BLT investing in much needed fixed and mobile network upgradesBelize is one the smaller countries in the region, with fewer than 350,000 inhabitants. It is the only English-speaking nation in Central America, having closer affinities with the Caribbean region than with its immediate neighbours.
While Belize’s GDP per capita is high for Central America, its telecoms services remain poor even by regional standards. Both fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration are lower than in neighbouring countries.
The Belizean telecom market was officially liberalised in 2003, yet the incumbent, Belize Telemedia Limited, continues to hold a monopoly in fixed-line services and is the dominant provider of mobile and broadband services. In 2009, the state renationalised Belize Telemedia Limited, after a change of government brought to light a questionable Accommodation Agreement between the previous administration and Belize Telemedia Limited.
Although the rationale for the nationalisation was to improve conditions for consumers, Belize Telemedia Limited’s prices remain high and competition remains marginal. The nationalisation further discourages foreign investment in a market plagued by frequent allegations of corruption.
The number of fixed lines has continued to fall keeping as customers adopt mobile services for basic telecoms. This has kept fixed-line teledensity low, while mobile penetration continues to rise steadily. By early 2013 the mobile sector accounted for about 90% of all phone subscriptions in the country.
SpeedNet is making inroads in the mobile sector, securing a sizeable market share.
By the close of the Belize Telemedia Limited public share offer in early 2011 the Belize Social Security Board was the largest purchaser. By 2012 the government’s stake was reduced to 64%.
Compared with its other economic indicators, penetration is low in Belize for virtually all telecom services. An independent, pro-competition and transparent telecoms regime supported by an effective regulatory framework is needed to develop the telecom market, making it more attractive for investors despite the market’s small size.
In early 2012 DigiCell contracted Ericsson to install an HSPA+ network nationally, enabling effecting mobile broadband nationally.
Broadband subscribers and penetration – 2005; 2013
Year | Subscribers | Population Penetration | Household penetration
2005 | 4,600 | 1.6% | 6.5%
2013 (e) | 13,800 | 6.4% | 17.5%
(Source: BuddeComm based on ITU and BTL with BuddeComm estimates)
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.