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Belize - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband

While Belize’s GDP per capita is high for Central America, its telecoms services have attracted much dissatisfaction. The incumbent BTL has been at the centre of a string of ownership litigations; further disputes arose in 2008, after a change of government brought to light questionable agreements between the previous administration and BTL. Despite liberalisation, BTL dominates the market and blocks VoIP traffic. SpeedNet launched competing mobile services branded Smart in March 2005, but its owners are allegedly closely linked with BTL’s majority shareholders. A company called MirrorNet began to compete with BTL in early 2008, offering Internet and VoIP services. This report provides an overview of the country’s telecom sector accompanied by relevant statistics and analyses.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Belize is a small country with only 331,000 inhabitants, the only English-speaking nation in Central America. The country has closer affinities with the Caribbean region than with its neighbours.

While Belize’s GDP per capita is high for Central America, its telecoms services have attracted much dissatisfaction. Belize’s fixed-line teledensity is about average for the region, but mobile penetration is considerably lower than in neighbouring countries.

The Belizean telecom market was officially liberalised in January 2003, yet the incumbent, Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL), still holds a virtual monopoly. BTL has been at the centre of a string of ownership litigations; further disputes arose in 2008, after a change of government brought to light questionable agreements between the previous administration and BTL.

SpeedNet launched competing mobile services branded Smart in March 2005, but its owners are allegedly closely linked with BTL’s majority shareholders.

A company called MirrorNet began to compete with BTL in early 2008, offering Internet and VoIP services.

Key Highlights

  • Having rolled out its own VoIP service called WebTalk International, BTL continues to block any other PC-to-PC VoIP traffic on its network, including MSN, Vonage, Skype, GoogleTalk, Yahoo, Net2phone, and SpeakEasy. For more information, see Belize - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband, chapter 7.2.1.
  • Besides its direct Internet customers, BTL provides wholesale Internet service to other ISPs. For more information, see Belize - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband, chapter 9.
  • BTL’s mobile competitor SpeedNet has managed to increase its mobile market share from about 7% in 2007 to 12% in 2008. For more information, see Belize - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband, chapter 11.1.

1. Synopsis
2. Key statistics
3. Country overview
4. Telecommunications market
4.1 Overview of Belize’s telecom market
5. Regulatory environment
5.1 Background
5.2 Regulatory authority
5.2.1 Public Utilities Commission (PUC)
5.3 Telecom sector liberalisation
6. Telecom network operators in Belize
6.1 Overview of operators
6.2 Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL)
7. Telecommunications infrastructure
7.1 National telecom networks
7.1.1 Rural communications
7.2 Infrastructure developments
7.2.1 IP and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
7.3 International infrastructure
7.3.1 Interconnection with other Central American countries
7.3.2 Submarine cable networks
8. Internet market
8.1 Overview
8.1.1 Internet statistics
9. Broadband market
9.1.1 MirrorNet
10. Convergence
10.2 Overview of media convergence
10.3 Overview of the pay TV market
11. Mobile communications
11.1 Overview of Belize’s mobile market
11.1.1 Mobile statistics
11.2 Mobile technologies and data services
11.3 Major mobile operators
11.3.1 BTL (DigiCell)
11.3.2 SpeedNet (Smart)
11.3.3 Intelco (defunct)
12. Related reports
Table 1 - Country statistics Belize - 2008
Table 2 - Telephone network statistics - 2008
Table 3 - Internet user statistics - 2008
Table 4 - Broadband statistics - 2008
Table 5 - Mobile statistics - 2008
Table 6 - National telecommunications authority
Table 7 - BTL - Fixed lines, annual change and payphones - 2003 - 2008
Table 8 - Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity - 1998 - 2008
Table 9 - Internet users, annual change and user penetration - 2000 - 2008
Table 10 - BTL high speed Internet subscribers and annual change - 2005 - 2008
Table 11 - Broadband lines, annual change and penetration rates - 2005 - 2008
Table 12 - Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration rate - 1998 - 2008
Table 13 - Mobile market share by operator - 2005 - 2008
Table 14 - BTL mobile subscribers and annual change - 2001 - 2008
Exhibit 1 - Belize Telecommunications Ltd - history prior to 2005
Exhibit 2 - Belize Telecommunications Ltd - ownership disputes
Exhibit 3 - Major submarine cable networks links in Belize

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