Fixed broadband penetration in the LAC region remains below the global average, and significantly so by comparison to some East Asian countries, as well as to European and North American markets. This is largely the legacy of poor fixed-line connectivity which continues to affect many rural and mountainous regions. In addition, relatively low computer use and significant poverty prevent many social groups from spending on all but basic telecom services.
A number of government measures are in place to address these issues, such as subsidies for STBs to support the analogue-switch-over process, and national projects such as Broadband for Schools by which refurbished computers are distributed free. These developments reflect the awareness among governments and telcos alike of the strategic importance of
high-speed broadband services for GDP growth and socio-economic improvement. Governments directly involved in plans to expand broadband access include Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Uruguay.
For providers, revenue growth has been limited by competitive pressures, and by the high cost of infrastructure build beyond densely populated areas. In consequence, many telcos are fast developing FttP networks to service areas where households and businesses can be expected to pay for premium services. They have also become more adept at capitalising on their fixed and mobile assets to develop integrated networks, so providing a full portfolio of services to customers while reducing operating costs.
While investment in fixed-line infrastructure continues, mainly focussed on urban areas, the market in coming years will benefit from the mobile sector where the principal regional operators are scaling up their network upgrades to provide wide-spread and increasingly affordable mobile broadband and data offers. Much of the growth in the broadband sector is from the mobile segment, where mobile broadband has become an important option for voice and data services across the region. Almost all LAC markets have UMTS networks, while the key regional operators, including Amrica Mvil and Telefnica, have focussed investments on HSPA, HSPA+ and LTE upgrades. Commercial LTE networks are now widespread, and more are either planned or are in trial.
Given the size of the LAC region, there remain wide differences in broadband use among countries. While some countries including St Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina, and Mexico have fixed broadband penetration ranging between 11% and 30%, others countries, including Haiti, Paraguay, Nicaragua and Cuba have particularly low penetration.
Generally, higher broadband penetration can be found in the southern countries and some of the wealthier Caribbean islands, while the lower rates are prevalent in Central America and in the poorer countries on the northwest coast and interior of South America.
The region still suffers from insufficient bandwidth (leading to expensive and slow services), though a number of new cables,
particularly from landings in Brazil, will improve the situation during
the next two years.
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