BTL revenue fall in FY2015 enervates company reform
One the smaller countries in Central America, Belize in many respects has closer affinities with English speaking countries of the Caribbean than with its immediate neighbours.
Belize's telecoms services sector remains poorly developed by regional standards. Both fixed-line teledensity and mobile penetration are lower than in neighbouring countries. For many years there was insufficient competition in the market, which resulted in underinvestment. However, competition from a growing number of ISPs, as well as the presence of OTT players which offer free messaging services, has encouraged the incumbent telco Belize Telemedia Limited (BTL) to adopt a reforming strategy. Under the moniker of New BTL', the company is aiming to transform itself at all levels into an effectively competitive operator more commercially minded and focussed on cheaper pricing and customer retention.
The Belizean telecom market was officially liberalised in 2003, yet BTL continues to hold a monopoly in fixed-line services and is the dominant provider of mobile and broadband services. In 2009, the state renationalised BTL after a change of government brought to light a questionable Accommodation Agreement between the previous administration and the company. Although the rationale for the nationalisation was to improve conditions for consumers, BTL's prices remained high. The government has undertaken some measures to improve competition, notably by obliging BTL in mid-2013 to open its networks to VoIP services. In mid-2015 the government came to an agreement regarding an outstanding $22.5 million loan signed off in 2007 by a former BTL management team which the company subsequently considered unlawful. BTL will be obliged to repay the government from its own funds.
SpeedNet the first to launch LTE services, with DigiCell to follow later in 2016; The number of fixed-line connections continues to fall as customers adopt mobile services for basic telecoms; Mobile sector accounting for over 90% of all phone subscriptions; BTL reported 1% fall in telecom revenue for fiscal 2015, prompting new strategy to deal with competition.
Market penetration rates in Belize's telecoms sector 2015 (e) Penetration of telecoms services: | Penetration Fixed-line telephony | 6.9% Fixed broadband | 4.6% Mobile SIM (population) | 173% (Source: BuddeComm)