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Latin American Mobile Operators

The report provides key information about the mobile operators in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The countries covered in this report include: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the small Caribbean island nations.  

Topics covered include:

  • Brief company history and shareholder structure;
  • Licences and technology deployments;
  • Subscriber evolution;
  • Average Revenue per User (ARPU);
  • Market position.


During the 1990s and around the turn of the millennium, a number of international companies ventured into Latin America’s burgeoning mobile arena, including América Móvil, Bell Canada International, BellSouth International, Cable & Wireless, Digicel, France Telecom, Millicom International, Portugal Telecom, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Telefónica, and Verizon Communications.

  Since 2003, however, the market has undergone a process of consolidation. Several international investors have withdrawn from the region, leaving about half a dozen major multinational operators that serve roughly 81% of the market.  

América Móvil and Telefónica/Portugal Telecom compete with each other in most of Latin America’s major economies. Between them, they serve about 64% of the region’s mobile subscribers. América Móvil is the leader, with a 37% market share. Digicel has a small 2% market share, but is the leading operator in the Caribbean sub-region.  

After sliding alarmingly from almost US$60 in 1997 to less than US$20 in 2002, mobile ARPU has stabilised at around US$16, although it has fallen under US$11 in some of the major markets. Venezuela is the region’s best performer with US$26 mobile ARPU.  

Major international mobile operators - subscribers and market share - 2007 - 2008 Company | 2007 | 2008 | Annual change | Market share | Subscribers (million) | América Móvil | 143.91 | 171.53 | +19% | 37% | Telefónica/Portugal Telecom | 100.54 | 123.39 | +23% | 27% | Telecom Italia | 43.65 | 50.18 | +15% | 11% | Millicom | 14.73 | 18.64 | +27% | 4% | Subtotal | 302.83 | 363.74 | +20% | 79% | Others (national + international) | 78.41 | 94.52 | +21% | 21% | Total | 381.24 | 458.26 | +20% | 100% | | (Source: BuddeComm based on company data and Global Mobile)  

Key highlights:Argentina

Telefónica’s Movistar, América Móvil’s Claro, and Telecom Argentina’s Telecom Personal run a close competition for market share. Previously, there were four mobile companies competing nationwide, but in 2005, Telefónica acquired Bellsouth’s operation, and the merged company was re-launched under the trading name Movistar. One of the merger conditions imposed by the government required Movistar to relinquish 42.5MHz of its spectrum. The government is expected to launch an auction in 2009 to award the returned spectrum to existing or new mobile operators. Nextel Argentina has a licence for trunking rather than mobile telephony, but the service it offers is similar to that of a standard mobile operator. Two associations of telecom cooperatives, Fecotel and Fecosur, have mobile licences but need spectrum to operate.  

Brazil

Four companies dominate the Brazilian mobile phone market: Vivo (Telefónica/Portugal Telecom), Claro (América Móvil), TIM Brasil, and Oi/Brasil Telecom. Together, these four control 98.5% of Brazil’s mobile subscriber base. The consolidation process, which had halted in 2003, resumed in 2007, with the acquisition of Telemig by Vivo and of Amazônia Celular by Oi. In 2008, regional incumbents Oi and BrT began the process of merging. The remaining 1.5% of the market is shared between CTBC Telecom, Sercomtel, trunking network operator Nextel Brasil, and start-up company Unicel trading as Aeiou, which began a SIM-only service in September 2008 in metropolitan São Paulo.  

Mexico

In 2000, there were nine operators in the Mexican mobile market. By early 2009, there were only three major operators: America Movil (Telcel), Telefónica (Movistar) and Grupo Iusacell (Iusacell and Unefón). Besides these three, Nextel de México operates a mobile trunking network using iDEN technology. Telcel is the clear market leader, with a market share of around 72%, Movistar a distant second (19%), followed by Iusacell (5%). Nextel de México accounts for approximately 3%. In November 2008, the competition agency, the CFC, declared that Telcel has market dominance and that it should be subject to tariff regulation. Telcel is expected to resort to legal action to prevent such price regulation.  

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

1. Argentina
1.1 Major mobile operators
1.1.1 Operator statistics
1.1.2 Claro (previously CTI Móvil)
1.1.3 Movistar
1.1.4 Telecom Personal
1.1.5 Nextel Argentina
1.1.6 Fecotel and Fecosur
2. Belize
2.1 Major mobile operators
2.1.1 Operator statistics
2.1.2 BTL (DigiCell)
2.1.3 SpeedNet (Smart)
2.1.4 Intelco (defunct)
3. Bolivia
3.1 Mobile operators
3.1.1 Operator statistics
3.1.2 Entel Movil
3.1.3 Tigo (Telecel)
3.1.4 Viva (NuevaTel)
3.1.5 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs)
4. Brazil
4.1 Major mobile operators
4.1.1 Overview
4.1.2 Operator statistics
4.1.3 Vivo
4.1.4 Claro
4.1.5 TIM Brasil
4.1.6 Oi (TNL-PCS - Telemar)
4.1.7 Brasil Telecom Celular
4.1.8 Nextel Brasil
4.1.9 CTBC Telecom
4.1.10 Sercomtel Celular
4.1.11 Unicel/Aeiou
5. Caribbean Countries
5.1 Overview of mobile markets in the Caribbean
5.1.1 Mobile statistics
5.2 Satellite mobile
6. Chile
6.1 Major mobile operators
6.1.1 Movistar
6.1.2 Entel PCS
6.1.3 Claro
6.1.4 Nextel Chile
6.1.5 Vodafone’s Partner Market
7. Colombia
7.1 Major mobile operators
7.1.1 Operator statstics
7.1.2 Comcel (América Móvil)
7.1.3 Movistar (Telefónica)
7.1.4 Tigo (Colombia Móvil - Millicom)
7.1.5 Avantel
8. Costa Rica
8.1 Major mobile operator
8.1.1 Operator statistics
8.1.2 ICE
9. Cuba
9.1 Major mobile operator
9.1.1 Operator statistics
9.1.2 Telefonos Celulares de Cuba (Cubacel)
10. Dominican Republic
10.1 Major mobile operators
10.1.1 Operator statistics
10.1.2 Claro (formerly Verizon Dominicana)
10.1.3 Orange Dominicana
10.1.4 Tricom
10.1.5 VIVA (formerly Trilogy Dominicana)
11. Ecuador
11.1 Major mobile operators
11.1.1 Operator statistics
11.1.2 Porta (Conecel)
11.1.3 Movistar (Otecel)
11.1.4 Alegro (Telecsa)
12. El Salvador
12.1 Major mobile operators
12.1.1 Operator statistics
12.1.2 Tigo / Telemóvil (Millicom)
12.1.3 Claro / CTE Personal (América Móvil)
12.1.4 Movistar (Telefónica Móviles)
12.1.5 Digicel
12.1.6 RED (Intelfon)
13. Guatemala
13.1 Major mobile operators
13.1.1 Operator statistics
13.1.2 Tigo / Comcel (Millicom)
13.1.3 Claro / Sercom (América Móvil)
13.1.4 Movistar (Telefónica Móviles)
13.1.5 RED (Intelfon)
14. Guyana
14.1 Major mobile operators
14.1.1 Operator statistics
14.1.2 Digicel Guyana
14.1.3 Cellink (GT&T)
15. Haiti
15.1 Major mobile operators
15.1.1 Operator statistics
15.1.2 Haiti Telecommunications International (HaiTel)
15.1.3 Communication Cellulaire d’Haiti (Comcel)
15.1.4 Digicel
15.1.5 Rectel (Teleco)
16. Honduras
16.1 Major mobile operators
16.1.1 Operaotr statistics
16.1.2 Tigo / Celtel (Millicom)
16.1.3 Claro / Sercom (América Móvil)
16.1.4 Hondutel
16.1.5 Digicel
17. Jamaica
17.1 Major mobile operators
17.1.1 Operator statistics
17.1.2 Digicel Jamaica (Mossel)
17.1.3 Cable & Wireless Jamaica (LIME)
17.1.4 Claro (formerly MiPhone)
18. Mexico
18.1 Major mobile operators
18.1.1 Operator statistics
18.1.2 Telcel
18.1.3 Movistar
18.1.4 Grupo Iusacell
18.1.5 Unefón
18.1.6 Nextel de México
19. Nicaragua
19.1 Major mobile operators
19.1.1 Operator statistics
19.1.2 Claro (América Móvil)
19.1.3 Movistar (Telefónica)
20. Panama
20.1 Major mobile operators
20.1.1 Operator statistics
20.1.2 +Movil (C&WP)
20.1.3 Movistar (Telefónica)
20.1.4 Digicel
20.1.5 Claro Panama (América Móvil)
21. Paraguay
21.1 Major mobile operators
21.1.1 Operator statistics
21.1.2 Tigo (Millicom International Cellular)
21.1.3 Núcleo (Telecom Personal/Telecom Argentina)
21.1.4 Claro (América Móvil)
21.1.5 Vox (Hola Paraguay/KDDI)
22. Peru
22.1 Major mobile operators
22.1.1 Operator statistics
22.1.2 Movistar Perú (Telefónica Móviles)
22.1.3 Claro Perú (América Móvil)
22.1.4 Nextel Perú (NII Holdings)
23. Puerto Rico
23.1 Major mobile operators
23.1.1 Operator statistics
23.1.2 AT&T Mobility (formerly Cingular Wireless Puerto Rico)
23.1.3 Centennial de Puerto Rico (CPR)
23.1.4 Claro (América Móvil)
23.1.5 Open Mobile (formerly Movistar Puerto Rico)
23.1.6 T-Mobile (formerly SunCom Puerto Rico)
23.1.7 Sprint PCS
24. Suriname
24.1 Major mobile operators
24.1.1 Mobile statistics
24.1.2 Telesur
24.1.3 Digicel
24.1.4 Uniqa
25. Uruguay
25.1 Major mobile operators
25.1.1 Operator statistics
25.1.2 Movistar
25.1.3 Ancel
25.1.4 Claro (previously CTI Móvil)
26. Venezuela
26.1 Major mobile operators
26.2 Operator statistics
26.2.1 Movilnet (CANTV)
26.2.2 Movistar (Telefónica)
26.2.3 Digitel GSM
27. Glossary of Abbreviations
Table 1 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Argentina - September 2008
Table 2 - Mobile operators’ market share in Argentina - 1999 - 2008
Table 3 - Evolution of mobile ARPU in Argentina - major operators - 2006 - 2008
Table 4 - Claro mobile subscribers - 1999 - 2008
Table 5 - Movistar mobile subscribers - 1999 - 2008
Table 6 - Telecom Personal mobile subscribers - 1999 - 2008
Table 7 - Nextel Argentina mobile subscribers - 2002 - 2008
Table 8 - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Belize - 2008
Table 9 - Mobile market share by operator in Belize - 2005 - 2008
Table 10 - BTL mobile subscribers and annual change - 2001 - 2008
Table 11 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Bolivia - September 2008
Table 12 - Mobile market share by operator in Bolivia - 2003 - 2008
Table 13 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Brazil - June 2008
Table 14 - Operator’s market share in Brazil - 2004 - 2008
Table 15 - Evolution of ARPU - major operators in Brazil - 2005 - 2007
Table 16 - Vivo subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2008
Table 17 - Telemig subscribers and annual change (historical) - 2002 - 2008
Table 18 - Vivo subscribers per subsidiary (historical) - 2002 - 2005
Table 19 - Claro subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2008
Table 20 - TIM Brasil subscribers and annual change - 2003 - 2008
Table 21 - TIM Brasil subscribers per subsidiary (historical) - 2002 - 2005
Table 22 - Oi subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2008
Table 23 - Amazônia Celular subscribers and annual change (historical) - 2002 - 2007
Table 24 - BrT Mobile subscribers and annual change - 2004 - 2008
Table 25 - Nextel Brasil subscribers and annual change - 2004 - 2008
Table 26 - CTBC subscribers and annual change - 2003 - 2008
Table 27 - Sercomtel subscribers and annual change - 2003 - 2008
Table 28 - Mobile subscribers and penetration rates in the Caribbean countries - 2008
Table 29 - Movistar mobile subscribers and annual change - 1999 - 2008
Table 30 - Entel PCS mobile subscribers & annual change - 1999 - 2008
Table 31 - Claro mobile subscribers - 1999 - 2008
Table 32 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Colombia - September 2008
Table 33 - Mobile market share by operator in Colombia - 2002 - 2008
Table 34 - Evolution of ARPU in Ecuador - mobile operators in Colombia - 2005 - 2007
Table 35 - Comcel subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2008
Table 36 - Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2001 - 2008
Table 37 - Tigo subscribers and annual change - 2003 - 2008
Table 38 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Costa Rica - 2008
Table 39 - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate - September 2008
Table 40 - Mobile operators and subscribers in the Dominican Republic - 2008
Table 41 - Mobile operator’s market share in the Dominican Republic - 2003 - 2008
Table 42 - Claro mobile subscribers and annual change - 1998 - 2008
Table 43 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Ecuador - 2008
Table 44 - Mobile operators’ market share in Ecuador - 1996 - 2008
Table 45 - Prepaid subscriber ratio by operator in Ecuador - 2002 - 2008
Table 46 - Evolution of ARPU in Ecuador - mobile operators - 2006 - 2008
Table 47 - Porta mobile subscribers - 1996 - 2008
Table 48 - Movistar mobile subscribers - 1996 - 2008
Table 49 - Alegro mobile subscribers - 2003 - 2008
Table 50 - Mobile operators and subscribers in El Salvador - September 2008
Table 63 - Mobile market share by operator in Guyana - 2003 - 2008
Table 64 - Digicel mobile subscribers - 2004 - 2008
Table 65 - GT&T mobile subscribers - 2003 - 2008
Table 66 - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Haiti - September 2008
Table 67 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Honduras - 2008
Table 68 - Mobile operators’ market share in Honduras - 2002 - 2008
Table 69 - Tigo mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2008
Table 70 - Claro mobile subscribers - 2003 - 2008
Table 71 - Hondutel mobile subscribers - 2007 - 2008
Table 72 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Jamaica - September 2008
Table 73 - Mobile market share by operator in Jamaica - 2004 - 2008
Table 74 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Mexico - September 2008
Table 75 - Mobile market share by major operator in Mexico - 2001 - 2008
Table 76 - Telcel subscribers and annual change - 1998 - 2008
Table 77 - Telcel churn, monthly minutes of use and ARPU - 2007 - 2008
Table 78 - Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2001 - 2008
Table 79 - Movistar churn, minutes of use and ARPU - 2006 - 2008
Table 80 - Iusacell subscribers and annual change - 1998 - 2008
Table 81 - Unefón subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2007
Table 82 - Nextel Mexico churn and monthly ARPU - 2007 - 2008
Table 83 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Nicaragua - September 2008
Table 84 - Mobile market share by operator Nicaragua - 2002 - 2008
Table 85 - Claro mobile subscribers - 2002 - 2008
Table 86 - Movistar mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2008
Table 87 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Panama - 2008
Table 88 - Operators’ mobile market share in Panama - 2003 - 2008
Table 89 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Paraguay - 2008
Table 90 - Mobile operators’ market share in Paraguay - 2003 - 2008
Table 91 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Peru - September 2008
Table 92 - Mobile market share by operator in Peru - 1996 - 2008
Table 93 - Evolution of ARPU in Peru - mobile operators - 2005 - 2007
Table 94 - Movistar mobile subscribers - 2001 - 2008
Table 95 - Claro mobile subscribers - 2001 - 2008
Table 96 - Nextel mobile subscribers - 2001 - 2008
Table 97 - Mobile operators and subscribers in Puerto Rico - 2008
Table 98 - Mobile market share by operator in Puerto Rico - 2003 - 2008
Table 99 - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate in Suriname - 2008
Table 100 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Uruguay - September 2008
Table 101 - Mobile operators’ market share in Uruguay - 2000 - 2008
Table 102 - Movistar - mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2008
Table 103 - Ancel - mobile subscribers - 1999 - 2008
Table 104 - Claro mobile subscribers - 2004 - 2008
Table 105 - Mobile subscribers by operator in Venezuela - September 2008
Table 106 - Market share by mobile operators in Venezuela - 2001 - 2008
Table 107 - Evolution of ARPU in Venezuela - mobile operators - 2005 - 2007
Table 108 - Movilnet mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2008
Table 109 - Movistar mobile subscribers - 2000 - 2008
Table 110 - Digitel mobile subscribers - 2003 - 2008
Exhibit 1 - Movicom BellSouth - history
Exhibit 2 - Telefónica Comunicaciones Personales, trading as Unifón - history
Exhibit 3 - Telpart - historical
Exhibit 4 - Vivo group - historical structure
Exhibit 5 - Vivo group corporate restructure
Exhibit 6 - Claro and Telecom Américas - origins, structure, and acquisitions
Exhibit 7 - TIM Brasil - early beginnings
Exhibit 8 - TIM Brasil - launch of GSM services
Exhibit 9 - TIM Brasil - company restructure - 2003 - 2006
Exhibit 10 - Brasil Telecom shareholder disputes - historical
Exhibit 11 - Telefónica Móvil Chile - history
Exhibit 12 - BellSouth Chile - history
Exhibit 13 - Claro/Smartcom/Chilesat - history
Exhibit 14 - Comcel, Occel, and Celcaribe company history
Exhibit 15 - TEM Colombia company history
Exhibit 16 - Colombia Móvil company history
Exhibit 17 - BellSouth Guatemala - history
Exhibit 18 - Licences of mobile operators in Mexico
Exhibit 19 - Telefónica acquisitions: Bajacel, Movitel, Norcel, Cedetel, and Pegaso
Exhibit 20 - Aló PCS - history
Exhibit 21 - Enitel Movil - history
Exhibit 22 - Movistar - history
Exhibit 23 - BellSouth Panama / Telefónica Móviles Panamá - history
Exhibit 24 - Licensed mobile companies in Paraguay
Exhibit 25 - Telefónica Móviles Perú (TEM Perú) - history
Exhibit 26 - BellSouth Peru and Comunicaciones Móviles del Perú (CMP) - history
Exhibit 27 - TIM Perú - history
Exhibit 28 - Movistar company history
Exhibit 29 - Digitel - historical

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