A Transparent and Predictable Regulatory Environment is Needed to Support Future Investment and Innovation in the Region

Lima, Peru: Ahead of today’s GSMA Latin America1 Plenary Meeting #40 in Peru2, the GSMA released a comprehensive assessment of the impact of the mobile industry in Latin America. The report, “Mobile Economy Latin America 2013”, developed by GSMA Intelligence, reveals that in 2012 the mobile industry generated over 3.7 per cent of Latin America’s GDP, contributing US $211 billion to the region’s economy3. Mobile also directly employed 353,000 men and women in the region and contributed over US $39 billion to public funding. By 2020, the sector is predicted to generate 4.5 per cent of GDP and directly support 453,000 jobs, as well as contribute US $50 billion in public funding by 2017.

As of June 2013, there were 632 million connections and 319 million unique subscribers4 in Latin America, equivalent to penetration rates of 104 per cent and 52 per cent respectively and surpassing global average developing market penetration rates of 79 per cent connections and 38 per cent unique subscribers. Given that only half of Latin America’s overall population has subscribed to a mobile service, compared to four out of five people in developed markets, there is scope to grow the region’s subscriber base.

“Latin America is one of the most diverse regions in the world in terms of its economic and social development but is unified by the growing contribution of mobile,” said Tom Phillips, Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “While the voice market is becoming more saturated, future benefits will come increasingly from mobile broadband and new applications and services. However, the region urgently needs more transparent and predictable regulation to support this important opportunity.”

Creating the Right Investment Climate for Mobile
Despite the mobile industry’s considerable progress in Latin America, the sector will not continue to thrive with the current regulatory environment, according to the report. Ongoing issues in the region include a lack of transparency and consultation in decision making, unclear or non-existent industry development plans and ambiguous foreign ownership rules. The report highlights four key policy asks:

  1. More Effective Spectrum Management
    Adequate spectrum needs to be made available on a timely basis, especially the lower frequency Digital Dividend band required for cost-effective LTE deployments. Spectrum provision across the region is substantially behind the 1300MHz per country that was benchmarked for 2015 by ITU reports, despite demand driven by continued growth in mobile connections and increasing uptake of data-intensive products and services.

  2. Consistent Licence Renewals
    With a number of original 2G licences coming up for renewal in the next few years in markets including Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama and Uruguay, there needs to be a clear and consistent approach to licence renewals. This would reduce uncertainty that tends to promote inefficiencies in the allocation of resources and delay network investment, as witnessed in a number of countries over the last few years.

  3. More Supportive Regulation
    Regulation in Latin America has become more interventionist in recent years, with the trend to regulate termination rates, impose telecom-specific taxes and implement hard quality of service requirements, as well as imposing other regulatory restrictions on operators. More supportive regulation and greater collaboration and coordination between the mobile industry, regulators and other government institutions can unleash the full potential of mobile, resulting in positive benefits for the wider economy and social development.

  4. Coordinated Quality of Service
    Quality of service considerations have become a key focus for governments and regulators. However, mobile operators need a coordinated and supportive policy and regulatory regime as they face a range of challenges, including obstacles to the installation of new base stations and cell sites on a timely basis. Competition rather than regulatory intervention is the best driver for the continued improvements to quality of service that mobile customers expect. The report calls for governments and regulators to provide operators with a regulatory environment that will foster increased investment and competition.

Mobile Broadband in Latin America
By overcoming key policy barriers, mobile broadband will play an even greater role in boosting growth and meeting social targets in the region. The region had 164 million mobile broadband subscribers as of June 2013, forecast to grow by 30 per cent annually over the next five years. While fixed broadband is limited in terms of household coverage and also relatively expensive, mobile data plans have seen significant price reductions in the last three years due to the introduction of innovative pre-paid daily plans. This means that many low income sectors, particularly households at the bottom of the pyramid, have access to the internet for the first time.

“The mobile industry in Latin America is now moving to a more mature phase, but with major growth potential in the medium term,” continued Phillips. “Working with governments and other key stakeholders to support the sector will encourage greater industry investment, boost competition and increase the provision of affordable mobile services for consumers throughout the region.”

The full report can be viewed here:

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GSMA Mobile Economy Latin America Infographic 1 PORTUGUESE

Notes to Editors
1 GSMA Latin America represents the interests of mobile operators throughout the Latin America region with a presence in Argentina, Brazil and Chile. For more information on GSMA Latin America, including in English, Spanish and Portuguese, visit Follow GSMA LA on Twitter: @ GSMALatam.

2 The GSMA LA Plenary Meeting #40 takes place in Lima, Peru on 19-21 November 2013. GSMA members will join government officials from Peru and other countries of the region, experts, sponsors, guests and other figures from the industry in Latin America at the meeting. Seminars will focus on themes including consumer protection, mobile identity and disaster response as well as on the Mobile for Development and Connected Living programmes.

3 The mobile industry’s contribution to GDP in Latin America is predicted to rise to US $350 billion by 2020.

4 Mobile SIM connections refer to total unique SIM cards that have been registered on mobile networks. Unique subscribers refer to individual mobile users.

About the GSMA 
The GSMA represents the interests of mobile operators worldwide. Spanning more than 220 countries and territories, the GSMA unites nearly 800 of the world’s mobile operators with 250 companies in the broader mobile ecosystem, including handset and device makers, software companies, equipment providers and Internet companies, as well as organisations in industry sectors such as financial services, healthcare, media, transport and utilities. The GSMA also produces industry-leading events such as Mobile World Congress and Mobile Asia Expo. 

For more information, please visit the GSMA corporate website at Follow the GSMA on Twitter: @GSMA.

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