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El Salvador - Telecoms, Mobile and Broadband - Statistics and Analyses

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Last updated: 22 Apr 2020 Update History

Report Pages: 95

Telefónica El Salvador sold to América Móvil

Although El Salvador is the smallest country in central America geographically, it has the fourth largest economy in the region. Economic potential is limited by the relatively small population, while the country’s telecom sector has been restricted by poor infrastructure and unequal income distribution. There have been organisational delays which have retarded the development of telecom services, though during the last two years much progress has been evident, and indeed the telecom sector has been one of the more successful within the overall economy.

El Salvador’s fixed-line teledensity is substantially lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. There has been a significant drop in the number of fixed lines since 2010, particularly in 2017, largely due to the substitution for mobile-only alternatives. About 94% of all telephony lines in the country are on mobile networks.

Mobile penetration is remarkably high considering El Salvador’s economic indicators, being about a third higher than average for Latin America and the Caribbean. The country was one of the last in the region to provide LTE services, mainly due to the inadequate provision of suitable spectrum. A long-delayed multi-spectrum auction, for which the regulator again launched a public consultation in March 2019, will allow the mobile network operators to improve the reach and quality of their service offerings.

El Salvador’s telecom legislation is one of the more liberal in Latin America, encouraging competition in most areas and permitting foreign investment. However, there are no regulations which promote wholesale broadband, and thus in the DSL market leader Claro retains a virtual monopoly. The only effective cross-platform competition in the broadband market comes from the few cable operators. There has been some market consolidation in recent years, including Telemóvil;s acquisition of the regional cable TV provider Caribena Cable. In May 2019 the competition authority began assessing the sale of Telefónica El Salvador to América Móvil, which operates in the country under the Claro brand. Through this process of consolidation a few dominant multinational operators have managed to expand into almost all sectors through a process of convergence.

BuddeComm notes that the outbreak of the Coronavirus in 2020 is having a significant impact on production and supply chains globally. During the coming year the telecoms sector to various degrees is likely to experience a downturn in mobile device production, while it may also be difficult for network operators to manage workflows when maintaining and upgrading existing infrastructure. Overall progress towards 5G may be postponed or slowed down in some countries.

On the consumer side, spending on telecoms services and devices is under pressure from the financial effect of large-scale job losses and the consequent restriction on disposable incomes. However, the crucial nature of telecom services, both for general communication as well as a tool for home-working, will offset such pressures. In many markets the net effect should be a steady though reduced increased in subscriber growth.

Although it is challenging to predict and interpret the long-term impacts of the crisis as it develops, these have been acknowledged in the industry forecasts contained in this report.

The report also covers the responses of the telecom operators as well as government agencies and regulators as they react to the crisis to ensure that citizens can continue to make optimum use of telecom services. This can be reflected in subsidy schemes and the promotion of tele-health and tele-education, among other solutions.

Key developments:

  • Regulator starts consultation of delayed AWS band auction;
  • Tigo sells tower portfolio on lease-back arrangement;
  • Telefónica Group sells its local unit to América Móvil;
  • Government increases tax on some telecom services to 18%;
  • Central Reserve Bank finalises regulatory framework for mobile financial services; enabling a range of m-payment services via subsidiary companies set up by MNOs;
  • Mobile network operators provide near national mobile broadband coverage;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s market data updates to December 2017, telcos’ financial and operating data to Q1 2019, Telecom Maturity Index charts and analyses, recent market developments.
  • Assessment of the global impact of COVID-19 on the telecoms sector.

Companies mentioned in this report:

América Móvil (Claro), Millicent International (Tigo), Telefónica (Movistar), Red, GCA Telecom, Salnet, Amnet, Sky TV.

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