Deployment and adoption of 4G is lagging in Central America and the region needs to up its game or “risk putting its future economic development at risk, the GSMA stated in a report.
While 4G networks are available to 35 per cent of the population in Central America, the technology only accounts for around 5 per cent of all mobile connections, a sixth of that seen in South America.
The report, Assessing the impact of market structure on innovation and quality: Driving mobile broadband in Central America looked at the state of mobile broadband in six countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Panama.
“Closing the gap in 4G adoption in Central America requires urgent policy reform,” said Sebastian Cabello, head of Latin America at GSMA. “This report underscores the need for governments and regulators to act quickly in reforming policies that will encourage investment and innovation and enable operators to deliver high-quality mobile broadband services to consumers and businesses across the region.”
The report recommended reducing the number of operators through consolidation, as this will lead to better levels of investment and innovation, as well as higher speeds
For this, governments and regulators in Central America should review merger regulations.
The report also highlighted the need to allocate more spectrum and in sufficient amounts to achieve coverage rollout. On average, the countries surveyed in the study have only 100MHz assigned for 4G services, compared to an average of 163MHz in Latin America.
Further, the region only has 21 per cent of the spectrum estimated by the International Telecommunication Union as necessary for the effective provision of mobile services, with El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama in particular falling short.
The report also stated legacy retail and wholesale regulations are limiting operators’ ability to compete and innovate
“Encouraging the deployment of mobile broadband is particularly important in Central America, where mobile is the only solution to bringing connectivity to communities outside large urban centres,” said Cabello.
“An increase in broadband penetration will have a direct impact on the region’s economic growth and this must be a top priority for governments and industry alike.”