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Uruguay is one of the most advanced countries in Latin America, with a well-developed telecom infrastructure. This report covers trends and developments in the fixed-line, mobile, internet, broadband, and pay-TV markets. Subjects include:
- Market and industry analyses, trends and developments;
- Facts, figures, and statistics;
- Government policies and regulatory issues;
- Major players (fixed, mobile, broadband, and pay TV);
- Infrastructure developments;
- Internet and fixed broadband market (ADSL, wireless, and FttH);
- Mobile market (including 3G, LTE, and mobile broadband).
BuddeComm’s yearly update of Uruguay - Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband, and Forecasts provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications market of Uruguay, including the regulator’s market data for the first half of 2012, operator and other industry data, and expected market developments in the coming years.
Uruguay’s GDP per capita is one of the highest in the region, only second to Chile and a few of the wealthier Caribbean islands. The country is among the safest in Latin America – politically stable, free from corruption, and not prone to natural disasters. The government is supportive of business, with prudent macroeconomic policies and a generally welcoming environment for investment. Transparent regulations, growing domestic consumption, high living standards, and a cheap labour force are expected to continue drawing international capital.
Bar a few Caribbean islands, Uruguay enjoys the highest broadband penetration in Latin America, the second highest fixed-line teledensity after Costa Rica, and the second highest mobile penetration after Panama. With high literacy rates and widespread computer availability, Uruguay is one of the world’s leading software exporters and South America’s outsourcing hub. In terms of computer penetration, Uruguay tops all other countries in the region by a considerable margin.
Uruguay is one of the very few Latin American countries where the local fixed-line market is neither privatised nor liberalised. Antel, the state-owned incumbent, has a monopoly in the provision of local telephony and fixed broadband services. Other segments of the telecom market have been opened to competition, including international long-distance telephony, mobile telephony, and fixed-wireless broadband.
Uruguay is also one of the few countries in the world where broadband access via cable modem does not exist. Although cable networks are well equipped technologically and digital cable TV is widely available, telecom law prohibits data transmission over pay TV networks. There are ongoing discussions over the need to change regulations and permit TV cables to carry data. Cable broadband would help strengthen the pay TV market, make triple-play solutions more widely available, and give customers the freedom to choose their internet provider.
Nevertheless, Antel’s Fibre-to-the-Home (FttH) project is by far the most ambitious broadband effort in Latin America. In fact, it promises to be one of the most impressive in the world. Together with the FttH network, the opening of a new submarine cable system (Bicentenario) in early 2012 has helped boost Uruguay’s internet download speed.
Antel was also one of the first companies in the region to launch commercial LTE services. The LTE network is intended to supplement FttH broadband in areas where the latter is not available. According to plan, all of Uruguay’s population should have access, eventually, to either LTE, or FttH, or both.
Three players compete in the Uruguayan mobile market: Antel, Telefónica’s Movistar, and América Móvil’s Claro. Antel is the mobile market leader, followed by Movistar.
All three mobile operators offer mobile broadband as well as 3G services. Mobile broadband is the fastest growing telecom sector by far. Operators have achieved nationwide UMTS coverage, attracting a growing number of subscribers outside of Montevideo. An estimated 30% of the population have opted for mobile broadband, and the number of subscribers is soaring.
|Subscribers to telecoms services (million):|
- The government is preparing to auction nine blocks of mobile spectrum in the 900MHz, 1900MHz, and 1700-2100MHz frequency bands.
- Antel’s FttH project uses GPON technology and offers broadband speeds of up to 100Mb/s. The network already passes more than 140,000 homes in Montevideo and Rocha. The service, branded Internet Vera (which means True Internet in Spanish) – or simply ‘vera’ – is being offered free of charge for a promotional period.
- Antel’s LTE network covers parts of Montevideo, Punta del Este, and Maldonado. The operator plans to expand the network across the country. Like the FttH service, Antel’s LTE offering is also branded ‘vera’. Advertised maximum speeds are 20Mb/s download and 2Mb/s upload.
- A service dubbed Universal Hogares or Internet for All aims to connect every Uruguayan home to the internet. The service is available to all those who already have a fixed telephone line, or those who acquire one, and offers basic ADSL access with no monthly fees.
- The Bicentenario submarine cable linking Argentina and Uruguay was inaugurated and made operational in early 2012 with an initial capacity of 50Gb/s. The system’s total design capacity is 3.84Tb/s.