The region comprising the Caribbean Sea and its numerous islands is commonly known as the Caribbean. It lies south of the Gulf of Mexico, covering an area of about 2,754,000km². For many years, it was referred to as the West Indies; however, the name Caribbean has been universally adopted since the early 20th century. Varying considerably in size, the Caribbean islands form a wide arc between Florida in the north and Venezuela in the south, as well as a barrier between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
Caribbean Countries: Small Island Nations: These countries include Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Montserrat, Netherlands Antilles, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago, Turks & Caicos Islands, and the US Virgin Islands. Despite the small markets in terms of population, telecommunications has become one of the Caribbean’s major growth industries. Liberalisation agreements have been reached in most countries, and Cable and Wireless (C&W), historically the monopoly provider of telephone services in many Caribbean markets, is facing growing competition, especially in the mobile sector, where Mossel-owned Digicel has made a meteoric ascent. From 2001, when it first launched GSM services in Jamaica, it has grown into a pan-regional mobile provider, with operations in 15 Caribbean nations.
Cuba: The country occupies the very last place in Latin America for both mobile phone and Internet penetration, and is fifth from the last in fixed-line teledensity. The government has blamed the embargo for the country’s poor telecom development, as the difficult relationship with the USA prevented the implementation of submarine fibre-optic cables; thus, Cuba has had to rely almost exclusively on satellites for international connectivity. But Cubans cannot legally buy a computer or subscribe to an ISP without having a government permit. Mobile rates are prohibitive for the vast majority of Cubans. Etecsa, controlled 73% by the government and 27% by Telecom Italia, holds a monopoly in both fixed and mobile services. It offers GSM, TDMA, and AMPS services through its subsidiary Cubacel.
Dominican Republic: Telecommunications in the Dominican Republic is one of the fastest growing and most competitive industry sectors. Fixed-line teledensity (around 10%) is, however, well below the Latin American average, the country’s fixed line network having been repeatedly destroyed by violent hurricanes. Mobile penetration, on the other hand, is more than three times higher than fixed-line teledensity, and is about average for Latin America. Verizon Dominicana is the dominant provider of fixed-line and mobile telephony, as well as Internet services. The market for high-speed Internet is still young and there is enormous potential for growth. The location of the Dominican Republic ensures fairly high Internet speeds. The telephone cable that connects Europe to the USA runs close by and allows for excellent connectivity. However, Internet uptake is relatively low, and user penetration, at around 9%, is below average for Latin America.
Haiti: Fixed-line teledensity in Haiti is the lowest in Latin America, and mobile penetration is the second lowest after Cuba. Political unrest has severely affected investments in a country where most people have no electricity, telephones, or running water. Fixed-line services are provided by state-owned monopoly operator Teleco, which is inefficient and poorly managed. Mobile telephony, instead, is open to competition. Digicel has become the fourth mobile operator, entering the market in 2006. Although only affordable by the wealthy, mobile phones overtook fixed lines in service in 2002. There are now more than twice as many mobile customers as there are fixed-line subscribers, even though mobile penetration is only around 4%. Internet access is also open to competition. WLL and VoIP are being used to supplement the shortage of fixed lines.
Jamaica: The island has a fairly advanced telecom infrastructure, containing a hybrid mix of fixed-line and wireless technologies. Fixed-line teledensity, however, is one of the lowest in the Caribbean, although it is about average for the Latin American region as a whole. Despite liberalisation and the award of numerous licences, Cable & Wireless Jamaica (C&WJ) continues to dominate the Jamaican fixed-line telecom scene. Mobile telephony, on the other hand, has experienced a remarkable boom since the market was opened to competition, so much so that there are about six mobile phones for every fixed line in service. The mobile market is served by three digital networks. Internet access on the island is still predominantly narrowband, but the number of broadband subscribers is growing rapidly. C&WJ provides the only backbone connection to the Internet. This has resulted in a skewed Internet bandwidth-pricing regime.
Mexico: The Mexican telecom industry is developing rapidly and has enormous growth potential, making it one of the most interesting telecom markets in the world. There have, however, been complaints that, despite liberalisation, basic telephony is still almost a monopoly, with Teléfonos de Mexico (Telmex) holding around 94% of all lines in service. Telmex’s sister company América Móvil dominates the mobile sector through its unit Telcel, which has around 80% of the market. Overall teledensity stands at 18%, which is about average for Latin America, but there are huge disparities between urban and rural areas, ranging from 41% teledensity in the Federal District, to 5% in the poor, mainly Indian state of Chiapas. VoIP has gained huge popularity, especially with small and medium sized businesses. Several companies offer VoIP services, although providers have the same licensing requirements as other voice carriers, and many have been shut down for operating illegally. Broadband, especially ADSL, is one of the fastest growing telecom markets in Mexico. The shift from dial-up to broadband became apparent in 2005, when dial-up accounts started to decrease, while broadband soared by around 122%.
Puerto Rico: With one of the most advanced and fastest-growing telecom markets in the region, Puerto Rico is among the leading countries in Latin America in terms of both fixed-line and mobile penetration. Mobile telephony and the Internet are the most dynamic sectors in the telecom industry, while fixed lines are losing customers to mobility and broadband. The local call market still remains heavily dominated by the Puerto Rico Telephone Company (PRTC). Centennial de Puerto Rico is PRTC’s main competitor, but it holds a negligible share of the local market, focusing instead on broadband, cable TV and mobile services. The long-distance market, on the other hand, is extremely competitive, and the island’s low long-distance call rates are attributed to market competition. With a flourishing VoIP business, a booming broadband market, and a healthy cable TV sector, Puerto Rico is a promising target for investments in convergence strategies such as triple play.
This report provides information on Mexico and the Caribbean Countries (Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and small island nations). Each country has its own chapter and covers the following subjects.
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