Uruguay experiencing further delays to ASO process
Uruguay is among the more politically stable countries in Latin America. The government has been supportive of business, and has pursued prudent macroeconomic policies which have been sympathetic to investment. Transparent regulations, growing domestic consumption, relatively high living standards for the region, and a cheap labour force are expected to continue drawing international capital.
Uruguay enjoys one of the highest broadband penetration rates in Latin America, and the second highest fixed-line teledensity rate after Costa Rica. Mobile penetration is the second highest after Panama. In terms of computer penetration, Uruguay tops all other countries in the region by a considerable margin, and this has facilitated growth in fixed-line broadband adoption.
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 cable TV providers to offer broadband. Cable broadband would help strengthen the pay TV market, make bundled solutions more widely available, and give customers the freedom to choose their internet provider. Nevertheless, there is a fast developing market for OTT videostreaming services. Netflix has been available since September 2011, and other providers also compete.
A new media law was passed in December 2014, aimed at curbing media concentration and providing greater certainty to licence holders. However, media companies have objected to some restrictive provisions, such as those which limit pay TV operators from having more than 25% share of subscribers nationally, or from providing telecom services on their networks.
Antel’s Fibre-to-the-Premises (FttP) program is by far the most ambitious broadband effort in Latin America. Together with the FttP network, the opening of a new submarine cable system (Bicentenario) in early 2012 has helped boost Uruguay’s internet bandwidth and data rate. International bandwidth tripled as a result of the cable landing. Antel is also investing in a new sub-sea cable, linking the country to Brazil and with connectivity to Florida. This cable is scheduled to be lit at the end of 2016.
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 through 3G and LTE networks. Mobile broadband is the fastest growing telecom sector by far. Operators have achieved nationwide 3g coverage, attracting a growing number of subscribers outside of Montevideo. More than a third of the population make use of mobile broadband, and the number of subscribers is soaring. Antel was also one of the first companies in the region to launch commercial LTE services. The LTE network supplements FttP broadband in areas where the latter is not available. It is intended that the entire population will have access to either LTE, FttP, or both technologies.
Market penetration rates in Uruguay’s telecoms sector – 2015 (e)
- Telefónica launches Movistar Play for mobile phone customers;
- Further delays to ASO process;
- Antel invests $30 million in Uruguay-Brazil cable, to be completed by the end of 2017;
- Antel connects over half a million premises to Internet Vera fibre network;
- New media law criticised for restriction on ban on pay TV operators offering telecom services; Claro again prepares to launch DTH services after its licence was twice revoked;
- Spectrum allocations in the 900MHz, 1900MHz, and 1700-2100MHz bands helping to extend mobile broadband services;.
- International bandwidth increased to 161Gb/s;
- Movistar extends commercial LTE services;
- Report includes the regulator’s market data to June 2015, telcos’ operating and financial data to Q1 2016, recent market developments.
Companies mentioned in this report:
Antel, Claro Uruguay, Movistar Uruguay, Dedicado.