Smartphones now account for six out of ten mobile connections in Latin America, helping to fuel a surge in social media usage and other mobile-based services across the region. According to new data from the GSMA’s ‘Mobile Trends Report’, published at Mobile World Congress Americas this week, there were 690 million mobile connections in Latin America in the current quarter, with smartphones accounting for 60 per cent of these connections. The new report also highlights the region’s accelerating migration to 4G, which now accounts for almost a quarter of connections.
“Smartphones accounted for fewer than one in ten connections as recently as 2012, so we have seen extremely strong growth over the last few years, which has helped migrate Latin American mobile subscribers over to faster 4G networks,” said Sebastian Cabello, Head of Latin America, GSMA. “This growth has been facilitated by a decline in smartphone prices and the increasing availability of handset subsidies and finance offerings by mobile operators. Smartphones have been instrumental in establishing Latin America as one of the world’s largest consumers of social media, with the vast majority of usage occurring over mobile networks.
“Latin America’s mobile ecosystem is also supporting a fast-growing e-commerce environment, and a vibrant tech startup ecosystem based out of major regional hubs such as Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires and Mexico City.”
Top 20 Latin America markets by connections, Q3 2017
|Mobile Connections (millions |
|% smartphone connections||% 4G connections|
|Latin America TOTAL||690||60%||24%|
Source: GSMA Intelligence
4G accounts for approximately a quarter of mobile connections in the region, almost doubling from a year earlier, due to strong 4G adoption in large markets such as Brazil, Mexico and Argentina. In Brazil, 35 per cent of connections are running on 4G networks, one of the highest 4G adoption rates in the Latin America region.
For mobile operators, the increase in 4G adoption and higher mobile data consumption are contributing to an uplift in ARPU levels following several years of decline. GSMA Intelligence calculates that mobile service revenue in Latin America will grow 4 per cent year-on-year in the current quarter.
The region’s strengthening mobile economy is also helping to fuel a vibrant startup ecosystem. Funding of startups through venture capital and private equity in Latin America has surged in recent years. According to CB Insights, total funding across all sectors reached a record $5.5 billion in the first half of 2017.
According to the latest Tecnolatinas report, Latin America’s tech startup ecosystem is valued at $37.7 billion. It notes that there are 123 ‘Tecnolatinas’ valued at over $25 million, including nine unicorns, each valued at more than $1 billion. The majority of startups identified in the report (69 per cent) are less than 10 years old. The report also highlights seven emerging areas that provide major growth opportunities for Tecnolatinas: FinTech; agri and food tech; AI and automation; synthetic biology; renewable energies; virtual and augmented reality; and the Internet of Things.