Mobile market report: Central America

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Central America is made up of seven small countries between Mexico in the north and Colombia in the south: Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.

It is the central heartland of América Móvil, the planet’s fourth-largest network operator by subscribers, which is owned by the world’s third-richest person, US$35 billion Mexican telecoms magnate Carlos Slim.

But it is also the new home of an agitator brand extraordinaire in the mode of 3 in the UK and E-Plus in Germany. Jamaican network operator Digicel has confronted Latin America on its own terms, and forced this poor strip of the American continent between the riches of the north and the huge centres of the south to drag its wireless telecoms services into the modern world.

Millicom’s Tigo brand dominates the wider Latin American market, although it ranks number two to América Móvil’s Claro brand in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras in Central America specifically.

But, combined, these two operators own 85 per cent of these particular mobile markets. However, the European invasion has started in earnest. Telefónica has entered El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama in 2006 with its Movistar brand, and France Telecom is now looking to enter Costa Rica.

Why the interest, apart from empirical corporate expansion? Well, Central America is positively jumping in terms of market demand, growth and new revenue opportunities.

Like other poor countries, under-developed fixed line infrastructure in these seven countries has seen wireless technology immediately leap to the fore for both voice and internet communications.

Full article in Mobile News issue 453 (November 30, 2009).

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