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Among the poorest countries in Central America, Honduras has long been plagued by an unstable political framework which has rendered telecom reform difficult. Reform is critical if the country is to address some of the least impressive market statistics in the region.
The country has been on the cusp of bankruptcy for several years, and though a group of banks had written off $3.5 billion of debt in 2007 accumulated debt since then has reached $5 billion. The economic plight has contributed to crises within the government, with no consensus on how to formulate a budget for 2013.
These practical difficulties have had real effects on the country’s telecom market. Fixed-line teledensity at only 7% is significantly lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. Poor fixed-line infrastructure has been exacerbated by low investment and difficulties in local terrain which have made investment in rural areas unattractive or uneconomical. As a consequence, the internet has been slow to develop in Honduras: DSL and cable modem technologies are available but relatively expensive, while higher speed services are largely restricted to the major urban centres. Nevertheless, the demand for broadband is steadily increasing and there are has been some investment in network upgrades to fibre-based infrastructure, though this is restricted to the main cities. Poor fixed-line connectivity has also inhibited the take-up of VoIP, which would otherwise be a preferred communications medium to expensive domestic calls.
On the positive side, these factors have encouraged consumer take-up of mobile services, a sector where there is lively competition supported by international investment and know-how. As a result, mobile penetration is about 20% above the regional average. Revenue from the mobile sector looks promising in coming years as operators invest in their networks, expanding their reach and upgrading their capabilities to accommodate mobile broadband services. Mobile data as a proportion of overall mobile revenue is likely to double in 2013, though low-end SMS services will continue to account for the bulk of data revenue for some years.
Political developments during the last few years have not facilitated the much-needed reform of legislation governing the telecoms sector. Partly this is due to political stalemate and ineffective legislators, but underlying the difficulties are the close ties between executives at the incumbent Hondutel and key members of the government. Charges of bribery and corruption are rife, and though the framework for reforming the Telecommunications Act remains before the Honduran Congress, there is little prospect of effective change in the short term which would bring about a properly competitive and fair market for some services.
Estimated market penetration rates by service – end-2014
Despite infrastructure limitations VoIP telephony is increasingly used an as alternative phone, mainly for considerations of cost.
High mobile voice penetration has left limited room for further growth, yet low mobile data use will provide operators with considerable opportunities in coming years, stimulated by the migration among uses from basic handsets to smartphones and by the continuing shift from fixed telephony to mobile use. Although the 3G base remains low, at about 4% of all mobile subscribers, investment in network upgrades aims to address infrastructure shortcomings and increase the number of 3G subscribers as well as the proportion of high-end mobile data revenue to overall mobile revenue.
Despite a strong growth in Digicel’s subscriber base since 2010, Digicel has sold its businesses in El Salvador and Honduras to América Movil, which operates the Claro brand. The deal has had significant implications for the sector’s competitive environment, but will provide benefits of scale to América Movil which should assist its network development.
Hondutel’s mobile JV, set up in 2012, relied on a foreign partnership to manage mobile services and so help solve the company’s continuing financial difficulties. The failure to attract an investor contributed to the shake-up of Hondutel’s management in a bid to resuscitate the ailing company.
Despite falling revenue in 2012, Hondutel plans a significant investment programme to deliver a fibre optic network to a number of cities on the north coast, affecting some 1.5 million people.
MNP, implemented from April 2014, will encourage competition among the three market players, leading to greater churn in the short term and anticipated cheaper prices for consumers.
The planned October 2014 auction to award licences for spectrum suitable for LTE services will encourage take-up of mobile broadband and data services in coming years, with operators obliged to provide LTE coverage to at least 15% of the country 9and the ten largest cities) by 2016. One of the three blocks was set aside for the troubled Hondutel in an effort to keep the company as a going concern.
Millicom’s broadband and pay TV operations are to be branded as ‘Tigo Star’ by the end of 2014, linking the service more directly with its mobile offerings.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.
This report covers trends and developments in the telecommunications, mobile, internet and broadband market in Honduras. Subjects include:
Market and industry analyses, trends and developments;
Facts, figures and statistics;
Industry and regulatory issues;
Major Players, Revenues, Subscribers;
Mobile Voice and Data Markets;
Internet and broadband markets (DSL, cable modem, wireless);
Mobile market (including 3G and mobile broadband).
Tigo (Millicom) launches satellite service in Honduras; Hondutel management shake-up fails to stem losses, though the company reported its first a net profit in June 2014 in 41 consecutive months; MNP to be implemented from April 2014; spectrum auction to encourage mobile broadband services take-up; Tigo to rebrand broadband and pay-TV business as ‘Tigo Star’; regulator’s market data updates; telcos’ operational data to Q3 2014; recent market developments.
Companies covered in this report include:
Hondutel, Comunitel, MultiData, Millicom, Digicel, América Móvil.
This report is essential reading for those needing high level strategic information and objective analysis on the telecom sector in Honduras. It provides further information on:
Market liberalisation and regulatory issues;
The impact of the global economic crisis;
Telecoms operators – privatisation, acquisitions, new licences;
Mobile data market developments in coming years in light of spectrum auctions and new license awards;
3G developments, regulatory issues and technologies including HSPA and LTE;
Broadband migration to an FttH architecture;
Historical and current subscriber statistics and forecasts;
ARPU statistics and forecasts.