2007 Latin America - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband in Central America

Publication Overview

This report provides information on Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama. Each country has its own chapter and covers the following subjects.

  • Key Statistics
  • Market and Industry Overviews
  • Regulatory Environment
  • Major Players (fixed and mobile)
  • Infrastructure
  • Mobile Voice and Data Markets
  • Internet, VoIP
  • Broadband (DSL, cable, wireless)
  • Convergence

Executive Summary

Central America is a tropical isthmus that connects North and South America, and separates the Caribbean from the Pacific. It comprises the seven republics of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The region is relatively small, extending for about 524,000km². The land is fertile and rugged, and dominated by a string of volcanic mountain ranges.

Belize: While geographically part of Central America, Belize has much in common with its Caribbean Island neighbours. The Belizean telecom market was officially liberalised in January 2003, yet the incumbent, Belize Telecommunications (BTL), still holds a virtual monopoly. With scant competition and ineffective regulatory control, it has been able to charge exorbitant rates for its services. A controversy over VoIP is a case in point. Although both the government and the regulator declared that they wanted to move the telecom sector towards greater competition, in practice BTL lobbied against VoIP and has been able to block any possible competitors from using VoIP. BTL does, however, face competition in the mobile sector, where SpeedNet launched services in March 2005 under the brand name Smart, and succeeded in carving out about 18% of the market after only 15 months of operation.

Costa Rica: State-owned Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) and its subsidiary RACSA are the monopoly providers of virtually all telecom services except for pay TV and paging. While this situation worked in the past, it is now leading to considerable problems, such as long waiting lists for phones, poor service quality, obsolescence, and lack of investment. Although it has one of the highest fixed-line teledensity rates in Latin America, Costa Rica’s mobile penetration is significantly lower than the regional average and well below what could be expected given its relatively high GDP per capita. The preliminary signing of the Dominican Republic-Central American Free-Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA) in January 2004 marked a significant step for Costa Rica, as DR-CAFTA calls for the liberalisation of some telecom services. But the Costa Rican population is deeply divided over DR-CAFTA, and the ratification of the agreement has been delayed, together with any liberalisation plans.

El Salvador: The country’s telecom market is among the most open in Central America. The government’s liberal approach has allowed new technologies to flourish. Fixed-line teledensity, however, remains low. Despite growing steadily, phone lines, mainly in rural areas, are insufficient to meet local demand. Mobile telcos have capitalised on the underdeveloped fixed-line network by emphasising their ability to offer a fast, high-quality service with nationwide coverage. At more than 42%, El Salvador’s mobile penetration is lower than the Latin American average, but is remarkably high considering the country’s low GDP per capita. The mobile market is served by five competing operators, and there are about three times as many mobile phones as fixed lines in service. With a budding VoIP market, and cable TV telcos permitted to provide telephony and Internet, El Salvador is a promising country for convergence strategies. Two operators already offer triple play services.

Guatemala: The largest telecom market in Central America, Guatemala has been held back by poverty, income inequality, and violence. The distribution of income in Guatemala is highly unequal, with around 75% of the population below the poverty line. The telephone system reflects this inequality, with a relatively modern network centred in Guatemala City, but one of the lowest teledensity rates in the region. Outside the capital, the rest of the country’s fixed-line infrastructure is inadequate and antiquated, though much improved since the telecom sector was liberalised in 1996. Mobile telephony is the fastest growing market. There are about four times as many mobile phones as fixed lines in service. While mobile penetration is about 20% lower than the Latin American average, it is remarkably high considering that the country’s GDP per capita is roughly one-half that of the region as a whole.

Honduras: One of the poorest countries in the Latin America, Honduras has one of the least developed telecom infrastructures and the fourth lowest teledensity in the region. Fixed-line telephony was officially opened to competition in December 2005. A New Telecom Law governing full liberalisation, however, has been delayed due to political controversy over the role of Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel), the state-owned national telecom provider. Efforts to privatise the incumbent have so far failed to come to fruition, and are awaiting the New Telecom Law to be passed. Two companies compete in the mobile market: Millicom’s Tigo and América Móvil’s Claro. Unsatisfied demand for basic telephony has driven a veritable boom in the mobile market, with annual growth rates of around 80%.

Nicaragua: With the second lowest fixed-line teledensity in Latin America (after Haiti), Nicaragua is one of a growing list of countries leapfrogging directly into mobile communications. Nicaragua’s mobile phones exceed the number of fixed lines in service by almost seven to one. In fact, while Nicaragua’s fixed-line teledensity is the second lowest in Latin America, its mobile penetration is the fifth lowest, surpassing Honduras, Peru, Haiti, and Cuba. Since 2004, the country’s mobile market has been growing at an average annual rate of approximately 60%. Liberalisation of the fixed-line market is still awaiting proper implementation, having been delayed by political and legal wrangles. América Móvil’s Enitel holds a virtual monopoly over the country’s fixed lines. The mobile market, on the other hand, is a lively duopoly between Telefónica’s Movistar and América Móvil’s Claro, the latter clearly in the lead with a 70% market share.

Panama: With significant telecom infrastructure, a liberalised market, and serviced by five global fibre optic cables, Panama is an attractive country for telecom investments, especially following the October 2006 decision to broaden the Panama Canal. Competition, however, is slow to develop in basic telephony, where the incumbent Cable & Wireless Panamá (C&WP) is reluctant to unbundle its local network, but the long distance sector has attracted several players, leading to huge price drops, especially in international calls. During 2006, C&WP was the Panamanian public services company that incurred the most complaints. Its mobile unit, trading as +Movil, has a 50% share of the mobile market; Telefónica’s Movistar has the other 50%. In the Internet market, although penetration is still low, dial-up and ADSL connections are developing at a fast pace; growth potential in this sector is excellent. The leading cable TV company, Cable Onda, has started to offer Triple Play services (converged broadband, telephony and pay TV).

Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

Table of Contents

1.BELIZE
1.1Key statistics
1.2Telecommunications market
1.2.1Overview of Belize’s telecom market
1.3Regulatory environment
1.3.1Background
1.3.2Regulatory authority
1.3.3Telecom sector liberalisation
1.4Fixed network operators in Belize
1.4.1Overview of operators
1.4.2Belize Telecommunications Ltd (BTL)
1.5Telecommunications infrastructure
1.5.1National telecom network
1.5.2Infrastructure developments
1.5.3International infrastructure
1.6Internet market
1.6.1Overview
1.7Broadband market
1.8Convergence
1.8.1Overview of media convergence
1.8.2Overview of broadcasting market
1.9Mobile communications
1.9.1Overview of Belize’s mobile market
1.9.2Major mobile operators
2.COSTA RICA
2.1Key statistics
2.2Telecommunications market
2.2.1Overview of Costa Rica’s telecom market
2.3Regulatory environment
2.3.1Background
2.3.2Regulatory authority
2.3.3Telecom sector liberalisation
2.4Fixed network operators in Costa Rica
2.4.1Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE)
2.5Telecommunications infrastructure
2.5.1National telecom network
2.5.2International infrastructure
2.5.3Infrastructure developments
2.6Internet market
2.6.1Overview
2.7Broadband market
2.7.1Overview
2.7.2Cable modems
2.7.3Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
2.7.4Broadband over Powerline (BPL)
2.7.5Wireless broadband
2.8Convergence
2.8.1Overview of media convergence
2.8.2Cable TV (CATV)
2.8.3Satellite TV
2.9Mobile communications
2.9.1Overview of Costa Rica’s mobile market
2.9.2Major mobile operators
3.EL SALVADOR
3.1Key statistics
3.2Telecommunications market
3.2.1Overview of El Salvador’s telecom market
3.3Regulatory environment
3.3.1Telecommunications law
3.3.2Regulatory authority
3.3.3Privatisation of Antel
3.3.4Telecom sector liberalisation in El Salvador
3.4Fixed network operators in El Salvador
3.4.1Overview of operators
3.4.2CTE Telecom (América Móvil)
3.4.3Telefónica
3.5Telecommunications infrastructure
3.5.1National telecom network
3.5.2International infrastructure
3.5.3Infrastructure developments
3.6Internet market
3.6.1Overview
3.7Broadband market
3.7.1Overview
3.8Convergence
3.8.1Overview of media convergence
3.8.2Triple play models
3.8.3Cable TV (CATV)
3.8.4Satellite TV
3.9Mobile communications
3.9.1Overview of El Salvador’s mobile market
3.9.2Major mobile operators
4.GUATEMALA
4.1Key statistics
4.2Telecommunications market
4.2.1Overview of Guatemala’s telecom market
4.3Regulatory environment
4.3.1History
4.3.2Regulatory authority
4.3.3Telecom sector liberalisation in Guatemala
4.3.4Privatisation of Guatel/Telgua
4.3.5Interconnection
4.3.6Foreign investments
4.4Fixed network operators in Guatemala
4.4.1Overview of operators
4.4.2Telgua (América Móvil)
4.4.3TEM Guatemala
4.5Telecommunications infrastructure
4.5.1National telecom network
4.5.2International infrastructure
4.5.3Infrastructure developments
4.6Internet market
4.6.1Overview
4.7Broadband market
4.7.1Overview
4.7.2Asymmetrical Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL)
4.7.3WiFi
4.7.4WiMAX
4.7.5Broadband providers
4.8Convergence
4.8.1Overview of media convergence
4.8.2Triple play models
4.8.3Cable TV (CATV)
4.8.4Satellite TV
4.9Mobile communications
4.9.1Overview of Guatemala’s mobile market
4.9.2Regulatory issues
4.9.3Mobile technologies
4.9.4Major mobile operators
4.9.5Mobile voice services in Guatemala
5.HONDURAS
5.1Key statistics
5.2Telecommunications market
5.2.1Overview of the Honduran telecom market
5.3Regulatory environment
5.3.1Regulatory authority
5.3.2Privatisation
5.3.3Foreign investment
5.3.4Telecom sector liberalisation in Honduras
5.3.5‘Telephony For All’ program
5.4Fixed network operators in Honduras
5.4.1Empresa Hondureña de Telecomunicaciones (Hondutel)
5.4.2Multifon
5.4.3Tele+ (Comunitel)
5.5Telecommunications infrastructure
5.5.1National telecom network
5.5.2International infrastructure
5.5.3Infrastructure developments
5.6Internet market
5.6.1Overview
5.7Broadband market
5.7.1Overview
5.8Convergence
5.8.1Overview of media convergence
5.8.2Cable TV (CATV)
5.8.3Satellite TV
5.8.4Digital terrestrial TV
5.9Mobile communications
5.9.1Overview of the Honduran mobile market
5.9.2Major mobile operators
6.NICARAGUA
6.1Key statistics
6.2Telecommunications market
6.2.1Overview of Nicaragua’s telecom market
6.3Regulatory environment
6.3.1Background
6.3.2Regulatory authority
6.3.3Privatisation
6.3.4Telecom sector liberalisation in Nicaragua
6.4Fixed network operators in Nicaragua
6.4.1Empresa Nicaragüense de Telecomunicaciones (Enitel)
6.4.2Movistar (Telefónica)
6.5Telecommunications infrastructure
6.5.1National telecom network
6.5.2International infrastructure
6.5.3Infrastructure developments
6.6Internet market
6.6.1Overview
6.7Broadband market
6.7.1Overview
6.8Convergence
6.8.1Overview of media convergence
6.8.2Cable TV (CATV)
6.8.3Satellite TV
6.9Mobile communications
6.9.1Overview of Nicaragua’s mobile market
6.9.2Major mobile operators
6.9.3Satellite mobile
7.PANAMA
7.1Key statistics
7.2Telecommunications market
7.2.1Overview of Panama’s telecom market
7.3Regulatory environment
7.3.1Regulatory authority
7.3.2Privatisation of INTEL
7.3.3Telecom sector liberalisation
7.3.4Number portability (NP)
7.4Fixed network operators in Panama
7.4.1Cable & Wireless Panamá
7.4.2Telecarrier
7.4.3Galaxy Communications Corp (ClaroCOM)
7.4.4Advanced Communication Network
7.4.5Optynex Telecom
7.5Telecommunications infrastructure
7.5.1National telecom network
7.5.2International infrastructure
7.5.3Infrastructure developments
7.6Internet market
7.6.1Overview
7.7Broadband market
7.7.1Overview
7.8Convergence
7.8.1Overview of media convergence
7.8.2Triple play models
7.8.3Cable TV (CATV)
7.8.4Satellite TV
7.9Mobile communications
7.9.1Overview of Panama’s mobile market
7.9.2Major mobile operators
8.GLOSSARY OF ABBREVIATIONS
Exhibit 1 – Major submarine cable networks links in Belize
Exhibit 2 – Major submarine cable networks connecting Costa Rica
Exhibit 3 – Major submarine cable networks connecting Guatemala
Exhibit 4 – BellSouth Guatemala – history
Exhibit 5 – Major submarine cable networks connecting Honduras
Exhibit 6 – Major submarine cable networks connecting Nicaragua
Exhibit 7 – Aló PCS – history
Exhibit 8 – Enitel Movil – history
Exhibit 9 – Major submarine cable networks serving the Caribbean region


Table 1 – Country statistics Belize – 2005
Table 2 – Telephone network statistics – March 2006
Table 3 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 4 – Broadband statistics – March 2006
Table 5 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 6 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 7 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity - 1996 - 2006
Table 8 – Internet users, annual change and user penetration – 1996 - 2005
Table 9 – BTL high-speed Internet subscribers, annual change & household penetration – 2005 - 2006
Table 10 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 1999 - 2006
Table 11 – BTL mobile subscribers & annual change - 2004 - 2006
Table 12 – SpeedNet mobile subscribers & annual change - 2005 - 2006
Table 13 – Country statistics Costa Rica – 2005
Table 14 – Telephone network statistics – 2005
Table 15 – Internet user statistics – June 2006
Table 16 – Broadband statistics – 2005
Table 17 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 18 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 19 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity – 1996 - 2005
Table 20 – Public payphones and annual change – 2000 - 2005
Table 21 – Internet users, annual change and user penetration – 1997 - 2006
Table 22 – Broadband subscribers, annual change and household penetration – 2000 - 2006
Table 23 – Broadband market share by technology – 2003 - 2006
Table 24 – Cable modem subscribers, annual change and household penetration – 2000 - 2006
Table 25 – ADSL subscribers, annual change and household penetration – 2003 - 2006
Table 26 – Mobile subscribers by operator, technology and annual change – June 2006
Table 27 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 1998 - 2006
Table 28 – Country statistics El Salvador – 2006
Table 29 – Telephone network statistics – June 2006
Table 30 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 31 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 32 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 33 – Telecom fixed lines in service and annual change – 2003 - 2006
Table 34 – Telefónica fixed and fixed-wireless lines in service and annual change – 2003 - 2006
Table 35 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity – 1996 - 2006
Table 36 – Public payphones and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 37 – Internet users, annual change and penetration - 1996 - 2005
Table 38 – Internet subscribers, annual change and penetration – 2000 - 2005
Table 39 – Mobile subscribers by operator, technology and annual change – June 2006
Table 40 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration – 1998 - 2006
Table 41 – Mobile operators’ market share – 2003 - 2006
Table 42 – Prepaid/postpaid ratio - 2002 - 2006
Table 43 – Claro – mobile subscribers and annual change – 2002 - 2006
Table 44 – Telemóvil mobile subscribers and annual change – 1996 - 2006
Table 45 – Movistar mobile subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2006
Table 46 – Digicel mobile subscribers and annual change – 2002 - 2006
Table 47 – Country statistics Guatemala – 2006
Table 48 – Telephone network statistics – June 2006
Table 49 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 50 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 51 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 52 – Fixed line market share by operator – 2002 - 2006
Table 53 – Fixed lines in service, teledensity and annual change – 1996 - 2006
Table 54 – Public and community phones – 2003 - 2006
Table 55 – Internet users, penetration and annual change - 1997 - 2005
Table 56 – Mobile subscribers by operator, technology and annual change - June 2006
Table 57 – Mobile subscribers, penetration and annual change - 1997 - 2006
Table 58 – Mobile operators’ market share - 2000 - 2006
Table 59 – Claro subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2006
Table 60 – Comcel subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2006
Table 61 – Movistar subscribers and annual change – 2000 - 2006
Table 62 – Prepaid/postpaid ratio - 2002 - 2006
Table 63 – Country statistics Honduras – 2006
Table 64 – Telecom revenue and investment statistics – 2005
Table 65 – Telephone network statistics – June 2006
Table 66 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 67 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 68 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 69 – Number of licensed operators – 2006
Table 70 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity - 1997 - 2006
Table 71 – Public telephones and annual change - 1997 - 2005
Table 72 – Internet users, annual change and penetration – 1997 - 2005
Table 73 – Internet subscribers, annual change and penetration – 2002 - 2005
Table 74 – Pay TV subscribers and annual change - 2002 - 2005
Table 75 – Mobile subscribers by operator and technology and annual change - June 2006
Table 76 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 1997 - 2006
Table 77 – Mobile operators’ market share - 2002 - 2006
Table 78 – Prepaid/postpaid ratio - 1997 - 2005
Table 79 – Tigo subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2006
Table 80 – Claro subscribers and annual change – 2003 - 2006
Table 81 – Country statistics Nicaragua – 2006
Table 82 – Telephone network statistics – March 2006
Table 83 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 84 – Broadband statistics – 2005
Table 85 – Mobile statistics – September 2006
Table 86 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 87 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity - 1996 - 2006
Table 88 – Public phones and annual change – 1998 - 2006
Table 89 – Internet users, annual change and user penetration - 1997 - 2005
Table 90 – Internet subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2005
Table 91 – Internet market share by technology – 2000 - 2005
Table 92 – Mobile subscribers by operator and technology and annual growth - June 2006
Table 93 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 2000 - 2006
Table 94 – Operators’ mobile market share - 2004 - 2006
Table 95 – Postpaid/prepaid ratio - 2003 - 2006
Table 96 – Claro subscribers and annual change - 2004 - 2006
Table 97 – Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2000 - 2006
Table 98 – Country statistics Panama – 2006
Table 99 – Telephone network statistics – 2005
Table 100 – Internet user statistics – 2005
Table 101 – Broadband statistics – 2005
Table 102 – Mobile statistics – June 2006
Table 103 – National telecommunications authorities
Table 104 – Number of telecom concessions - March 2006
Table 105 – Fixed lines in service, annual change and teledensity - 1998 - 2005
Table 106 – Public telephones and annual change - 1998 - 2005
Table 107 – Internet users, annual change and user penetration - 1996 - 2005
Table 108 – Dial-up subscribers, annual change and household penetration - 1998 - 2005
Table 109 – Broadband subscribers by technology, annual change and penetration - 1998 - 2005
Table 110 – Mobile subscribers by operator and technology and annual growth - June 2006
Table 111 – Mobile subscribers, annual change and penetration - 1997 - 2006
Table 112 – Operators’ mobile market share - 2003 - 2006
Table 113 – Postpaid/prepaid ratio - 1998 - 2005
Table 114 – Movistar subscribers and annual change - 2004 - 2006

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Number of pages 122

Status Archived

Last updated 20 Feb 2007
Update History

Analyst: Stephen McNamara

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