Together, America Movil and Telefonica continue to dominate the Latin American market. The Mexican company owns four of the largest operators in the region, while Telefonica accounts for another three. Telecom Italia is the only other company that has an investment in more than one business, with majority control of TIM Brasil and a stake in Argentina's Telecom Personal. Since we last reviewed the region, there has been little change in the overall order of the top ten operators and none in the top five.
America Movil's first top ten company is Telcel, in Mexico. This has been the largest operator in the region for several years and, for the moment at least, that isn't likely to change. It has a total of 43m customers, which makes it nearly half as large again as the second largest operator, Vivo in Brazil. However, although Telcel tops this list, there are signs that its growth rate is slowing, as it comes under increasing competitive pressure from Telefonica Mexico, the only new company on this list.
Second placed Vivo is Telefonica's first representative on this list. It had a total of 29.0m customers at the end of December, down from its peak of over 30m seen last March, but up on both the second and third quarter numbers. Vivo's loss of market share has been well documented in these pages, but there could be signs that this period of decline is coming to an end. The business only began selling GSM handsets in Sao Paolo in December and has already connected over 300,000 subscribers to its network. At last, it will have an opportunity to compete with its close rivals - TIM and Telecom Americas - on a level playing field, as, through national roaming arrangements it will be able to offer full national coverage for the first time.
TIM Brasil has been one of the region's great success stories and at least part of the cause of Vivo's problems. The business is, in fact, a combination of two of the original A block operators, a B block business which was awarded licences in two regions when competition was first introduced into the market and a PCS company, which launched after it had successfully acquired licences in all of the remaining areas of the country. It is, to date, the only company with full national coverage. This is the region's third largest operator, with some 25.4m customers.
The fourth company is also Brazilian and is another America Movil subsidiary. This is Telecom Americas, a company which, like TIM, was put together from both B block operators and PCS award winners. Telecom Americas is present in nine of the country's ten regions. It ended the year with 23.9m customers. Fifth place is also taken by America Movil, through its Comcel subsidiary in Colombia. This has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past two years, but again, there are signs that the momentum is diminishing and that future growth will be harder to come by. Comcel closed the year with 19.5m customers.
The last Brazilian company in the top ten is TNL PCS, the company that trades as "Oi". This only operates in five of the country's ten regions so it is to its credit that it has managed to accumulate more than 13m customers. With the same spread of interests as the other three Brazilian companies, it could be rather higher up this list. There is talk of a further round of spectrum licensing, which might provide the company with an opportunity to expand, but equally, the business is part of the Telemar wireline operator and it may be that the requirements of the other side of the business preclude a more expansive strategy.
All three Argentinean operators feature in the top ten, in seventh, eighth and tenth places. The largest of the three is Telefonica Argentina, which closed the period with 11.2m customers. Its lead over CTI (the America Movil subsidiary) continues to diminish, however, and once again it lost market share in the quarter. CTI, for its part, added a further million customers in the last three months of the year to become only the eighth company in the region with more than 10m customers. Telecom Argentina, the TI associate, is tenth in this quarter's ranking, with 8.4m, though it too has been losing market share to CTI.
Ninth placed Telefonica Moviles Mexico is the only newcomer on this list. It too added over one million customers in the final quarter to take its total to just over 8m. TM Mexico is slowly taking market share from Telcel, but it is indeed a slow process, given the size of Telcel's base, which is over five times the size of its closest rival's. As luck would have it, the company that TM Mexico has replaced on the list is also a Telefonica business, Telefonica Colombia. In Issue 50 of the Briefing we commented upon the slower progress that this business had made in the September quarter and this has also been a feature of the fourth. Telefonica's Colombian subsidiary has, in fact, dropped down to twelfth, having also been overtaken by Telcel Venezuela, which is also owned by Telefonica.
Five other companies from the region now have more than 5m customers. CANTV, the largest telephone operator in Venezuela, is the largest of these, with just over 7.5m customers. It is some way clear of the remaining four, none of which has yet reached the six million mark. Telefonica owns two - in Chile and Peru - and America Movil one, Conecel in Ecuador. The last company is Entel Chile, which is still independently owned. These last four ended the year with 5.7m, 5.1m, 5.7m and 5.0m customers respectively.
This article was extracted from The Mobile World Briefing, the weekly newsletter from The Mobile World. To download a sample issue of the Briefing in PDF format, please click here. For more information including full subscription pricing, please visit The Mobile World"
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