New Haiti telecom law expected by 2017 to re-invigorate the sector
Haiti’s economic and social indicators remain far lower than the average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The recent years of political and economic turmoil and natural disasters have stifled most sectors of the economy, including the telecoms sector which remains one of the least developed in the world.
In the internet market, poor fixed-line infrastructure has obliged most businesses to rely on satellite and wireless technologies. There remain significant barriers to broadband development, related to low international connectivity and the absence of an effective regulated wholesale broadband regime. The incumbent Natcom plans to invest in a national fiber optic network, though progress s anticipated to be slow and consequently most people and businesses will look to mobile broadband for connectivity.
In the mobile sector, the launch of services by Natcom in late 2011 introduced a competitive boost, though this has been set back to some degree by the Digicel Group’s acquisition of the number two player Voilà, and the integration of the latter’s mobile network in late 2012. With the collapse of the third operator HaiTel in mid-2013, this left Digicel with about 85% market share of subscribers. Nevertheless, the economies of scale together with Digicel’s interest in promoting 4G services as well as innovative mobile data services such as mobile banking should considerably improve internet connectivity in rural areas in coming years, and enable communities to make greater use of internet services where fixed-line infrastructure remains inadequate.
- Haiti’s fixed line teledensity remains amongst the lowest in the world, at around 0.5%. Damage resulting from the 2010 earthquake has meant a greater emphasis on investment in mobile networks.
- The Vietnamese telco Viettel acquired a 60% share in Teleco, which was transformed into a new entity, Natcom. The deal may invigorate the company as it struggles to deal with Haiti’s pressing infrastructure problems.
- Viettel’s bid included a commitment to build a 2,000km fibre optic cable to provide internet access in particular to remote areas. During 2011 Natcom began replacing and expanding the ruined fixed line network with the aim of providing national services including DSL broadband access.
- The mobile market saw renewed competition following the entry of Natcom, which operates a GSM/3G mobile network. However, Digicel’s acquisition of Voilà in mid-2012 has further consolidated the market.
- Digicel Jamaica’s extension to the existing Fibralink submarine cable, operational from mid-2012, has provided a much needed boost to capacity, particularly in the required backhaul for international mobile data.
- HaiTel went into receivership in mid-2013, showcasing the difficult economic conditions for operators in the country. Its possessions were auctioned off by the tax office.
- Digicel’s TchoTcho mobile payment platform secures two million subscribers;
- The regulator has tendered for an MNP system, though no agreement has been reached on delivering the facility.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Natcom, HaiTel, Digicel, Rectel, Comcel, Teleco.