The East Timor (Timor Leste) - Telecoms, Mobile and Internet report includes all BuddeComm research data and analysis on this country. Covering trends and developments in telecommunications, mobile, internet, broadband, infrastructure and regulation.
Timor Leste (formerly known as East Timor) is continuing in its struggle to simply maintain integrity as a nation. In fact it is widely considered to have gone backwards in the last few years, with the 2009 Index of Failed States ranking Timor Leste in the ‘critical’ category, one of 20 such countries in the world. In an effort to lift itself out of this parlous state, Timor Leste has been pressing ahead with the regeneration of its economy and rebuilding of its infrastructure. The effort to roll out telecommunications infrastructure in particular has been a key part of this. Despite the considerable energy that has been going into this rebuilding, the prevailing social and political environment continues to present major challenges to those seeking to improve the country.
Political instability and the civil unrest that erupted in Timor Leste in April/May 2006 continued into the first half of 2007. Despite the election of a new government led by Nobel Peace Laureate Jose Ramos-Horta in May/June 2007, opposition to the administration caused further violence and looting.
To the outside observer, the country appeared to have started reasonably well in rebuilding its entire infrastructure following the turbulence that ensued after the referendum of 1999. However, the events of 2006/07 caused major concerns about the direction of the Timor Leste; it remained difficult to assess the long term impact of these events on the country’s fragile economy.
Then, in February 2008 President Ramos-Horta was shot and severely wounded in an attack led by rebel Alfredo Reinado (who was allegedly involved in the unrest of April/May 2006). A short time later a convoy including Prime Minister Gusmao was fired upon. The Prime Minister was uninjured. Responding to the attacks, the government declared a state of emergency. President Ramos-Horta returned in April 2008, after receiving medical treatment in Australia. The state of emergency ended in May 2008, following the surrender of most of the rebels.
Timor Leste remains one of the poorest countries in the Asia-Pacific region, despite the implementation of a National Development Plan and the considerable progress it has made since independence. The ongoing challenges are significant; the public sector administration, law and justice, and governance are all crying out for further attention, whilst a critically low skills base, high population growth and limited prospects to generate jobs combine to compound the situation further. East Timor faces a complex array of problems. It will need substantial assistance from the international community, for some time to come.
In the meantime, throughout this most difficult of political periods, the country’s telecommunications sector has been expanding with the mobile telephone sector experiencing a particularly strong and sustained surge. After recording over 50% growth in 2006; another 50% in 2007, and 66% in 2008, mobile subscriber numbers jumped more than 110% in 2009, resulting in mobile penetration reaching the significant 30% milestone by the start of 2010. Fixed-line network expansion was still languishing coming into 2010, however, with fixed teledensity down around 0.2%. Although it was difficult to get accurate figures on the Internet market, it was clear that growth in this sector remained highly constricted and there was little optimism about online activity in Timor Leste in the short term.
It is noted that the country has now been listed as a member of the ITU. While the ITU does provide some statistical information on this market, it has continued to be a difficult task to obtain official statistics for the country’s telecom sector. Where official statistics are not available, BuddeComm has attempted to provide estimates.
The year 2009 delivered another hugely positive result for Timor Leste’s mobile market, with growth surging by 113% for the year;
Mobile subscriber numbers had reached 330,000 and penetration was at 30% by the end of 2010;
In sharp contrast with the mobile market, both fixed-line subscriptions and Internet usage in its various forms remained especially low, with only modest growth likely in the short term;
On the broader national front, however, the ongoing political and civil unrest the country had been experiencing in 2008, continued to cast a cloud over the nation’s development in 2009/2010;
Indeed, it was proving a major distraction for government, putting a serious damper on development programs and infrastructure building.Note: Coverage provided of Timor Leste’s telecoms market is relatively limited due to its early development stage.
Timor Leste - key telecom parameters - 2009 - 2010
Category2009 (e)2010 (e)
Total number of subscribers12,6002,700
Fixed-line penetration (population)0.2%0.2%
Fixed-line penetration (household)1%1%
Total number of subscribers1800900
Internet subscriber penetration (population)0.07%0.08%
Internet subscriber penetration (household)0.35%0.40%
Total number of subscribers1330,000500,000
Mobile penetration (population)30%43%
Note: 1Estimates for both 2009 and 2010
This report provides an overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications markets in Timor Leste. Subjects covered include:
Market and industry overviews;
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