This report covers developments in the mobile voice and data markets of 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.
Mobile telephony has been by far the most dynamic telecom sector in the Latin American and the Caribbean region. Prepaid services have played an important role in the sector’s success, as they have made cell phones available to millions of low-income users, once excluded by monthly payments and credit checks.
Natural factors have also contributed to wireless popularity in a continent where mountainous terrain and remote rural areas make the laying of cable uneconomical, and where hurricanes and earthquakes have caused major destruction to fixed-line networks.
The region is becoming fertile soil for 3G WCDMA services, following substantial increases in coverage and in subscriber numbers during 2008. In early 2009, there were about 5 million 3G subscribers throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.
Mobile penetration has reached about 80%, well above the world average, which was about 58% in early 2009. Several countries, including Argentina, Jamaica, Uruguay, and Venezuela have passed the 100% penetration threshold.
Top 10 Latin American countries for mobile subscribers - 2007 - 2008 Country | 2007 | 2008 | Annual change | Penetration | Mobile subscribers (million) | Brazil | 122.11 | 152.44 | +24.8% | 78.9% | Mexico | 68.68 | 78.46 | +14.2% | 74.1% | Argentina | 38.44 | 43.82 | +14.0% | 110.3% | Colombia | 33.94 | 41.36 | +21.9% | 85.7% | Venezuela | 23.82 | 28.21 | +18.4% | 101.0% | Peru | 14.00 | 18.45 | +31.8% | 63.3% | Chile | 14.60 | 15.90 | +8.9% | 94.4% | Ecuador | 9.91 | 11.40 | +15.0% | 82.5% | Guatemala | 9.20 | 10.50 | +14.2% | 76.8% | Dominican Republic | 5.52 | 7.02 | +27.2% | 79.4% | | (Source: BuddeComm based on Global Mobile)
Argentina’s mobile market is the third largest in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. In terms of mobile penetration, Argentina is the leader in South and Central America, although trailing many of the Caribbean islands. Three operators, Movistar, Claro, and Telecom Personal, run a close competition for market share. All three companies have launched 3G services over HSDPA networks, and have extended 3G coverage to all of Argentina’s 23 provinces. Spectrum auctions are expected to take place in 2009. Despite having reached maturity and passed the 100% penetration threshold, the Argentine mobile market still has some potential for growth, once the economic downturn lifts.
In terms of subscribers, Brazil’s mobile market is the fifth largest in the world. Yet, although Brazil holds almost one third of all the mobile users in Latin America, its mobile penetration is lower than the regional average. Number portability is being introduced gradually, starting with the city of São Paulo in August 2008, and concluding with nationwide implementation by March 2009. WCDMA has made a strong start; 3G services are present in almost every single Brazilian state, with the following operators operating UMTS networks: Vivo, Claro, TIM Brazil, Oi, Brasil Telecom, and CTBC. Vivo and Claro have the most extensive 3G coverage, each company servicing well over 200 municipalities.
Driven by a booming GSM sector, Mexico’s mobile industry is growing at a yearly rate of approximately 17% per annum, achieving more than 70% penetration by the end of 2008. Mexico’s mobile market is the most dynamic sector in the telecommunications industry, which remains in double figure revenue growth despite the broader economy entering a period of recession. The implementation of mobile number portability in mid-2008 together with the planned wireless spectrum auctions in early 2009 are expected to boost competition in the mobile market and facilitate the launch of next generation mobile technology.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.