Relatively densely populated, El Salvador is the smallest country in Central America. Economic prosperity has been stymied by income inequality, poor infrastructure and inadequate social capital.
Despite these difficulties, the telecom sector has been one of the more successful in the economy. This is particularly true of the mobile telephony and data sectors, which are emerging as the country's preferred telecom services given the poor state of fixed-line infrastructure in many areas. The use of text messaging and multimedia has gained traction as an alternative for voice services, and there is a clear trend towards services supported by 3G networks as these are expanded by network operators.
El Salvador's fixed-line teledensity is substantially lower than the Latin American and Caribbean average. However, there has been a significant drop in the number of fixed lines since 2010, largely due to the substitution for mobile-only alternatives.
Mobile penetration is remarkably high considering El Salvador's economic indicators, being about 35% higher than average for Latin America and the Caribbean. Of the estimated total number of telephones in the country, 11% are fixed and 91% are mobile.
El Salvador's telecom legislation is one of the more liberal in Latin America, encouraging competition in most aspects of the telecoms sector and permitting foreign investment in all areas. However, there are no regulations as yet which promote wholesale broadband, and thus the ADSL market remains a virtual monopoly for Claro. The only effective cross-platform competition in the broadband market comes from the few cable operators.
Although many companies launched services when the telecom sector was liberalised, the market has been undergoing a gradual process of consolidation, leaving a few dominant multinational operators (notably Millicom's Tigo, América Móvil's Claro, and Telefónica's Movistar), which have managed to expand into almost all sectors through a process of convergence.
The mobile market is served by five operators: Tigo, Movistar, Claro, Digicel, and Intelfon.
The fastest growing sectors in coming years will continue to be pay TV and broadband (both fixed and mobile). The outlook is especially promising for mobile broadband, which could help to bolster the slipping mobile ARPU figures in the medium term. The longer-term prospect is also promising, particularly in the mobile sector where competition between Claro, Tigo, and Telefónica will oblige the operators to diversify services and reduce prices.
El Salvador key telecom penetration by sector 2013
Category | Penetration
Fixed-line | 17.9%
Internet | 18.9%
Broadband | 3.9%
Mobile | 142.8%
The main altnet Tigo has expanded from its original mobile telephony business, incorporating cable TV and other IP services through its acquisition of Amnet. In 2012 Amnet purchased Telefónica Multiservicios's fixed telephony and internet clients.
Movistar's services, including fixed-line and fixed-wireless services, mobile services, cable broadband, and cable TV, have been unified under a single brand name.
The regulator has confirmed plans to complete ASO by 2018.
The auction for spectrum in the 1700MHz and 2100MHz bands was suspended indefinitely at the end of 2013 over concerns that the tender process disadvantaged new entrants, and so would not result in greater market competition.
In early 2014 the Central Reserve Bank finalised a regulatory framework for mobile financial services, enabling a range of m-payment services via subsidiary companies set up by MNOs. It later proposed a cap on the value of mobile transactions.
Tigo has launched its satellite TV service in El Salvador, following a similar launch in Bolivia, and has rebranded its cable, broadband and pay-TV services as Tigo Star'.
Effective from November 2014 the regulator has reduced fixed-line and mobile interconnection rates, as well as the maximum charge which telcos can make for landline and mobile calls.
Data in this report is the latest available at the time of preparation and may not be for the current year.
This report provides a comprehensive overview of trends and developments in El Salvador's telecommunications market. With its long-established liberalisation, El Salvador is an attractive market for telecom investors. The report analyses the mobile, internet, broadband, digital TV and converging media sectors. Subjects include:
Market and industry analyses, trends and developments;
Facts, figures and statistics;
Industry and regulatory issues;
Major players, revenues, subscribers, ARPU;
Mobile voice and data markets;
Broadband (FttH, DSL, cable TV, wireless);
Convergence and Digital Media.
Regulator's market data updates; multi-spectrum auction faces indefinite delays; telcos' financial and operating data to end-2013; market developments to mid-2014.
Companies covered in this report include:
América Móvil (Claro), Millicent International (Tigo), Telefónica (Movistar), Red, GCA Telecom, Salnet, Amnet, Sky TV.
2. Key statistics
3. Telecommunications market
3.1 Country overview
3.2 Overview of El Salvador's telecom market
3.3 Market analysis
4. Regulatory environment
4.2 Regulatory authority
4.2.1 Superintendencia General de Electricidad y Telecomunicaciones (Siget)
4.3 Telecom sector liberalisation in El Salvador
4.4 Privatisation of Antel
4.6 Regulated call rates
5. Fixed network operators in El Salvador
5.1 Overview of operators
5.2 Claro/CTE Telecom (América Móvil)
6. Telecommunications infrastructure
6.1 National telecom network
6.1.1 Fixed-line statistics
6.1.2 Public payphones
6.2 International infrastructure
6.2.1 Interconnection with other Central American countries
6.2.2 Submarine cable networks
6.2.3 Satellite networks
6.3 Infrastructure developments
6.3.1 Wireless Local Loop (WLL)
6.3.2 IP and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
8.1.1 Broadband statistics
8.2 Digital media
8.2.1 Overview of media convergence
9.1 Pay TV overview
9.2 Cable TV
9.2.1 Tigo (Millicom)
9.3 Satellite-based digital pay TV developments
9.4 Digital terrestrial TV
10. Mobile communications
10.1 Overview of El Salvador's mobile market
10.1.1 Mobile statistics
10.1.2 Mobile Number Portability (MNP)
10.1.3 Mobile Termination Rates (MTRs)
10.2 Mobile technologies
10.2.2 Third generation (3G) mobile
10.2.3 Spectrum auction delays
10.3 Major mobile operators
10.3.1 Tigo (Millicom)
10.3.2 Claro (América Móvil)
10.3.3 Movistar (Telefónica Móviles)
10.3.5 RED (Intelfon)
10.4 Mobile broadband
10.5 Mobile satellite
10.6 Mobile services
11. Related reports
Table 1 Country statistics El Salvador 2014 (e)
Table 2 Telephone network statistics 2013 (e)
Table 3 Internet user statistics 2014 (e)
Table 4 Broadband statistics 2014 (e)
Table 5 Mobile statistics 2014 (e)
Table 6 National telecommunications authority
Table 7 Evolution of GDP in El Salvador 2000 - 2014
Table 8 Telecommunications service revenue and capital investment 2000 - 2013
Table 9 Claro fixed lines in service 2003 - 2009
Table 10 Historical - Fixed lines in service and teledensity 1997 - 2004
Table 11 Fixed lines in service and teledensity 2005 - 2014
Table 12 Public payphones (with prepaid cards) 1999 2013
Table 13 Historic - Internet users and penetration rate 1996 - 2004
Table 14 Internet users and penetration rate 2005- 2014
Table 15 Broadband subscribers and penetration rates 2002 2015
Table 16 Fixed-line broadband subscribers and penetration rates 2002 2014
Table 17 ADSL subscribers 2003 - 2014
Table 18 Historic - Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 1997 - 2004
Table 19 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2005 - 2014
Table 20 Mobile operators' market share 2003 - 2012
Table 21 Prepaid/postpaid ratio 2002 - 2014
Table 22 Prepaid/postpaid subscribers 2008 - 2012
Table 23 Tigo mobile subscribers 1997 2014
Table 24 Historic - Claro mobile subscribers 2002 - 2008
Table 25 Historic - Movistar mobile subscribers 2000 - 2008
Table 26 Historic - Digicel mobile subscribers 2003 - 2008
Table 27 Historic - RED mobile subscribers 2005 - 2008
Table 28 Active mobile broadband subscribers 2009 - 2014
Chart 1 Fixed lines in service and teledensity 2005 2014
Chart 2 Internet users and penetration rate 2005- 2014
Chart 3 Broadband subscribers and penetration rates 2002 2015
Chart 4 Mobile subscribers and penetration rate 2005 2014
Chart 5 Tigo mobile subscribers 2002 2014
Exhibit 1 Americatel historical
Exhibit 2 Saltel historical
Exhibit 3 Claro/CTE Telecom company history
Exhibit 4 Amnet
Exhibit 5 Tigo/Telemóvil company history