BUENOS AIRES, Dec 17 (Reuters) - Cellphone operator Movistar Argentina will begin rolling out fourth-generation, or 4G, services next week, its parent company said on Wednesday, as the South American country scrambles to play catch-up in the telecommunications sector.
Underinvestment in Argentina's telecoms industry means network reception can be patchy even in the heart of downtown Buenos Aires, the capital of Latin America's No. 3 economy.
The 4G spectrum will initially be used exclusively for data, a move designed to free up space on a saturated third-generation network.
"We will launch 4G on Monday, far sooner than we had imagined," said Telefonica de Argentina SA President Luis Blasco. "And so will begin the development of a new technology needed to ease pressure on the spectrum."
A lack of telecoms infrastructure means the roll-out is likely to be slow. Analysts say a shortage of transmission antennas will require provincial governments to make space available to erect towers.
Telefonica de Argentina, a unit of Spain's Telefonica , on Tuesday paid $209 million to the Argentine government for its 4G spectrum after last month's auction, where spectrum was also awarded to Claro, which is a unit of Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim's America Movil ; Telecom Argentina; and Telecom Personal.
Argentine lawmakers early on Wednesday approved a new law allowing companies to provide bundled telephone, Internet and cable television services, a measure supporters say will open up the market and drive prices down. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Editing by Richard Lough and Lisa Von Ahn)