost) or relative to countries in North America, Asia and the European Union. Using an empirical model estimated on mobile phone data for international markets, we show that very large social benefits are available to countries that make more spectrum available for mobile phone markets. We conduct simulations using our calibrated model to provide lower bounds for country-by-country gains from larger allocations. We also discuss the impact of alternative regulatory regimes on the feasibility to achieve those social gains.

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