Caribbean & Latin America - CDMA Enters its "Sunset" Phase
Published on: 6th Apr 2009
Note -- this news article is more than a year old.
The technology story in the Caribbean & Latin America (CALA) region is simple most US based technologies are in full retreat, while the international GSM W CDMA standards are proliferating. During the quarter, the number of customers connected to AMPS, TDMA and CDMA systems declined by 4.4m overall, bringing the number of disconnections so far this year to 19.9m, or 5.2% of the starting base.
TDMA has been hardest hit, proportionately, as the number of customers using the technology collapsed, from over 10m to not much more than 2.5m - an overall decline of 73%. The AMPS technology that was originally deployed in most of these markets has been in decline for years and we estimate that over the course of this year, more than half of the remaining users disconnected, leaving a rump of not much more than 60k, mainly in rural and remote areas of the continent.
CDMA networks experienced the largest drop in absolute terms. It is only two years since Vivo began selling GSM handsets in Brazil, but over that time, the number of CDMA connections has dropped from 64.9m (of which 26.0m were in Brazil) to 41.7m. The disconnection rate appears to be accelerating slightly, the quarterly average increasing from 2.7m per quarter during 2007 to 3.1m per quarter in 08. Brazil, obviously, is not the only market where the technology is in retreat, with similar - or steeper - declines being seen in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Only Venezuela has seen an increase in users over the year but following CANTV's decision to move to GSM, that is unlikely to be repeated in 09.
GSM has, predictably, been the main beneficiary. The range of low priced handsets available for this technology gives it a material advantage and over the year, it added a further 87m users, which took the regional total GSM base past 400m. GSM, of course, faces a growing "challenge" from its own 3G variant, W-CDMA. This first became available in Q2 07 although the overall base has reached just 5.3m (of which 4.9m were added in 2008).
Finally, the specialist technology iDEN, continues to operate successfully in its specialist niche. A total of 4.4m mobile customers now use the trunking- based service, up from 3.5m at the end of 2007.