5G and the Evolution of Smart Cities in Latin America and the Caribbean


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Like much of the world, Latin American and Caribbean countries have been exploring ways to take advantage of 5G, or fifth generation cellular network technologies, to advance their development goals. Mexican telecoms regulator IFT recently confirmed that in 2020 it will auction the 600MHz band for 5G, and China’s Huawei announced it would build an $800 million factory in Brazil to make 5G cell phones, in response to the country’s plans to auction 5G spectrum in the near future.

Advocates see great potential for the technology to improve the economic and social landscape in Latin America. Proponents envision a major shift in how municipalities plan and industries operate, with 5G enabling connected smart cities and sophisticated machine-to-machine automation that could revolutionize the manufacturing sector. The effect of this transition to a society fully connected by the Internet of Things comes with both benefits and potential drawbacks. While the shift could offer increased opportunities in education, health and city planning, it might also result in the replacement of a significant portion of the labor force in modernized factories. Among the crucial issues to consider before the region embarks on a transition to 5G include ways in which regulatory environments and competition policy will need to adapt to new technologies, as well as complex longer-term questions regarding privacy, security, and the social and economic consequences of 5G.

Our panelists will address key questions, including:
  • How important is 5G to advancing smart cities concepts and best practices in Latin America and the Caribbean, and how much is reality versus hype? What business models make most sense for 5G in the context of Latin America, what sort of investment is needed, and where will the money come from? What are some scenarios for the most likely progression from today’s ICT infrastructure to 5G and a well-functioning Internet of Things environment in the region?
  • How will debates over spectrum and costs be addressed? With so many companies beyond traditional telecoms in the mix, what does a regulatory environment that’s conducive to 5G and smart cities need to look like?
  • What outcomes should policymakers be paying most attention to (e.g. improving e-government services to citizens, transit, public safety, sanitation, health, emergency preparedness, innovation, productivity, wellbeing, happiness levels)?
  • How should policymakers prepare for the consequences of automation and artificial intelligence that are expected to follow 5G, such as the potential for massive job displacements and other societal changes?
  • What’s behind the international security debates over 5G, and how will external geopolitical concerns, such as tensions between China and the United States, affect the way Latin America sees 5G evolve?

Follow this event on Twitter @The_Dialogue with #LAC5G.


Michael Shifter

President, Inter-American Dialogue (@MichaelShifter)

Featured Speaker:

The Hon. Ernesto Muyshondt

Mayor of San Salvador, El Salvador


Eric Crabtree

Chief Investment Officer, International Finance Corporation

Luis Fiallo

Vice President, China Telecom Americas

Ed Roach

Vice President of Regulatory Compliance and Associate General Counsel, SBA Communications

Rachel Samrén

EVP and Chief External Affairs Officer, Millicom (@RachelSamren)


Margaret Myers

Director, Asia and Latin America Program, Inter-American Dialogue (@MyersMargaret)



Watch the webcast here: