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Latin America - winner or loser in the telecoms race? Part 1: Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Argentina

A few weeks ago Developing Telecoms publisher Alec Barton analysed the Latin American telecoms market. In this article editor Michael Schwartz extends the debate, looking at the countries that have been winning the contracts and asking whether Latin American markets are losing out in these momentous times for new markets. In this first section we look at some of the largest markets, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina.

For the last three years Developing Telecoms has been reporting on the emergence of telecoms in the newer markets. We have looked, naturally, at China and India. We have also looked at two other countries, Russia and Brazil, whose initials combine with those of the first two countries to make up the BRIC group - four new markets singled out for their recent success.

Comparisons are sometimes unfair but when Brazil is analysed it has certainly progressed far beyond the rest of Latin America. Developing Telecoms has published several reports on the Latin American markets over the last three years. When the total reports for each country are added up the pattern is simple: Brazil is not even being approached by any other Latin American market let alone bettered.

It is easy to state that Brazil has generated more reports (45) than any other country in Latin America. In fact, a look back at the stories we have reported in the last three years is revealing. Sometimes the report has been about a (relatively minor) enhancement for an existing network. In another case a major development involved WiMAX being introduced into the town of Paritins, which is located on a large island in the middle of the Amazon River. Modern technology means that in theory there need be no so such thing as a remote area in telecoms.

Furthermore, a review of recent Brazilian contracts shows that Brazil continues a dash not only for basic wireless and fixed line penetration but also for spin-offs from modern technology. Brazilian subscribers want something more than just the ability to speak to someone over the phone. They want email, Internet, broadband and all the related facilities.

In one particular case, a Brazilian operator has implemented a new Response-Based Segmentation (RBS) feature for its LiveScreen Media platform. The segmentation process (developed by UK-based Celltick) tracks user interaction with content displayed on the idle screen and automatically creates a profile which allows Celltick to target users according to their areas of interest and demographic characteristics.

Results to date demonstrate a 60% increase in the number of users responding to teasers on the idle screen, and an 80% increase in the overall number of clicks-per-day since the service enhancement. Brazilian operators are confident enough to exploit the latest technological developments; Brazilian customers benefit from increased participation in the operator's services.

Success breeds Brazilian success

Brazilian companies continue to place contracts as the country builds up her many and varied telecoms strengths. Nothing succeeds like success. Sercomtel, one of the most important mobile operators in the country, stresses the importance of interconnection between such key technologies as GSM, 3G and TDMA.

To bring such interconnection to fruition, Sercomtel has selected Jinny Software to organise two Short Message Service Centres (SMSCs), one serving the current GSM network and the other the future 3G network. Jinny's message router will interconnect the legacy TDMA SMSC with both these two new networks and with the other Brazilian operators (Jinny now has 16 clients in the Americas, including four major mobile operator groups).

The second tranche - Mexico, Chile, Argentina

The country in second place, Mexico, is more difficult to analyse. There are 34 references and reports on the Developing Telecoms site but reports dealing exclusively with Mexico generally refer to the changes in regulation two years ago when the market was opened up. Other references tend to be in stories where we cover the Latin American region as a whole. These references, however, are usually positive so one can feel confident that Mexico is enjoying some success.

Well, so far, so good. We then reach countries which have clearly made strides.

Nearly two years ago, for example, we carried a report that Chile's mobile sector had achieved penetration well above the average for the region (Chile tops Latin Technology Index and beats the USA for good measure, 20 January 2007). In fact, Chile's penetration was topped only by the USA and ran ahead of developed countries such as Canada. More recently, we have reported that Chile can develop and enhance her broadband usage if those on low and medium incomes can be engaged in the telecoms process. This also means competition among ISPs, 4Mb/s download speed on average, and greater access to computers. Chile's Ministry of Economy and Cisco worked to together to publish a report to this effect. Further details are available under our report Lower-income groups key to broadband growth in Chile, September 23, 2008.

Chile acknowledges the part that broadband can play; she needs to implement her recommendations. Chile's neighbour Argentina has enjoyed some success recently. We have looked at the arrival of high-speed wireless Internet in San Luis Province (Wavion wins wide-area Wi-Fi project in San Luis, July 9, 2008) which involved an encouraging alliance of commercial and academic interests, and we noted modernisation of Telecom Argentina's OSS via Subex and Accenture (Telecom Argentina modernises with Subex, Accenture input, June 1, 2008).

Overall, modernisation is taking place in Argentina. Towards the beginning of this year we noted that there was a demand for nearly 90,000 professionally qualified personnel in several countries in the region, notably Argentina, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica and Venezuela (Demand for Networking Skills Grows in Latin America, March 17, 2008). 

It is clear that Argentina and Chile are both enjoying some form of revival of their countries' telecoms and IT sectors. Nothing in the league of Brazil but a long way in advance of the pre-historic markets that had existed up until recently. Progress appears to be slow but steady.
 
Read the second section of this article and find out our conclusions: click here.

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