5G Momentum Builds, But 4G Peak is Still Expected in Latin America

5G is Anticipated to Represent 12% of Total Connections by 2025 (86 Million); While 4G Adoption is Forecast to Rise from 55% in 2020 to 67% by the Same Year

30 November 2021, Buenos Aires: ‘The Mobile Economy Latin America 2021’, GSMA’s flagship regional report, was launched today at the opening of Mobile 360 Latin America’s Keynote Week. In another year marked by the COVID-19 recession, mobile technologies and services generated 7.1% of regional GDP – a contribution that amounted to more than $340 billion of economic value added. The mobile ecosystem also supported more than 1.6 million jobs (directly and indirectly).

The report shows commercial 5G networks are now live in a handful of countries in the region. 5G is expected to account for 12% of the region’s total connections by 2025, with some countries exceeding the regional average, most notably Brazil, at 20%. However, 4G remains the foundation of the Latin American mobile industry, as operators have largely focused on migrating 2G and 3G customers to 4G networks.

Key highlights from the study include:

  • Unique mobile subscribers will reach nearly 450 million by the end of 2021, increasing to 485 million by 2025 (73% of the population).
  • Smartphone connections will reach 500 million at the end of 2021 – an adoption rate of 74%. The next four years will see almost 100 million additional smartphone connections, taking adoption above 80%.
  • Total IoT connections will reach close to 1.2 billion in 2025. Growth will be relatively faster in the enterprise IoT market, with a notable increase in the adoption of smart buildings. Regional IoT revenue will reach $31.5 billion by 2025.
  • Leading operators have set science-based targets and are now disclosing information related to climate risk.

‘The Mobile Economy Latin America 2021’ also points out some pending subjects that need to be addressed in order for the region not to miss out on the opportunities of digitalization.

  • The demand side of the digital divide. At the end of 2020, 358 million people across Latin America were connected to the mobile internet – an increase of 15 million on 2019; 275 million people are still offline. Around 96% of the population is covered by a mobile broadband network. However, around 40% of the population covered but not yet using mobile internet face barriers other than coverage. These include affordability, knowledge and digital skills, relevance, safety and security, and access to enablers (such as electricity and formal IDs).
  • Connectivity-enabling policy frameworks. Regulatory reforms are needed to match words with actions on the importance of digitalization. Spectrum policies focused on innovation and inclusion, rather than state revenue, are particularly crucial, as mobile operators await for license renewals and/or 5G new assignments in most markets in the region. Investment-oriented fiscal policies, smart deregulation, and an open dialogue between the private sector and all levels of the public sector are also critical.

‘The Mobile Economy Latin America 2021’ report is available to download here in English and here in Spanish.

Mobile 360 Latin America Keynote Week will run virtually from 30 November to 2 December, and all content will be available on demand for registrants after the event. Click here to register for free.