Global Voices

Indigenous telecommunications network in Mexico to provide telephone and internet services via satellite

The first indigenous telecommunications network to provide mobile and Internet services in Mexico's rural communities will expand its services via satélite technology, enabling it to reach the most remote areas.

Screenshot of the official Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias website (Indigenous Community Telecommunications).

After months of fighting a legal battle that threatened its very existence, Mexico's first indigenous telecommunications network has unveiled plans to provide mobile phone and internet via satellite.

Telecomunicaciones Indígenas Comunitarias A.C (TIC AC) began offering mobile phone and internet services at a mere 2 percent of the average cost of commercial providers to 356 small towns in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz in 2013.

While their service initially relied on community-fundedm land-based towers, the indigenous telco will soon start providing satellite-based services, which will allow it to significantly expand their coverage.

The plans were announced on August 17 by Redes por la Diversidad, Equidad y Sustentabilidad AC (Networks for Diversity, Equity and Sustainability), an organization that is part of TIC AC:

Indigenous Community Telecommunications (TIC AC) will expand its coverage via satellite capacity to provide mobile phone and Internet services in difficult to reach areas.

— Redes AC México (@redesac_mx) 17 August 2018

In an interview for the Mexican newspaper Reforma, the Deputy Co-ordinator General of Networks for Diversity, Equity and Sustainability AC, and one of the main legal advisors of TIC, Erick Huerta, indicated that this will be made possible through a soon-to-be signed agreement between TICand the Mexican government:

Firmaremos un convenio con la SCT [Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes] que nos va a permitir hacer una alianza para aprovechar la capacidad satelital del Estado mexicano y con esa capacidad vamos a poder llegar a comunidades donde no había manera de llevar internet. Vamos a llegar a través de satélite y fortalecer la calidad de los servicios actuales.

We will sign an agreement with the SCT [Secretariat of Communications and Transportation], which will allow us to form a partnership to make use of the satellite capacity of the Mexican State and with this capacity we are going to be able to reach communities where there has been no way of having Internet. We are going to reach them via satellite and strengthen the quality of our current services.

Because satellite technology does not rely on the installation of cables or phone lines, as occurs with fixed and mobile broadband, it is a viable and effective alternative when providing network connectivity in remote areas where there is no infrastructure. By simply installing a satellite dish that connects to a satellite, data can then be sent and received.

This is the year's second milestone for TIC AC, who has endured a legal battle against Mexico's telecommunications regulator after it demanded that it pay 50,000 dollars for use of the radio-electric space. The case ended up in court and in May a landmark ruling instructed the regulator to reconsider the fee on the grounds of protection indigenous people’s right to freedom of expression.

Originally published in Global Voices.

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