Agreement signals formal start of project to roll out infrastructure covering 92.2% of the population.

Altan Redes this week signed a public-private partnership (PPP) agreement with Mexico’s Organismo Promotor de Inversiones en Telecomunicaciones (Promtel), formally kicking off the process of building a nationwide wholesale mobile network in the country.

Altan, a consortium led by funds owned by Morgan Stanley, the World Bank, and Spanish businessman Eugenio Galdon, in November won a 20-year licence to deploy and operate the network, called Red Compartida.

"This wholesale broadband network will allow 92.2% of the country’s population to have access to some of the best communications technology available worldwide," Altan Redes said, in a statement on Tuesday.

"As of today, the undertakings and efforts needed to deploy the Red Compartida will begin with operations commencing as of March 31st, 2018," the company said.

The licence was awarded in controversial circumstances though, after the only other bidder in the process, Rivada Networks, was disqualified for allegedly failing to provide financial guarantees when it submitted its bid.

Rivada Networks is challenging the outcome of the tender, insisting it complied with the terms and conditions. Last week it pointed out that the Chinese government indirectly holds 23.6% of Altan’s equity, and argued that Mexico’s constitution prohibits ownership of Red Compartida by foreign governments.

The Secretaría de Comunicaciones y Transportes (SCT), the government body that conducted the tender, has maintained that the process was carried out properly.