Central America catch-up: ICE plots regional expansion; Hondutel mobile base dwindles; Nicaraguan 4G on the rise

30 Jan 2018

Grupo ICE, the Costa Rican government-run electricity and telecoms service provider, has revealed regional expansion plans, which will see it take on America Movil (AM) and Telefonica across a number of Central American markets. Jaime Palermo, Director of Telecommunications at Grupo ICE, told La Republica: ‘This company is giving us good results; the goal is expansion.’ The executive named El Salvador and Honduras as key target markets, with talks said to be ongoing regarding a tie-up with stricken Honduran operator Hondutel. Palermo noted: ‘The deal is advanced. We are waiting for the government to call us again when the situation [following] the presidential election is normalised.’ (Note: Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was sworn in for a second term this month, after a controversial election in November 2017.) In El Salvador, meanwhile, ICE intends to enter the market as an ISP and an MVNO. Elsewhere, Guatemala and Panama have been named as desirable markets.

In other regional news, state-backed Honduran provider Hondutel saw its mobile user base dwindle to just 9,939 at 31 December 2017, down from 122,712 at end-2015 and a nominal peak of 163,373 at end-2013. Wireline subscribers dropped to 372,655 at end-2017, while the telco’s broadband user base edged up to 23,359.

In Nicaragua, the number of 4G LTE connections reportedly reached 170,000 in 2017, up from 105,000 in 2016 and 55,000 in 2015. Hjalmar Ayestas, president of the Nicaraguan Chamber of Internet and Telecommunications (Camara Nicaraguense de Internet y Telecomunicaciones, Canitel), revealed the figures to El Nuevo Diario. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Claro launched LTE in October 2015, while Movistar switched on its network the following month.

Finally, plans to reduce the Panamanian mobile sector from four operators to three remain under discussion, according to a press release on the Asamblea Nacional (National Assembly) website. Representatives of Cable & Wireless, Movistar, Claro and Digicel met last week to discuss – and propose modifications to – Law No. 479. The government seeks to make better use of its spectrum resources by reducing the number of players in the market.

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