Mobile Operators - Latin America
Continuing market consolidation and merger activity signify major changes for 2015
Latin America’s mobile market is dominated by four multinational operators, which together account for about 80% of the region’s subscribers. There remains room for a vibrant MVNO segment, while changes to company share ownership, as well as recent regulatory measures and the competitive strain experienced by some players continue to make the market fluid.
Mexico’s América Móvil is the largest player in the region, operating in 17 countries. The company also has a significant presence in the US via its MVNO Tracfone, and has recently ventured into Europe by taking stakes in two key local operators. It has a 25.7% interest in KPN, through which it has access to the Dutch and Belgian mobile markets, as also a 26.8% stake in Telekom Austria, through which it has access to seven other markets including Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bulgaria and Belarus.
In Latin America, the second largest operator is Spain’s Telefónica, providing services under the Movistar brand in all markets except Brazil, where it operates under the Vivo brand. Brazil is Telefónica’s key market in the region, where it has over 79 million mobile subscribers.
Telecom Italia operates in Brazil, as also still in Argentina via its stake in Telecom Argentina, and Paraguay. The operator will soon exit Argentina, having sold its interest in the incumbent operator for $960 million. Millicom provides mobile services, branded as Tigo, in three Central American countries (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras) and three South American (Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay), while Digicel and Cable & Wireless are the dominant players in the Caribbean.
The regional mobile market showed great promise during the 1990s when it was first opened up to competition, and when governments and regulators began licensing spectrum. A number of international operators ventured into these markets, though uncertainties concerning licence regimes, as well as the vicissitudes caused by changing strategies and economic performances of players led to considerable consolidation. This is ongoing, with US-based NII Holdings, which provides wireless services under the Nextel brand in Brazil, Mexico, Argentina and Chile, announcing in August 2014 that it may file for bankruptcy. The operator has about 9.3 million mobile subscribers in these markets, having lost 6% of its subscriber base year-on-year.
In Mexico, a new regulatory regime was recently introduced aimed at curbing the dominance of América Móvil, which controls 70% of the wireless market and 80% of landlines. In response, in July 2014 América Móvil announced that it would sell assets to reduce its local market share to below 50% by 2018. This will enable other operators to compete more effectively, while future spectrum auctions will be geared to encouraging the market entry of new players.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year
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