Telecom Company Plans for 5G Expansion in Latin America, Africa

Telecommunications company Tigo Guatemala operates in countries in Latin America and Africa. With corporate and consumer clients, it offers 4G services and has plans to move to 5G in the next few years. In this episode of Mastering Innovation on SiriusXM Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, Roberto Rodriguez, wholesale director for Latin America at Tigo, and Eric Seaman, chief technology officer for the Tigo One Network, based in Guatemala City, discuss the potential of faster, more accessible internet connectivity to enhance opportunities for learning and better health care in Tigo’s markets.

An excerpt of the interview is transcribed below. Listen to more episodes here.


Roberto Rodriguez (wholesale director, Tigo)

Harbir Singh: What’s fascinating to me is, having myself grown up in a developing country, that the use of smartphone technology and communication technologies in developing countries is very different. And in areas like health care services and diagnostics and so on, there are different applications. So maybe you can tell us a bit about the most interesting places where this technology is being used in your markets.

Roberto Rodriguez: You’re right. As I mentioned before, for Tigo, it is very important to bring different solutions to the consumer. For example, we have a huge opportunity to bring in solutions, for example, for the public health. Because normally, developing countries have a huge gap in terms of how we manage the health. So participating in [events like Mack Institute conferences] bring us different types of ideas to complement how we deliver the services through mobile or fixed networks. So that is one example. And in the traditional services, for example the TV cable offering, we are very creative. Because if we compare against the U.S. market, for example, we deliver a prepaid model for the TV cable offering. That is very different than the way that the service is being delivered [in the U.S.].

Singh: So the idea is that with the pre-paid model, you can get more users, more subscribers, right?

Rodriguez: Exactly. And give them flexibility — a simple way to have access to those services. Because in some ways, they need it. Obviously, as a consumer, you need to have a simple way to access a different service.

Singh: Right. And, Eric, are there other stories in the public health area that are very unusual in how the use of them are? Maybe, Roberto, you may have that? Any examples of here’s a technology — I know I was traveling with some faculty in Kenya last year, and the big thing that has happened to communications technology is to have, in the remote rural areas, you have maybe a nurse or a nurse practitioner, and in the main cities like Nairobi, you have the doctors and the specialists. And I think that communications technology has already made a very big difference. I assume something like that exists.

“When we provide the coverage, automatically the people have the possibility to have a smartphone and reach a lot of services that were prohibitive before.” – Eric Seaman

Rodriguez: Yes. That is one of the things. I mean to provide the easiest way to the patients to have access quickly to medical treatment, right? So that is one of the things that we are working on, and having the possibility to learn, for example, from other companies like Indian companies, that they are doing some efforts on that, gives us the chance to move in that direction.

Singh: And what that leads me to and, Eric, in your chief technology officer role that may be interesting to you as well, that in some ways, developing markets are ahead of developed markets in this area because they don’t have the old technology. So they can use the new technology. Right? So how does that work?

Eric Seaman (CTO, Tigo One Network)

Eric Seaman: Just the fact that in the countries we operate, we have the best coverage. Sometimes we feel the service is a lot better than some other countries that we visit when we travel. And you were mentioning about the medical arena. When we provide the coverage, automatically the people have the possibility to have a smartphone and reach a lot of services that were prohibitive before the technology is showing up in their locations. So just that fact, it’s very important, not considering also the possibilities that are open with the new technologies like 5G and so forth, that will make possible, telepresence and telesurgeries and stuff like that, that for some people in our countries are very hard to get. To transport people to the U.S. or some other countries is very hard. So we can open that door.

Singh: I think that’s fascinating because, besides not having the specialists in those regions, sometimes transportation time is enough of a problem in a health situation. So if you can use the video function in a smartphone with more advanced communication, which you have, the 4G and possibly even 5G — because you don’t have the other networks before that, so you can put in the latest — I think that’s a very interesting thought because most people think that the lead markets are always the developed markets. But in fact, in telecommunications, sometimes the developing markets, those are the lead markets. So then how do you then — are there some applications that you’ve seen that are particularly interesting? I can think about pregnancies, in monitoring pregnancies, also monitoring or providing instruction if there’s a delivery problem in delivery of a child or surgery, like that.

Seaman: You know, I believe that there’s a lot of opportunities on education in general. One of our missions, maybe our main mission, is to build highways — information highways to our countries. So one of the things that definitely the highways are good for is the education, the possibility to reach contents in universities in the U.S. and Europe, and making possible for a remote student in areas in our countries to have access to education resources.

About Our Guests

Roberto Rodriguez is a wholesale director at Tigo. He previously served as chief commercial officer of and international service manager of AT&T Global Services.

Eric Seaman has 25-plus years of experience in the telecommunications industry. His journey includes management positions in operations and maintenance, network planning, engineering and project management in the telecom sector, including 13 years with Harris Corporation. His last seven years have been dedicated to the strategic direction of international carrier operations and Internet delivery for Millicom/Tigo. Currently, he is the regional chief technical officer for the Tigo One Network based in Guatemala City.

Mastering Innovation is live on Thursdays at 4:00 p.m. ET. Listen to more episodes here.