New IXP to improve internet connectivity in Honduras
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 had been on the cusp of bankruptcy for several years in the early part of the century, and though a group of banks had written off $3.5 billion of debt in 2007 accumulated debt since then soon reached $5 billion. The economic plight contributed to a series of crises within the government.
These practical difficulties have had real effects on the country’s telecom market. Fixed-line teledensity, at only 5.6%, is significantly lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. Poor fixed-line infrastructure has been exacerbated by low investment and topographical difficulties 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 and thus take-up has been low thus far. Higher speed services are largely restricted to the major urban centres. Nevertheless, the demand for broadband is steadily increasing and there are 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 videostreaming services.
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. As a result, mobile penetration is about 20% above the regional average. Revenue growth from the mobile sector looks promising in coming years as operators invest in their networks, expand their reach and upgrade their capabilities to accommodate mobile broadband services. Mobile data as a proportion of overall mobile revenue has increased steadily, 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.
Market penetration rates in Honduras’s telecoms sector – 2015 (e)
|Penetration of telecoms services:|
|Mobile SIM (population)|
(Source: BuddeComm based on various sources)
- Tigo Money mobile cash transfer service signs up more than one million users;
- Claro and Tigo extend LTE services;
- Tigo launches satellite service;
- Hondutel management shake-up fails to stem losses;
- Spectrum auction encourages mobile broadband services take-up;
- Tigo rebrands broadband and pay-TV business as ‘Tigo Star’;
- Report update includes the regulator’s market data to Q4 2015, telcos’ operational data updates to Q1 2016, recent market developments.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Hondutel, Comunitel, MultiData, Millicom (Tigo), Digicel, América Móvil (Claro).