AT&T is now offering 4G LTE mobile capabilities in six cities in Mexico as the U.S.-based carrier rolls out more new services in a country where its business footprint continues to grow.
In an Oct. 12 announcement, AT&T said the six cities are just a starting point and that it plans to expand 4G LTE services to more than 40 million customers in Mexico by the end of the year and to more than 100 million people there by the end of 2018. The unveiling of the high-speed 4G LTE services is aimed at bringing faster mobile Internet services to customers across Mexico, the company said.
"The mobile Internet in the United States created an engine of economic growth, and we believe it will do the same here in Mexico," Thaddeus Arroyo, CEO of AT&T in Mexico, said in a statement. "This next-generation, high-speed mobile network empowers consumers and businesses to reach a new potential as they explore, discover and try new things."
The 4G LTE services are now available in the Mexican cities of Atlacomulco, Estado de México; Cuernavaca, Morelos; Cuautla, Morelos; Pachuca, Hidalgo; Tepeji, Hidalgo; and Tulancingo, Hidalgo.
The availability of 4G LTE speeds means that data and services can be delivered by as much as six times faster than on older 3G networks, according to the company.
AT&T has been on a bit of a buying spree in Mexico in the last year as it is focusing attention on the country's population and mobile services market.
In January, AT&T bought Nextel Mexico's assets for $1.88 billion in a deal with Nextel's owner, NII Holding, which brought AT&T another 3 million customers. That deal included all of NII's wireless properties in Mexico, including spectrum licenses, network assets, retail stores and its subscribers. Some 76 million people live in the area covered by Nextel Mexico's network.
AT&T made the acquisition to help it begin to create what the company called a first-ever North American Mobile Service area to cover more than 400 million consumers and businesses in Mexico and the United States.
The Nextel Mexico deal came just two months after AT&T's November 2014 announcement that it was acquiring Mexican wireless provider Iusacell for $2.5 billion, which included the company's licenses, network, retail stores and some 8.6 million wireless subscribers, according to an earlier eWEEK report.
That move was touted by AT&T as a natural geographic expansion of its wireless footprint into a country with a growing economy that is interdependent with the U.S. economy. That deal was made with Grupo Salinas, which at the time owned about 50 percent of Iusacell, according to AT&T. Iusacell offers wireless services under both the Iusacell and Unefón brand names with a network that covers about 70 percent of Mexico's approximately 120 million people.
The Mexican consumer and business marketplace has been attracting the attention of other mobile carriers as well in recent months as they all compete for customers and sales.
In August, Sprint expanded its Open World international calling program to now make all mobile calls and texts to and from Canada and Mexico free and included in monthly customer cellular plans, without additional roaming charges. As part of the expanded service, Sprint customers will also receive up to 1GB of 3G data for free while traveling in Canada and Mexico, according to the company's Aug. 10 announcement. That allotment is in addition to the data in a customer's domestic data plan. Additional data can be purchased at $30 per GB and will only be charged based on actual usage.
In July, competitor T-Mobile added free calling, texting and 4G LTE data to and from Canada and Mexico for all customers who have Simple Choice mobile calling plans with the carrier.
The no-extra-charge "Mobile without Borders" services provide incoming and outgoing calls and texts for customers and allowed the carrier to expand its Simple Choice plans to cover all of North America. About 35 percent of all international calls and 55 percent of all international travel from the U.S. involve Mexico and Canada, which led to nearly $10 billion in global roaming charges at over 90 percent margins for mobile carriers last year, according to T-Mobile.