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

Executive summary

El Salvador’s Tigo sells tower infrastructure

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. Of the estimated total number of telephones in the country, only 6% are fixed while 94% are mobile.

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 multi-spectrum auction yet to be held 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 in all areas. However, there are no regulations which promote wholesale broadband, and thus in the DSL market 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, and in mid-2017 the regulator stepped in to enforce provisions related to the proposed acquisition by Telemóvil of the regional cable TV provider Caribena Cable.

Through this process of consolidation a few dominant multinational operators have emerged (notably Millicom’s Tigo, América Móvil’s Claro, and Telefónica’s Movistar), which have managed to expand into almost all sectors through a process of convergence.

The mobile market is served by five operators: Tigo, Movistar, Claro, Digicel, and Intelfon. The outlook is especially promising for mobile broadband, where competition between Claro, Tigo, and Telefónica will oblige the operators to diversify services and reduce prices.

Key developments:

  • Regulator again consults on delayed AWS band auction;
  • Tigo sells tower portfolio on lease-back arrangement;
  • Competition authority imposes conditions for Telemóvil’s proposed acquisition of Caribena Cable;
  • Number Portability gains customer popularity;
  • Digicel expands reach of HSPA+ services;
  • 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;
  • Tigo rebrands cable, broadband and pay-TV services as ‘Tigo Star’;
  • Mobile network operators invest to provide near national mobile broadband coverage;
  • Report update includes the regulator’s market data updates to December 2017, telcos’ financial and operating data to Q2 2018, recent market developments.

Companies mentioned in this report:

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

Table of Contents

  • 1. Executive summary
  • 2. Key statistics
  • 3. Country overview
  • 4. Telecommunications market
    • 4.1 Market analysis
  • 5. Regulatory environment
    • 5.1 Regulatory authority
    • 5.2 Telecom sector liberalisation
    • 5.3 Privatisation of Antel
    • 5.4 DR-CAFTA
  • 6. Fixed network operators
    • 6.1 Introduction
    • 6.2 Claro (América Móvil)
    • 6.3 Movistar (Telefónica)
  • 7. Telecommunications infrastructure
    • 7.1 Overview of the national telecom network
    • 7.2 International infrastructure
      • 7.2.1 Interconnection with other Central American countries
      • 7.2.2 Submarine cable networks
      • 7.2.3 Satellite networks
  • 8. Wholesale
  • 9. Fixed-line broadband market
    • 9.1 Market analysis
    • 9.2 Broadband statistics
    • 9.3 Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
  • 10. Mobile market
    • 10.1 Market analysis
    • 10.2 Mobile statistics
    • 10.3 Mobile data
    • 10.4 Mobile broadband
    • 10.5 Regulatory issues
      • 10.5.1 Number Portability (NP)
      • 10.5.2 Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs)
      • 10.5.3 Spectrum auctions
    • 10.6 Mobile infrastructure
      • 10.6.1 3G
      • 10.6.2 4G (LTE)
      • 10.6.3 Other infrastructure developments
    • 10.7 Major mobile operators
      • 10.7.1 Tigo (Millicom)
      • 10.7.2 Claro (América Móvil)
      • 10.7.3 Movistar (Telefónica Móviles)
      • 10.7.4 Digicel
      • 10.7.5 Intelfon
    • 10.8 Mobile content and applications
      • 10.8.1 Money transfer, m-banking
  • 11. Related reports
  • Table 1 – Top Level Country Statistics and Telco Authorities – El Salvador – 2018 (e)
  • Table 2 – Evolution of GDP in El Salvador – 2000 - 2018
  • Table 3 – Telecom revenue by sector – 2013 - 2016
  • Table 4 – Telecom revenue and investment ($) – 2014 - 2016
  • Table 5 – Historic - Claro fixed lines in service – 2003 - 2007
  • Table 6 – Historical - Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 1997 - 2009
  • Table 7 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 8 – International bandwidth – 2001 – 2016
  • Table 9 – Historic - Internet users and penetration rate – 1996 - 2009
  • Table 10 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2010- 2018
  • Table 11 – Broadband subscribers and penetration rates – 2002 – 2018
  • Table 12 – DSL subscribers – 2003 - 2018
  • Table 13 – Cable broadband subscribers – 2014 - 2016
  • Table 14 – Fibre and other broadband subscribers – 2013 - 2016
  • Table 15 – Fixed broadband connections by access speed – 2012 - 2016
  • Table 16 – Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 1997 - 2009
  • Table 17 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2010 - 2018
  • Table 18 – Mobile operators’ market share – 2003 - 2012
  • Table 19 – Prepaid/postpaid ratio – 2002 - 2016
  • Table 20 – Prepaid/postpaid subscribers – 2008 - 2016
  • Table 21 – SMS traffic – 2013 - 2016
  • Table 22 – MMS traffic – 2013 - 2016
  • Table 23 – Active mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 - 2018
  • Table 24 – Mobile broadband subscribers by data rate – 2013 - 2016
  • Table 25 – Tigo – mobile subscribers – 1997 – 2018
  • Table 26 – Tigo mobile financial data – 2015 – 2018
  • Table 27 – Historic - Claro – mobile subscribers – 2002 - 2008
  • Table 28 – Historic - Movistar – mobile subscribers – 2000 - 2008
  • Table 29 – Digicel – mobile subscribers – 2003 – 2008; 2014 - 2015
  • Table 30 – Digicel revenue – 2012; 2014 - 2015
  • Table 31 – Historic - RED – mobile subscribers – 2005 - 2008
  • Chart 1 – Fixed lines in service and teledensity – 2005 – 2018
  • Chart 2 – Internet users and penetration rate – 2005- 2018
  • Chart 3 – Broadband subscribers and penetration rates – 2002 – 2018
  • Chart 4 – Mobile subscribers and penetration rate – 2005 – 2018
  • Chart 5 – Active mobile broadband subscribers – 2009 – 2018
  • Chart 6 – Tigo mobile financial data – 2015 – 2018
  • Exhibit 1 – Tigo/Telemóvil – company history

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Paul, May I congratulate you on a very successful and enjoyable afternoon with the Minister. In providing the roundtable discussions between government and industry, it highlighted the strong interest by stakeholders in Broadband and its implementation but it also presented us with other issues and opportunities that we need to address.

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