A slow rollout and adoption of LTE in Latin America has prompted 4G market intelligence and advisory firm Maravedis-Rethink to forecast that the region will account for over 50 million 4G subscribers by end of 2017 only. As a result, 3G is to dominate mobile broadband in the years to come, highlights a release from Maravedis-Rethink.

This could offer a cue for the mobile service providers in India.

“With only five small commercial LTE deployments in the region so far, 4G market adoption is rather slow and dominated by LTE,” said Cintia Garza, author of the report. “4G market adoption will continue to be slow in the next two years due to a number of factors, including a slow spectrum allocation process, a rather conservative attitude by dominant mobile carriers towards 4G, a low ARPU and the dominance of prepaid in the region.”

“3G carriers in the region are rather conservative with technology adoption, while Greenfield operators don’t have the sufficient resources to drive the market,” Garza added. Latin American operators are faced with the challenge of monetizing their network investments and making profits in low-ARPU mobile markets while mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and over the top (OTT) players are threatening their revenues.

In this context, multimode devices will be crucial for market adoption. The research reveals that 82% of the total 4G devices activated in Latin America by 2017 will be dual-mode, supporting LTE + Legacy (2G/3G). On the other hand, only 20% of mobile users are postpaid subscribers. “This is a significant factor for mobile broadband uptake as most users have to fund their own devices,” commented Maravedis-Rethink research director Caroline Gabriel.

Other key findings are:

  • América Móvil (38%) and Telefónica (25%)represent two thirds of the regional total mobile subscriber base and will dominate the 4G/LTE market
  • WiMAX operators  have expressed concern that there are too few WiMAX devices to satisfy their needs, and are now establishing migration strategies towards TD-LTE
  • 700 MHz, 2.1 GHz and 2.6 GHz. 2.6 GHz will be the most widely used frequency bands for LTE in the region
  • Capex for 4G in the region is expected to reach an accumulated $13 billion by 2017
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