Mobile broadband and smartphones fill Bolivia’s fixed broadband gapBolivia is one of the poorest and least developed nations in Latin America, with correspondingly low telecom indicators. For example, mobile penetration is the fourth lowest in the region after Cuba, Haiti, and Nicaragua. This, however, is no less than would be expected considering Bolivia’s GDP per capita is likewise the region’s fourth lowest.
The structure of Bolivia’s fixed telecom market is different from most other countries. Local services are provided primarily by 15 telecom cooperatives. These are non-profit-making companies privately owned and controlled by their users. Since liberalisation, the cooperatives also provide long-distance telephony, and several offer broadband and pay TV services.
Bolivia has a multicarrier system where 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. Although there are no exact official figures, we estimate that at end-2012, Bolivia had about 870,000 internet accounts with connection speeds above 256Kb/s. Of this total, about 14% subscribed to ADSL or cable modem, 3% used fixed-wireless or satellite technologies, 25% connected through mobile broadband, and 58% accessed the internet over their mobile handsets.
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.
Cooperative federation Fecotel has been striving to become Bolivia’s fourth mobile operator.
The state broadcasting network Bolivia TV has launched the country’s first digital terrestrial TV (DTT) services, initially in La Paz.
Bolivia’s fixed-line, broadband, and mobile statistics – 2011 - 2013
Sector | 2011 | 2012 | 2013 (e)
Fixed-lines in service
Total subscribers | 782,000 | 781,000 | 780,000
Total subscribers | 135,000 | 149,000 | 165,000
Mobile telephony subscribers
Total subscribers (million) | 8.35 | 9.31 | 10.00
(Source: BuddeComm based on industry data)
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);
Internet and broadband market (ADSL, cable modem, WiMAX);
Mobile market (including 3G and mobile broadband).