Although relatively small in size, Bolivia is the fastest growing telecom market in all of Latin America. According to a study by Pyramid Research, this land-locked country in South America generated more than US$1 billion in telecom revenue last year.
Citing growing demand for mobile data, broadband and pay-TV services, the analyst firm predicts that Bolivia’s telecom revenue will reach US$1.5 billion in 2019.
The report comes barely a month after Tigo announced plans to invest US$130 million to expand its telecom infrastructure across the country. By comparison, Bolivia is among the least connected countries in Latin America. At the end of 2014, the broadband penetration rate in the country was still at 2.1%.
“As many telecom sectors in Bolivia are still significantly underdeveloped when compared to other countries in Latin America, there is abundant opportunity for growth within specific areas such as pay-TV,” says Marcelo Kawanami, senior analyst at Pyramid Research.
Largely due to its rugged and hilly terrain, Bolivia has one of the slowest, but most expensive, average Internet connections in the region. Therefore, many people here choose mobile broadband over fixed line connections.
This is reflected in the high penetration rate of mobile subscriptions, which reached 96% of the population at the end of 2014. Reports say the fourth generation networks (4G/LTE) still have to cover a large swathe of the continent. Even in Bolivia, operators have just begun migrating from 2G to 3G technologies to capitalize on the growing demand for mobile data.
In the next five years, says the analyst firm, broadband Internet and pay-TV will be the main drivers behind growth in the Bolivian telecoms market. Although cable will remain the leading technology in the next few years, DTH/ satellite will gain space, mainly driven by the recent launch of Bolivia’s first satellite Tupac Katari.
“With the increasing competition in the pay-TV space in Bolivia, industry players are working on promotional pay-TV packages and bundled offers with discount rates, combining both broadband Internet and pay-TV in order to gain share in both segments,” adds Kawanami.
Tigo also offers 4G services in Bolivia. According to recent reports, its 4G service has been a huge hit with smartphone users. As pay-TV service is still relatively expensive, many people have turned to mobile broadband to watch football matches.