Mobile subscriptions surpass fixed lines in Latin America

The number of subscribers to mobile telephony services exceeded the number of telephone fixed lines in Latin America in 2001 by a small margin that is expected to widen in coming years, according to a study released last week.

This is the first time that mobile telephony subscriptions have exceeded fixed lines in Latin America. By the end of 2001, 17 per cent of the people in Latin America had a mobile telephony subscription, while 16.9 per cent had a fixed line, according to Pyramid Research Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The gap in mobile and fixed-line penetration is now tiny but is expected to increase significantly. For example, by the end of 2004, mobile penetration is expected to be at 28 per cent, while fixed-line penetration will be lagging at 19.5 per cent, according to Daniel Torras, director of Pyramid’s Latin America research group. It’s easier and less expensive for operators to build wireless networks than traditional fixed-line networks in Latin America, Torras said.

Latin America closed 2001 with 83.4 million mobile telephony subscribers, up 35 per cent from 2000. Still, the rate of subscriber growth is slowing down. Although 21 million subscribers were added in 2001, that figure is down 5.1 per cent from the new additions in 2000.

Meanwhile, mobile telephony operators generated a combined US$22.1 billion in revenue in the region in 2001, up 15 per cent from 2000, according to Pyramid. However, average revenue per user fell 19 per cent from $30.88 in 2000 to $24.98 in 2001, in large part because competition is lowering prices and because most of the new mobile telephony subscribers belong to low-income segments and are choosing prepaid accounts, Torras said.

Pyramid Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is at +1-617-494-1515 and at