Colombia Leading Growth of 4G LTE Adoption In Latin America; Exclusive Interview With 4G Americas’ José Otero
Latin America has seen a substantial increase in LTE deployments and subscribers with an impressive 488% annual growth from 2 million LTE connections at end of 2013 to 12 million at the end of 2014. This growth is due in large part to the spectrum auctions that have occurred throughout the region allowing service providers the ability to offer LTE services to their customers.. GSM connectivity numbers remain above both LTE and HSPA with a total of 436 million subscribers in the region; however, that statistic continues to decline year-over-year.
Finance Colombia was able to discuss this market growth, especially as it relates to Colombia’s vibrant and at times, contentious domestic wireless mobile telecommunications market, with José Otero, 4G Americas’ Director of Latin America And The Caribbean.
Finance Colombia: Latin America’s adoption of LTE has really grown, from 2 million connections in 2013 to 12 million in 2014. What kind of growth should we expect over the next 3 years?
José Otero: The period from 2011 to 2014 could be described as the first phase of LTE deployments in Latin America. During these four years, LTE deployments were characterized by their limited geographic coverage (main exception being Brasil) and low number of operators offering the service in the same market.
The spectrum allocation processes that took place at the end of 2014 in Argentina and Venezuela paved the way for LTE to enter a second phase in its evolution. Starting in 2015 the main characteristic of LTE in Latin America and the Caribbean will be geographic coverage expansion and accelerated subscriber growth. LTE will surpass the 100 million subscriber mark in the region before the end of 2018.
Finance Colombia: What can you tell me about growth of 4G LTE in Colombia specifically?
José Otero: Colombia is one of Latin America’s LTE leaders. The growth of this technology in the country will only accelerate in the coming years. According to data from Pyramid Research, by 2019 Colombia will have more than 12 million LTE subscribers with Smartphones capable of LTE, surpassing in sales those capable only of HSPA+ services.
Finance Colombia: Do we know the mix between prepaid and invoiced subscribers?
José Otero: The numbers won’t vary much from what we currently have in the market. Since contracts are no longer valid in Colombia, we’re seeing operators trying to retain their invoiced subscribers with better offers and services.
Finance Colombia: What differences in usability, beyond higher speeds, will users experience as they migrate from HSPA to LTE devices and services?
José Otero: It will depend on the location and how many channels are dedicated to HSPA+. But, initially Smartphones capable of working with LTE will tend to be more sophisticated than previous devices as the technology main advantage is to allow customers to interact with an increasing number of applications and services that require high connectivity rates. The interface will be mostly dictated by the device’s operating system with Android, iOS and Windows being representing the vast majority of handsets.
LTE is the first mobile technology that will provide users similar and sometimes greater speeds than their wired counterparts
Finance Colombia: In Colombia and most other CALA countries, we still have a significant portion of the population living on modest incomes. How relevant and accessible is LTE to that market segment? Is it still just a luxury service, or are there devices and service plans that are accessible to the mass market?
José Otero: Colombia has adopted measures to accelerate the adoption rate of new technology. From no taxation on mobile devices to the free delivery of tablets in low income areas, people from strata 1 and 2 now have more opportunities to access mobile broadband technologies. As time passes by and LTE gets better economies of scale, its adoption rate among the lowest income segments of the population will increase.
Finance Colombia: Beyond mobile phones, how else is LTE adoption changing the way that people interact with friends, and media sources in Colombia and other LatAm countries?
José Otero: LTE is the first mobile technology that will provide users similar and sometimes greater speeds than their wired counterparts. This is a change in the traditional paradigm where mobile connections only complemented wired connections.
Finance Colombia: Any specific insight, observations or comments related to Colombia in particular?
José Otero: As mentioned before, speeds offered by LTE will in many instances be superior to those offered by wired alternatives. This is especially true in rural and suburban areas where DSL or Cable Modem speeds are below 10 Mbps. Thus the launch of LTE will force wired broadband providers to improve their service to remain competitive before the mobile alternative and not risk suffering from the fixed to mobile substitution that occurred in the voice market.
4G Americas maintains a current list of LTE deployments in the Americas on its website. For more information and to view a variety of statistical charts on the 3GPP family of technologies, visit www.4gamericas.org. Subscriber and forecast data is from Ovum. The infographic is courtesy of 4G Americas.