Tigo claiming national coverage with LTE infrastructure
Although Bolivia has enjoyed strong economic growth in recent years, GDP remains among the lowest in South America. Many areas of the country outside the main cities are poor and undeveloped, and there is a sizeable proportion of the population which live in remote valleys and areas where telecom infrastructure has been chronically neglected. As a result, the penetration of telecom services is low.
The structure of Bolivia's fixed telecom market is different from most other countries. Local services are primarily provided by 15 telecom cooperatives. These are non-profit-making companies privately owned and controlled by their users. Since liberalisation, the cooperatives have also provided long-distance telephony, and several offer broadband and pay TV services. They have invested in network upgrades in a bid to improve services for customers, and to expand their footprints.
Bolivia has a multi-carrier system wherein consumers can choose a long-distance carrier for each call by dialling the carrier's prefix. A number of operators have adopted VoIP, while others use fixed-wireless technologies, and some rent fibre-optic capacity.
State-owned Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones (Entel) is the country's incumbent long-distance operator. It also offers local telephony, ADSL broadband access, and satellite pay TV services. Its subsidiary Entel Movil is Bolivia's largest mobile company.
Bolivia's fixed broadband services remain the slowest and the most expensive in Latin America, and are unavailable even in some of the major urban areas. Being a landlocked country, Bolivia has no direct access to submarine cable networks. It must therefore connect to the rest of the world either via satellite or through terrestrial links across neighbouring countries.
Since it was renationalised in 2007, Entel has focused on providing telecom services in rural areas under a project known as Territory with Total Coverage'. This project aims to increase telecom coverage through mobile rather than through fixed networks.
Bolivia has more than ten times as many mobile phones as fixed lines, and the trend towards fixed-mobile substitution continues. Besides Entel, another two companies offer mobile telephony: Tigo, wholly owned by Luxembourg-based Millicom International, and NuevaTel, trading as Viva and controlled by US firm Trilogy International.
All three mobile companies offer 3G services using UMTS technology. Due to the poor quality, high cost, and unavailability of ADSL, 3G has become an attractive alternative in Bolivia. The number of mobile broadband and smartphone accounts has escalated. Tigo's launch of an LTE service in mid-2014 heralds the emergence of a new era in mobile broadband.
The launch of a new satellite in December 2013 heralds improved telecom services across Bolivia following the satellite coming online in April 2014, with additional capacity expected to be sold to other countries in the regions. Entel launched a new satellite TV service in May 2014.
Tigo Bolivia claims national coverage with LTE; MNP expected in 2016 following feasibility study; Costas launches satellite TV service; Tigo Bolivia capitalises on cable TV service with new bundled offering including mobile broadband based on its LTE network.
Under the Territory with Total Coverage' project, Entel has expanded its mobile network and installed more than 1,500 base stations, reaching 337 of Bolivia's 339 municipalities.
Entel reports a 21.7% increase in profits for 2014, year-on-year; The state broadcasting network Bolivia TV has launched the country's first digital terrestrial TV (DTT) services, initially in La Paz.
Entel contracts Gilat Satellite to provide equipment for tele-centres.
Government pledges $300 million investment in Entel's infrastructure for 2014; Entel Movil's 4G' service reaches all 339 municipalities; Ministry of Health invests B$139 million in telehealth services, with Entel to provide satellite, fibre and radio access connectivity covering 339 municipalities; Entel launches DTH platform through the Túpac Katari satellite.
Key telecom penetration by service 2014 (e) Key indicators by service: | Penetration Fixed-broadband | 1.6% Fixed-line telephony | 8.0% Mobile SIM | 101.6% (Source: BuddeComm)
The Bolivian telecom market has significant long-term potential and a long way to go before it catches up with its neighbours. The report covers trends and developments in the fixed-line, mobile, Internet, broadband, and pay TV markets.
Market and industry analyses, trends and developments; Facts, figures, and statistics; Government policies and regulatory issues; Major players (fixed, mobile, broadband, and pay TV); Infrastructure developments; Internet and broadband market (ADSL, cable modem, WiMAX); Mobile market (including 3G and mobile broadband).