2010 Latin American Mobile Voice and Mobile Data Market

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Last updated: 14 Apr 2010 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 138

Analyst: Lucia Bibolini

Publication Overview

This report covers developments in the mobile voice and data markets of Latin America and the Caribbean. The countries covered in this report include: Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Suriname, Uruguay, Venezuela, and the small Caribbean island nations.

Researchers:- Lucia Bibolini and Lawrence Baker
Current publication date:- April 2010 (9th Edition)
Next publication date:- April 2011

Executive Summary

Mobile penetration in Latin America and the Caribbean is almost 90%, which is close to the world average. In South and Central America, the highest mobile penetration rates can be found in Venezuela, Uruguay, Argentina, El Salvador, Suriname, and Panama, which have all passed the 100% milestone. In the Caribbean, most of the small island nations are above the 100% mark and some are over 200%. The highest rate has been registered in Turks & Caicos, which has a baffling penetration of 380%, equivalent to more than three cell phones per person. In these countries, however, subscription numbers are sometimes pumped up by tourists or migrant workers who are not counted as part of the population. There are also places where people have one SIM card for each mobile company. Furthermore, the vast majority of Latin American mobile subscribers are prepaid.

Mobile broadband has become an important option for broadband services throughout Latin America, as it is available in many areas that have no fixed-line broadband coverage. The service is commonly used with either a USB modem that plugs into a computer, or with netbooks, notebooks, or laptops that have a built-in 3G receiver. In 2008/09, several Latin American mobile operators entered into agreements with manufacturers to launch mobile broadband plans with a netbook or notebook included.

In early 2010, there were 54 UMTS networks operating in 25 Latin American and Caribbean countries, with about 14 million subscribers. Most operators use HSPA or HSDPA technology to provide mobile broadband, multimedia downloads, and video calling services. Several companies also offer mobile TV.

Market highlights:

  • Argentina’s mobile market is the third largest in Latin America, after Brazil and Mexico. In terms of mobile penetration, Argentina is the leader in South and Central America, although trailing many of the Caribbean islands. Three operators, Movistar, Claro, and Telecom Personal, run a close competition for market share. All three companies have launched 3G services over HSDPA network;
  • Venezuela is the regional leader in terms of SMS traffic, the number of text messages being about double the number of minutes the average Venezuelan talks on a mobile phone;
  • Mexico’s subscriber growth is expected to remain in single figures during 2010/11 due to a slow economic recovery and due to penetration rates exceeding 80%;
  • More and more people own two SIM cards in Chile – one for their cell phone, and one for mobile broadband.

Latin America – mobile subscribers and penetration rate − 2008 - 2009


Subscribers (million)

Annual change






2009 (e)




(Source: BuddeComm based on ITU and Global Mobile)

Note: in all tables, annual change is the year-on-year change – eg: for 2008 (Sep), annual change is calculated as the 12-month change from Sep 2007 to Sep 2008. Dec is implied if no month is shown. Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.

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