Latin America reaches 100% mobile penetration says Informa Telecoms & Media

Latin America will pass the milestone of 100% mobile penetration by the end of 1Q11, according to the latest figures from Informa Telecoms & Media. However, despite this figure, there are still 178 million people in the region without mobile services, which represents 30% of its population.

Brazil, the largest and most important mobile market in South America, had already passed the milestones of 100% penetration and 200 million subscriptions by the end of 2010. With 105% penetration at the end of December, Brazil is now the sixth-largest market globally with 206 million subscriptions and the seventh-largest by revenues.

“Passing 100% penetration is a huge milestone for the mobile industry but it's important to note that it does not mean that everyone in Latin America has a mobile phone,” said Daniele Tricarico, senior analyst at Informa Telecoms & Media. “Our research finds mobile penetration rates of 120% and higher in some urban areas where users have multiple subscriptions but in rural areas mobile penetration rates can fall to 60% or lower, partly due to a lack of network coverage. So, while the industry should celebrate breaking the 100% penetration barrier for the region as a whole, it should continue expanding coverage and innovating to make mobile services more accessible for all those who are not currently mobile subscribers.”

Across Latin America, about 27% of the total 568 million mobile subscriptions, including mobile broadband connections, are classified as multiple subscriptions where customers have more than one SIM card, or have a portable device subscription as well as a mobile phone plan. This figure also includes double counting of subscriptions, which occurs when customers change service provider. This contrasts with North America, where

although year-end penetration stood at a lower 93%, multiple SIM and portable devices of some kind and double counting only account for 14% of the overall subscription base.

“If we were to look only at unique subscribers when comparing Latin America and North America then the picture would be rather different,” commented Tricarico. “With lower average disposable income, a high proportion of prepaid customers, who represent over 80% of the overall Latin American customer base, tend to switch SIM card to take advantage of the best prices depending on the operator and the time of the day. At the same time, an increasing number of high-value customers are adding mobile broadband to their existing voice services, sometimes to complement their existing fixed broadband, but more and more often as their primary broadband service. As a result, more people tend to have multiple subscriptions, which is pushing up the overall national penetration figures.”

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