4G Connections in Latin America More Than Doubled in a Year, Reveals New GSMA Intelligence Data

Latin America 4G Connections Surpass 100 Million in 2016 and 4G Set to Account for Nearly 40 Per Cent of Market by 2020; 5G Will Begin Roll-Out in Region by 2020

Barcelona: The number of 4G connections in Latin America more than doubled last year, according to the latest GSMA Intelligence data. The growth rate was almost twice the global average and was driven by ongoing investment in 4G networks and services by mobile operators in the region.

The number of 4G connections in Latin America reached 113 million at the end of 2016 (17 per cent of total connections), up from 51 million a year earlier, an annual increase of 121 per cent. The figure is forecast to surpass 300 million by the end of the decade, accounting for almost 40 per cent of total connections in the region by this point. 

A total of 97 mobile operators had commercially launched 4G networks across 39 countries in Latin America by the end of December 2016, with many more expected to launch 4G in the coming years. According to GSMA Intelligence, 4G networks already cover 68 per cent of the Latin American population today and are expected to cover 83 per cent of the region’s population by 2020.

The data shows that 4G growth in Latin America also correlates strongly to smartphone adoption. Smartphones accounted for 55 per cent of total mobile connections in the region at the end of 2016.

Regulatory modernisation for the Latin American digital ecosystem
“Strong investment by mobile operators is driving the Latin American migration to high-speed networks, but an urgent regulatory modernisation is needed to foster the development of the regional digital ecosystem and promote further innovation and investment,” said Sebastian Cabello, Head of Latin America, GSMA.

“In the face of a fast-evolving digital economy, most countries’ telecoms regulatory frameworks remain anchored in the past. The future requires a more flexible, technology-agnostic approach to regulation, discarding rules that no longer reflect industry dynamics. The GSMA recommends that governments promote higher service quality and innovation through competition — rather than perpetuating outdated rules and obligations,” continued Cabello.

The road to 5G in Latin America
5G networks will begin to be rolled out in Latin America from 2020 onwards. 5G will build upon the success of 4G to deliver the networks and platforms that will power society’s continued digital transformation. It will enable new usage scenarios such as massive IoT and critical communications, in addition to new applications linked to enhanced mobile broadband. M2M connections in the Latin America region reached 25 million by end of 2016 and are forecast to more than double to 53 million connections in 2020.

5G will also accelerate competition between operators, internet players, and the wider ecosystem. 5G will require significant new, widely harmonised mobile spectrum (both low and high frequency bands) to ensure timely roll-out of networks, to maximise network investment, and thereby deliver the full range of 5G’s potential capabilities.

“It is imperative that we set the foundations to support the adoption of this new technology when it comes, by for example, establishing a clear roadmap of spectrum allocation and defining a path to modernise existing legacy regulations, which would be critical enablers in helping to achieve that goal,” said Cabello.

Mobile Money Growing Rapidly in Region
The mobile money industry in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has seen rapid growth since its inception in 2011, when the first service was launched. Today, the region has 32 live services in 17 markets, with 23 million accounts; the number of registered accounts increased roughly 35 per cent during the last year, positioning the region as the fastest growing in this category. Forty-seven per cent of all registered accounts were active on a 90-day basis, the highest mobile money activity rate in the world.

The Latin American and Caribbean mobile money industry shows signs of increasing maturity and future growth. Seventy-five per cent of LAC mobile money services are already offering service through a smartphone app, and usage patterns suggest mobile money is more integrated with payments infrastructure than in other parts of the world, with merchant payments accounting for 57 per cent of transactions (global average is 5 per cent) and bulk payments accounting for nearly 7 per cent of transactions (global average is just over two per cent).

“There is still a large untapped market for mobile money in the LAC region – mobile money is still nascent in most markets,” commented Cabello. “Regulation, access to banking infrastructure and public and private partnerships will be the future building blocks to help drive adoption of mobile money services.”



About the GSMA
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide, uniting nearly 800 operators with almost 300 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and internet companies, as well as organisations in adjacent industry sectors. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress, Mobile World Congress Shanghai, Mobile World Congress Americas and the Mobile 360 Series of conferences. 

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