2013 Latin America - Mobile Operators

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Last updated: 6 Feb 2013 Update History

Report Status: Archived

Report Pages: 119

Analyst: Lucia Bibolini

Publication Overview

The report provides key information about the mobile operators in Latin America and the Caribbean. Topics covered include:

  • Brief company history and shareholder structure;
  • Licences and technology deployments;
  • Subscriber evolution;
  • Average Revenue per User (ARPU);
  • Market position.

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, Henry Lancaster
Current publication date:- February 2013 (9th Edition)

Executive Summary

América Móvil and Telefónica control 61% of Latin America’s mobile market

During the 1990s and around the turn of the millennium, a number of international companies ventured into Latin America’s burgeoning mobile arena, including América Móvil, Bell Canada International, BellSouth International, Cable & Wireless, Digicel, France Telecom, Millicom International, Portugal Telecom, Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM), Telefónica, and Verizon Communications.

Around 2003, however, the market began to undergo a process of consolidation. Several international investors gradually withdrawn from the region, leaving six major multinational operators that serve roughly 80% of the market: América Móvil, Telefónica, Telecom Italia, Millicom, and Digicel.

América Móvil is the leader, followed by Telefónica. In fact, América Móvil and Telefónica compete against each other in most of Latin America’s major economies. Between them, they serve about 61% of the region’s mobile subscribers (down from 64% in 2008).

América Móvil, owned by Mexican tycoon Carlos Slim, operates in 16 LAC countries. In its home ground, Mexico, it uses the brand name Telcel. In all other countries, it provides mobile services under the unified name Claro.

Spain’s Telefónica provides mobile services in 13 LAC countries, using the name Movistar in all markets except Brazil, where it operates under the brand name Vivo. For many years, Telefónica controlled Vivo jointly with Portugal Telecom (PT), but in July 2010, it agreed to buy PT’s 50% share and became the sole owner of the Brazilian mobile unit.

Telecom Italia provides mobile services in Brazil through its subsidiary TIM Brasil. It also controls Telecom Argentina, which offers mobile services in Argentina through Telecom Personal and in Paraguay through Núcleo.

Luxembourg-based Millicom International Cellular provides mobile services under the brand name Tigo to three countries in South America (Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay) and three countries in Central America (El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras).

Major mobile operators – subscribers and market share – 2010 - 2012




2012 (Sep)

Annual change2

Market share

Subscribers (million)

América Móvil1












Telecom Italia




































(Source: BuddeComm based on GM, industry and company data)

Note1: excluding América Móvil’s subscribers in the USA

Note2: Annual change is calculated as the year-on-year change from Sep 2011 to Sep 2012

Key highlights:


Three mobile companies compete neck-and-neck, each one controlling about one third of the country’s mobile market. América Móvil’s Claro is the market leader, followed by Telecom Personal (the mobile unit of Telecom Argentina, controlled by Telecom Italia). Telefónica’s Movistar is in third place. Nextel has but a small 3% market share, and Fecosur, an association of fixed-line telecom cooperatives, offers Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO) services branded Nuestro. Argentina has become an important manufacturer of cell phones and provides about 80% of all devices sold in the country. Driven by Facebook and Twitter, smartphone/social phone penetration has overtaken traditional cell phones.


Four companies dominate Brazil’s mobile telecom market: Spanish Telefónica’s Vivo, Mexican América Móvil’s Claro, Telecom Italia’s TIM Brasil, and Oi, controlled by Portugal Telecom and by the Brazilian Andrade Gutierrez group. Together, these four operators control 98% of the country’s mobile subscriber base. Vivo is the leader, with about 29% of the market. TIM Brasil and Claro account for 26% and 25% respectively; the two companies have been vying for second and third place since 2004. Oi is fourth, with 18%. The remaining 2% of the market is shared between CTBC Telecom, Sercomtel, and Nextel Brasil.

Having bought out Portugal Telecom’s half of mobile operator Vivo, Telefónica has undertaken a corporate restructure in Brazil. Vivo Participações has been incorporated into the group’s Brazilian fixed-line incumbent Telesp, and the merged company has been renamed Telefônica Brasil. The name Vivo has been retained as a trademark for mobile business.


In 2000, there were nine operators in the Mexican mobile market. By early 2009, there were only three major operators: America Movil (Telcel), Telefónica (Movistar) and Grupo Iusacell (Iusacell and Unefón). Besides these three, Nextel de México operates a mobile trunking network using iDEN technology. Telcel is the clear market leader, with a market share of around 68%, Movistar a distant second (24%), followed by Iusacell (5%). Nextel de México accounts for approximately 3%. Since 2010, the regulator has been endeavouring to encourage competition. Following the 3G spectrum auctions held in 2010, operators such as Movistar and Nextel have become better positioned to offer mobile data services.

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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