Thursday 11 March 2021

5G will reach parity with 2G in 2025 but 4G will dominate Argentina


Argentina has one of the most dynamic mobile markets in Latin America, being the third largest in the region after Brazil and Mexico. Mobile penetration has fallen in recent years in line with a reduction in the number of subscribers following a long period of steady growth. This is partly due to pricing competition among operators which has reduced the incentive for multiple-SIM card ownership. The regulator has encouraged the market entry of additional MVNOs to increase competition, though collectively the MVNOs only have a very small share of the market. Market changes are anticipated into 2021 as Telefónica Group moves its Latin American businesses (with the exception of Brazil) into a single unit.

Operators have trialled 5G though given the continued capacity of LTE infrastructure it is unlikely that commercial 5G services will be available before 2021.

Argentina has 3 national operators: Claro (by América Móvil), Movistar (by Telefónica Spain) and Personal (by Telecom Argentina). They three all have about the same market share. For being former state-owned company, Personal tends to have a better coverage in rural area but has very llimited prepaid plans compared to Movistar and Claro. In Buenos Aires area, Movistar has best coverage in Subte (subway) networks even in between stations (as of Jan. 2021). Although reliable free WiFi is available inside of each subway station,

2G and 3G is on 850 and 1900 MHz, so users from Europe and Asia need a "US-band" device. 4G/LTE is on AWS (1700/2100) MHz and B28 (700 APT).

According the the most recent Open Signal report  Personal’s lead over second-placed Claro for 4G Availability has risen to 7.6 percentage points, up from the 5.1 percentage points seen in the previous report. However, both Claro and Movistar have edged closer to the 85% mark, with their scores rising by around 1.5 percentage points. However, Personal’s impressive lead over Claro for speed has moderated since the last report, declining from 6.1 Mbps to 5.3 Mbps for Download Speed Experience and from 0.9 Mbps to 0.6 Mbps for Upload Speed Experience. — Claro has consistently placed second for both metrics.

Not everything went Personal’s way, given that Claro won the remaining two awards — Games Experience and Voice App Experience — and the fact that its users enjoyed an experience that was one category higher than that seen by other operators’ users — Fair instead of Poor for Games Experience and Acceptable instead of Poor for Voice App Experience. Claro was also only one point away from a Good rating for Voice App Experience and placed in the same category for Video Experience — Very Good — as Personal. Placing in the Very Good category indicates that users experienced generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling but the experience might have been somewhat inconsistent across users and/or video providers/resolutions.

While Movistar came third in five of the seven measures of the mobile experience, it succeeded in beating Personal to second-place for Games Experience and Voice App Experience. It is not Personal that has to watch out for Movistar — the latter was only 0.8 percentage points behind Claro on 4G Availability and 1.1 Mbps behind it on Download Speed Experience.

Claro (formerly called CTI Movil) owned by Mexican América Móvil is still market leader by a small margin amd has good coverage. For 4G/LTE mainly band 4 on 1700 MHz is used.

Movistar is owned by Spanish Telefónica and still the No.2 in the country what customers are concerned. It has the widest 4G/LTE coverage in the country covering 68% of population in 2016 on bands 4 and 28. 4G service is available in more than 380 locations, including all 23 provincial capitals and the national capital.

Although being only no.3 in the country OpenSignal gives Personal the best nationwide performance. Note that their customer service is not available in English. About 90% of the Buenos Aires metro system (called Subte) is covered by Personal's 4G/LTE. At the end of 2017 it had 71% coverage of population in over 1000 towns and cities.

Telecom Argentina which owns Personal has announced that its mobile unit Personal has activated the first 5G network in Argentina, launching a total of ten mobile antennas in the cities of Buenos Aires and Rosario. The five mobile sites in Buenos Aires were deployed by Huawei, while the Rosario infrastructure utilises Nokia technology. The network re-farms existing 4G frequencies, via a Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) configuration. The 5G cell sites can be accessed by any Personal subscribers with compatible handsets.

Argentina’s National Communications Agency (Ente Nacional de Comunicaciones, ENACOM) has confirmed that it will stage a week-long 5G trial at its headquarters in Buenos Aires this month. The tests will run from 15 March to 19 March and explore how fifth-generation technology will benefit the country’s industrial, educational and entertainment sectors. While the spectrum intended for use has not been divulged, TeleGeography notes that the watchdog has previously sanctioned both Movistar and Personal to utilise 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) frequencies for 5G trials.

According to GSMA Intelligence Mobile Economy Latin America 2020 Report, smartphone adoption in Argentina will continue to increase along with the subscriber penetration but most of the growth will be in 4G subscriptions. 5G will reach a parity with 2G/GSM while 3G will continue to be used as well. 

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