The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) has loaned U$45 million to QMC Telecom, reinforcing the carrier’s plan to boost wireless broadband infrastructure in Mexico, Colombia and Peru.
Deepening broadband penetration is the need of the hour in Latin America, as the region has seen an unprecedented demand for internet services since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic earlier in 2020. Wireless broadband has significant value to global services companies seeking to improve broadband performance in work-from-home environments.
QMC Telecom’s plans will not only strengthen internet infrastructure in the three countries but also bring down broadband prices significantly.
Social distancing and lockdown measures have made broadband connectivity essential for most social and economic activities, including work, education and healthcare, said the IDB in a press release.
Just 57.1% of Peruvians had access to the internet in 2019, while 65.01% of Colombia’s population could get online. Mexico led in internet access between the three countries with 70.1% of the population able to use the internet. Wireless broadband internet penetration, however, is likely to be much lower, as overall internet access statistics take into account access via smart phones, which are readily available in the region.
Various institutions and agencies voiced their concern about the lack of internet access and its impact of child learning. During the pandemic, when millions of children were sent back to their homes and expected to learn online, despite those in rural areas being unable to do so.
Sylvia Schmelkes, academic vice-chancellor at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico, told MIT News that the pandemic had exacerbated access to learning between stratas of Mexican society, and those who did not have access to all three channels (internet, TV and radio) to the country’s Aprende En Casa initiative.
QMC Telecom already works across the region designing and building Distributed Antenna Systems, small cells to enhance connectivity as well as cell towers.
With the new funding in its pocket, the carrier will start building new telecom towers, distributed antenna systems, and street-level solutions, helping the three countries to gear up for auctioning 5G spectrums.
In Colombia, the IBD loan will help QMC Telecom to make nationwide deployments of the recently auctioned 700 MHz spectrum, where it will help bring access to communities that did not previously have cellular coverage.
Ricardo Zubieta, chief financial officer at QMC, said the partnership with the IDB will foster economic growth, enable connectivity and reduce the digital divide in Latin America.
“The pandemic highlighted the importance of wireless communications and connectivity has become an essential mission in today’s world,” said Gema Sacristán, IDB Invest´s Chief Investment Officer.