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No clear future for Mexican private broadband plan

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - A lack of agreement between media company MVS and the Mexican government over how to unlock a private broadband project is threatening to shelve the plan for several more years as growing court appeals cloud the case.

At the heart of the debate is 190 megahertz (MHz) of bandwidth owned by MVS Comunicaciones that could be used to deploy a next-generation LTE (Long Term Evolution) network in Mexico.

Some 15 percent of the licenses in MVS's entire spectrum holding have come due in recent years, with the rest expiring through 2018. Mexico's communications and transport ministry said on Friday that it had not renewed the expired licenses.

An MVS spokesman said on Sunday that the company had 90 legal challenges in several courts across Mexico countering the ministry's decision.

Unless each of these appeals is solved, neither the government nor regulators can take away the bandwidth from MVS, the company said. The ministry was not immediately available for comment.

MVS bandwidth, which remained near dormant for years, is optimal for surging data-hungry devices such as tablets or smartphones, catching the eye of rivals eager to expand.

MVS pitched a plan in April 2011 to use the spectrum more efficiently by making it available to just about any player via a proposed joint venture for a high-speed network including it, Clearwire and chip maker Intel . They would have jointly invested $400 million.

One option under review was to charge MVS a fee to let it claim back the expired licenses, keep the ones that had not come due and let the company and its partners operate the network.

Another alternative was to leave at least 120 MHz in the hands of MVS and auction the rest of the capacity to other rivals. The most extreme option was to take away all the spectrum from the company and re-auction it in the market.

The delay on the MVS project comes as authorities scramble to promote competition in a country where tycoon Carlos Slim's companies have the lion's share of the phone market and two broadcasters, Televisa and TV Azteca, have a near duopoly in Mexican open-air television.

A report released in January from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development underscored the lack of competition in telecommunications, resulting in significant costs to the Mexican economy and consumers.

(Reporting by Cyntia Barrera Diaz; Editing by Dale Hudson)

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