Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Guatemalans don't care much about 5G

 


Guatemala is unfortunately among the poorer countries in Latin America. Its telecom infrastructure has suffered from years of underinvestment from state and provincial governments. The poor state of fixed-line infrastructure has led to Guatemala having one of the lowest teledensities in the region. In many rural regions of the country there is no fixed-line access available, and so mobile services are adopted by necessity. 

Network upgrades, in both the fixed-line and mobile sectors, have largely been undertaken by the private sector. Private investment has been supported by government and regulatory efforts, resulting in a steady growth in the number of fixed lines which in turn has supported growth in the fixed broadband segment. In the mobile sector operator investments in LTE infrastructure have stimulated the take-up of mobile data services. 

Steady GDP growth should provide greater disposable household revenue and so stimulate demand for telecom and ICT services. This could be more marked if the country managed to free itself from its legacy of violence, poverty, and corruption, factors which continue to inhibit prospective investors. 

Guatemala has three main mobile operators Tigo Guatemala, Claro Guatemala and Movistar Guatemala (however Claro and Movistar are set to merge.)

Mobile telephony is the most developed telecom market sector in Guatemala, accounting for most voice lines and internet access lines. The intense competition among the three operators has helped to improve services and lower prices for end-users. Mobile penetration is on a par with the regional average, though the slower growth in the mobile subscriber base suggests a level of market saturation, with the emphasis among operators being on generating revenue via mobile data services.

Tigo is market leader with the best coverage, followed by Claro and Movistar. In 2017 the first MVNO started with tuenti on the Movistar network. In January 2019 Telefonica sold Movistar to America Movil (Claro). It can be expected that both networks will be merged in the future under the Claro brand.

Mobile networks are on different frequency bands according to provider. Tigo is on 850 MHz only, Claro is on 900 and 1900 MHz for 2G/GSM and 1900 MHz for 3G, while Movistar is on 900 MHz for 2G and 3G only with a lower coverage, but higher speeds.

4G/LTE started in 2014/5 on all three networks and is so far limited to Guatemala City and a few other towns. Tigo’s LTE is on 850 MHz (band 5), Claro and Movistar on its 1900 MHz (band 2).

 

Tigo has launched LTE services in 2015 in the capital Guatemala City and the municipalities of Santa Catarina Pinula, Villa Nueva, San Miguel Petapa, Villa Canales, Amatitlan Fraijanes and San Jose Pinula.

          

América Móvil controls about 83% of the fixed lines in service through its subsidiary Claro. Claro is the 2nd operator caring for 30% of the mobile users. Its coverage is only slightly less than Tigo’s and their 900 and 1900 MHz frequency is more accessible for devices from overseas. It only has started recently with 4G/LTE on 1900 MHz in Guatemala City only. In the coming years, the Movistar network will be merged.

Movistar, by Spanish Telefónica, is the close 3rd provider with almost 30% of the national user's share. It has the lowest prices in the country, but also a slightly weaker coverage. It has the most aggressive pricing and offers the best roaming rates for Central America.

Telefónica decided to end its activities in Guatemala and sold the network in January 2019 to rival Claro (America Movil). It can be expected that both networks will be merged under the Claro brand in the future.

In 2014 it switched on its 1900 MHz 4G/LTE network in the capital city, provincial capitals and some tourist sites. By the end of 2015 Guatemala City is mostly covered by LTE.

In 2020, Guatemala was plagued with earthquakes, category 5 hurricanes, deadly volcano eruptions, Covid-19 and political issues. While some publications, vendors and operators may make some noise about 5G, right now Guatemalans are least concerned about the benefits and would greatly benefit from improved 4G/LTE coverage.

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