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This report provides 350 tables and 35 charts illustrating the mobile statistics for Latin America, both for individual countries and the region as a whole. Short market analyses and overviews are given for each country, but the original documents should be accessed for full descriptions and analysis.
LTE population coverage in Latin America currently 60% - 80% and expanding
Telephony services in Latin America have increasingly turned towards mobile solutions, in part a legacy response to poor fixed-line infrastructure and the continuing emphasis on investment in mobile networks rather than fixed-line networks. As a result, many people in rural areas have become mobile subscribers by default, lacking a fixed-line alternative for voice and basic data services. Natural factors have also contributed to the popularity of wireless services, since the region has many areas of mountainous terrain and hurricanes and earthquakes cause regular and major destruction to fixed-line networks. In addition, the large number of remote rural communities renders the laying of cable to serve them uneconomical.
About 80% of the region’s mobile subscribers are on lower-cost prepaid plans. Prepaid services played an important role in the sector’s evolution, as they made cell phones available to millions of low-income users who had been excluded by the contract requirements of monthly payments and credit checks.
Although there are a number of smaller operators across the region, the mobile market in Latin America continues to be dominated by three major operators: América Móvil, Telefónica and Telecom Italia, the last with a significant presence in Brazil. Other major players include Digicel Group, which is active in El Salvador and across the Caribbean, as well as Millicom International, which has a footprint in three Central American and three South American markets.
The dominance of these operators is gradually being eroded as a result of efforts by a number of national regulators to facilitate the entry of MVNOs and to encourage the participation of smaller players in spectrum auctions. In Mexico, América Móvil, trading as Telcel, is obliged to reduce its market share from 68% (as of early 2016) to below 50% by the end of 2018.
While overall revenue from mobile services in the region continues to grow steadily, at about 6-8% annually, operators have had mixed results during the last few quarters. The general trend for customer acquisitions and revenue is encouraging, but some markets have proved to be difficult. This can partly be attributed to unfavourable currency exchanges, but it is also exacerbated by poorly performing economies. Most countries in the region have seen stagnant or at best low economic growth in 2015 and into 2016, while those of Brazil and Venezuela have been particularly badly affected.
In addition, operators are facing continued pressure from reduced mobile termination rates and regulated tariffs for call and data pricing, while the popularity of OTT messaging services has considerably reduced the volume of SMS traffic, and with it placed further stress on operator revenue.
During the next few years revenue growth is expected to slow in line with the continued pressure on pricing, tariffs and competing OTT voice and data services.
In response, operators are maintaining investment programs aimed at further developing mobile data and broadband services. With 3G almost universally available, the emphasis has been on developing the capabilities of HSPA and LTE infrastructure. Most operators by mid-2016 provided LTE population coverage of between 60% and 80%. This will be extended further to the end of 2016 and into 2017. El Salvador remains the only country in the region with no LTE service offerings.