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2006 Latin America Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband in Central America


Attention: There is an updated edition available for this report.

This report provides information on Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama. Each country has its own chapter and covers the following subjects.

Key Statistics
Market Overview
Regulatory Environment
Fixed Network Operators
Telecom Infrastructure
Data Market
Internet
Broadband
E-services
Mobile Market Overview
Mobile Operators
Broadcasting


Central America is a tropical isthmus that connects North and South America, and separates the Caribbean from the Pacific. It comprises the seven republics of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras Nicaragua Panama. The region is relatively small, extending for about 524,000km². The land is fertile and rugged, and dominated by a string of volcanic mountain ranges.

Belize: The second smallest and most sparsely populated country in Central America, Belize officially opened all fixed-line and wireless telecom services to competition at the end of 2002. Yet, despite theoretical liberalisation, the incumbent, Belize Telecommunications Ltd (BTL), still holds a de facto monopoly. International Telecommunications (Intelco) became BTL’s first competitor in October 2003, but was bankrupt by November 2004, and its subscriber base was taken over by BTL. A third company now has the task of breaking BTL’s monopoly: SpeedNet Communications (SpeedNet), which launched mobile telephony over a CDMA 2000 1X network in March 2005, under the brand name Smart. SpeedNet plans to offer Internet access, wireless broadband and various corporate services as well as mobile telephony.

Costa Rica: Served by a relatively modern and sophisticated telecom infrastructure, Costa Rica has the second highest Internet penetration rate in Latin America, excluding the Caribbean islands, after Chile. Yet, Costa Rica is the least liberalised market in the region. State-owned Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) and its subsidiary RACSA are the only providers of both fixed-line and mobile telephony, Internet and data communications - in fact, of virtually all telecom services except for pay TV. Although this situation worked in the past, it is now leading to considerable problems, such as long waiting lists for phones; stifling of new technologies such as VoIP (which threatens ICE’s hegemony); and difficulties in implementing new convergence strategies. January 2004, however, marked a significant step for Costa Rica with the signing of the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), which calls for a gradual liberalization of the telecom sector.

El Salvador: The country’s telecom market is among the most open in Central America. The government’s liberal approach has allowed new technologies to flourish. Since the sector was privatised and opened to competition in 1998, foreign operators and local companies have invested millions in infrastructure improvements. However, fixed-line teledensity remains relatively low, the network having been devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998 and by earthquakes of 2001. Mobile telcos have capitalised on the underdeveloped fixed-line network by emphasising their ability to offer a fast, high-quality service with nationwide coverage. The mobile sector has enjoyed sustained growth and mobile phones overtook fixed lines in service in 2002. With a budding VoIP market, and cable TV companies permitted to provide telephone and Internet services, El Salvador is also a promising country for convergence strategies.

Guatemala: While telecom infrastructure in Guatemala is fairly modern in the main urban centres, rural telephony remains inadequate and antiquated, though much improved since the 1996 telecom liberalisation. With a high percentage of the population living in rural areas, the country’s fixed-line teledensity is at the low end of the scale for Latin America. Mobile telephony, on the other hand, has been the fastest growing telecom sector, helped along by one of the most liberal regulatory models in the world. Mobile phones overtook fixed lines in 2001 and there are now more than twice as many mobile phones as lines in service. Guatemala is the most populated country in Central America; with its liberalised market, low teledensity, and growing demand, Guatemala offers promising opportunities for telecom investors.

Honduras: One of the poorest countries in the Latin America, Honduras has one of the least developed telecom infrastructures and the fourth lowest teledensity in the region. But promising changes are on the horizon since the opening of the telecom market to full competition in December 2005. Less than two weeks after the state-owned incumbent Hondutel lost its monopoly over the international long-distance market, Millicom’s mobile operator, Tigo, halved international calling rates. Mobile telephony received a boost in 2004, following the November 2003 launch of a second mobile provider, Aló, and the arrival of América Móvil on the scene, when it acquired Aló in June 2004. Unsatisfied demand for basic telephony has driven a veritable boom in the mobile market, with annual growth rates of over 80%.

Nicaragua: Nicaragua has the second lowest fixed-line teledensity in Latin America, after Haiti. The year 2004, however, brought a few major and promising changes to the telecom market. In January 2004, América Móvil acquired Enitel, previously the state-owned monopoly operator of fixed-line services. In August 2004, América Móvil applied for authorization to merge its mobile subsidiary Aló PCS with Enitel Movil, the mobile arm of Enitel. In October 2004, BellSouth completed the sale of its Nicaraguan unit TCN BellSouth to Telefónica Móviles. As a result, the telecom market in Nicaragua has become a duopoly between Telefónica Móviles and América Móvil. The much awaited telecom liberalisation took place, officially, in April 2005 - proper implementation, however, has been delayed by political and legal wrangles.

Panama: With significant telecom infrastructure, a liberalised market, and serviced by five global fibre optic cables, Panama has become an attractive country for telecom investments. Competition is slow to develop in basic telephony, where the incumbent Cable & Wireless Panamá is reluctant to unbundle its local network, but the long distance sector has attracted several players, leading to huge price drops, especially in international calls. Mobile telephony overtook fixed lines in 2001 and has been steadily growing. In the Internet market, although penetration is still low, dial-up and ADSL connections are developing at a fast pace; growth potential in this sector is excellent. The leading cable TV company, Cable Onda, has started to offer Triple Play services (converged broadband, telephony and pay TV).

  • EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
  • BELIZE
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Belize - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - March 2005
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Belize's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Background
      • Regulatory authority
      • Belize Telecommunications Act 2002
      • New licences issued
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATOR IN BELIZE
      • Overview of operators
      • Belize Telecommunications Ltd (BTL)
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1996 - 2005
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks links in Belize
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table BTL Internet subscribers and annual change percentage - 1999 - 2004
        • Table Internet users and user penetration - 1996 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers - 1996 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Overview of broadcasting market
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of Belize's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1995 - 2005
      • Major mobile operators
  • COSTA RICA
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Costa Rica - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Costa Rica's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Background
      • Regulatory authority
      • Telecom sector liberalisation
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATOR IN COSTA RICA
      • Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE)
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1996 - 2004
        • Table Public payphones - 2000 - 2005
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks connecting Costa Rica
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Internet users and user penetration - 1997 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers - 1994 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Overview
      • Cable modems
        • Table RACSA cable modem access lines - 1999 - 2004
      • Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
      • Wireless broadband
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Cable TV
      • Satellite TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of Costa Rica's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator and technology - June 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1998 - 2005
      • Major mobile operators
  • EL SALVADOR
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics El Salvador - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - June 2005
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of El Salvador's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Telecommunications law
      • Regulatory authority
      • Privatisation of Antel
      • Telecom sector liberalisation in El Salvador
      • Interconnect
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS IN EL SALVADOR
      • Overview of operators
      • CTE Telecom (América Móvil)
        • Table Telecom fixed lines in service and annual change - 2003 - 2005
      • Telefónica
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1996 - 2005
        • Table Public payphones - 1998 - 2004
      • International infrastructure
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Internet users and penetration – 1996 - 2004
        • Table Internet subscribers and penetration - 2000 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers – 1995 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Overview
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Triple play models
      • Cable TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of El Salvador's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator - June 2005
        • Table Mobile operators' market share - 2003 - 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration - 1995 - 2005
      • Major mobile operators
        • Table CTE Personal subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2005
        • Table Tigo subscribers and annual change - 1996 - 2005
        • Table Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2005
        • Table Digicel subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2005
  • GUATEMALA
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Guatemala - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - June 2005
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Guatemala's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • History
      • Regulatory authority
      • Telecom sector liberalisation in Guatemala
      • Privatisation of Guatel/Telgua
      • Interconnection
      • Foreign investments
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS IN GUATEMALA
      • Overview of operators
        • Table Fixed lines in service by operator and market share - 2002 - 2005
      • Telgua (América Móvil)
        • Table Telgua fixed lines installed and annual change - 2000 - 2005
      • Telefónica Guatemala
      • Guatel
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity - 1996 - 2005
        • Table Public and community phones - 2003 - 2005
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks connecting Guatemala
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Marker overview
        • Table Internet users and penetration – 1996 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers – 1996 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Market overview
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Triple play models
      • Cable TV
      • Satellite TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of Guatemala's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator and technology – June 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1996 - 2005
        • Table Operator market share – 2000 - 2005
      • Regulatory issues
      • Mobile technologies
      • Major mobile operators
        • Table PCS Digital subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2005
        • Table Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2005
        • Table Comcel subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2005
      • Mobile voice services in Guatemala
        • Table Prepaid/postpaid ratio – 2002 - 2005
  • HONDURAS
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Honduras - 2004
      • Table Telecom revenue and investment statistics - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Honduran telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Regulatory authority
      • Privatisation
      • Foreign investment
      • Telecom sector liberalisation in Honduras
        • Table Number of operators per service - December 2005
      • `Telephony For All' program
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATOR IN HONDURAS
      • Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel)
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1996 - 2004
        • Table Public telephones – 1997 - 2004
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks connecting Honduras
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Internet users and penetration - 1997 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers and annual change – 1997 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Overview
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Triple play models
      • Cable TV
        • Table Pay TV subscribers and annual change – 2002 - 2004
      • Satellite TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of the Honduran mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator and technology – June 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1997 - 2005
        • Table Mobile operators' market share - 2002 - 2005
        • Table Prepaid/post-paid ratio – 1997 - 2004
      • Major mobile operators
        • Table Tigo mobile subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2005
        • Table Aló mobile subscribers and annual change - 2003 - 2005
  • NICARAGUA
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Nicaragua - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2005
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Nicaragua's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Background
      • Regulatory authority
      • Privatisation
      • Telecom sector liberalisation in Nicaragua
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS IN NICARAGUA
      • Empresa Nicaragüense de Telecomunicaciones (Enitel)
      • Movistar (Telefónica)
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1996 - 2004
        • Table Public telephones - 1998 - 2004
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks connecting Nicaragua
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Internet users and user penetration – 1997 - 2004
        • Table Internet subscribers – 2002 - 2003
        • Table Internet host computers and annual change – 1997 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Overview
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Cable TV
      • Satellite TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of Nicaragua's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator and technology – June 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1998 - 2005
      • Major mobile operators
        • Table América Móvil - Sercom and Enitel subscribers – 2002 - 2005
        • Table Movistar subscribers and annual change – 1999 - 2005
      • Satellite mobile
  • PANAMA
    • KEY STATISTICS
      • Table Country statistics Panama - 2004
      • Table Telephone network statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet provider statistics - 2004
      • Table Internet user statistics - 2004
      • Table Mobile statistics - June 2005
      • Table National telecommunications authorities
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS MARKET
      • Overview of Panama's telecom market
    • REGULATORY ENVIRONMENT
      • Regulatory authority
      • Privatisation of INTEL
      • Telecom sector liberalisation
        • Table Number of telecom concessions – January 2006
      • Number portability
    • FIXED NETWORK OPERATORS IN PANAMA
      • Cable & Wireless Panamá
      • Telecarrier
      • Galaxy Communications Corp (ClaroCOM)
      • Advanced Communication Network
      • Optynex Telecom
    • TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
      • National telecom network
        • Table Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1998 - 2004
        • Table Public telephones – 1998 - 2004
      • International infrastructure
        • Table Major submarine cable networks serving the Caribbean region
      • Infrastructure developments
    • INTERNET MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Internet users and user penetration – 1996 - 2004
        • Table Dial-up subscribers – 1998 - 2004
        • Table Internet host computers – 1995 - 2004
    • BROADBAND MARKET
      • Overview
        • Table Broadband subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2004
    • CONVERGENCE
      • Overview of media convergence
      • Triple play models
      • Cable TV
      • Satellite TV
    • MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS
      • Overview of Panama's mobile market
        • Table Mobile subscribers by operator and technology – June 2005
        • Table Mobile subscribers and penetration – 1997 - 2005
        • Table Mobile market share – 2003 - 2005
        • Table Post-paid/prepaid proportion – 1998 - 2004
      • Major mobile operators
  • GLOSSARY OF ABBREVIATIONS

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