Chile ended 2019 with 25 million mobile lines (down 0.5% from 12 months before), 3.43 million fixed broadband accesses (up 5.5%), 3.26 million paid TV subscriptions (-2.1%) and 2.7 million landlines (-8.2%), according to figures from regulator Subtel
examines how the main providers are faring and their latest investment plans.
In May, mobile market leader Entel
activated the first 4G base station in the remote coastal locality of Caleta Tortel after connecting the country’s Fibra Óptica Austral (FOA)
, a fiber system in the far south to serve the 300,000 Chileans in Patagonia.
With this move, hundreds of people in the Aysén region can now access mobile broadband services for the first time thanks to the public-private initiative between the operator and Subtel.
The 4,000km network of submarine and terrestrial fiber connect Puerto Montt and Puerto Williams, south of Tierra del Fuego, with stretches and landings reaching other localities along the way.
Entel said in May it now plans to invest
371 billion pesos (US$472 million) in 2020, some 10% less than in 2019, partly due to the economic fallout sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Of the total, 71% will go to domestic operations and 29% to Peru, where the company plans to continue expanding its Entel Perú business.
Some 100 billion pesos are destined for mobile networks, 67bn pesos for fiber networks and 50bn pesos for B2B services. According to the latest statistics from Subtel, Entel accounted for roughly a third of all mobile lines in December 2019.
In April, the Chilean government awarded UK-based Novator’s WOM a contract that includes an 86 billion-peso subsidy to build the 10,000km fiber backbone known as Fibra Óptica Nacional (FON
The agreement is for the construction, by December 2022, of five of the six stretches that comprise FON. WOM’s part involves over 7,000km of cables.
WOM is also planning to launch a fixed line service in Chile in the near future, starting with fiber broadband services in Santiago, after getting the permit from Subtel.
The company reported revenues of 142 billion pesos in Q1, up 18% year-on-year, and a subscriber base of 6.4mn, 20% more than in a year earlier.
Since it launched five years ago, WOM has led number portability rankings for 53 consecutive months, which gave it 21.4% of the mobile market by Q1, according to the company.
According to Subtel, WOM had 19% of the mobile market at the end of 2019. Despite the pandemic, WOM said it is sticking to its investment plans, focusing mainly on the deployment of its 4G network throughout the country. The company said it reached 4,549 active sites (cellular antennas) at the end Q1.
“The good results we have had are a reflection that our commercial and financial operation is healthy and profitable, and therefore, we reiterate our intention to continue investing in the country, particularly through the participation in the next spectrum auction, which will enable the 4G network to be strengthened and 5G technology to be developed,” CEO Christopher Laska told local papers.
According to Subtel, VTR led the fixed broadband market with 38.4% of all 3.43mn customers at end-2019, up 4.6% from December 2018 – the fastest growth rate among the larger players.
Movistar came next with 27.6% of all 2019 accesses, but in constant decline at least since October 2014, while América Móvil’s Claro had 13.1%.
In pay TV, VTR led with 33.6% of the 3.25 million customers, followed by DIRECTV (21%).
The company received a lot of criticism from customers due to the oscillation of networks and a drop in service quality in the first weeks of the pandemic, as well as difficulties in contacting the call center.
Subtel reportedly received 5,732 complaints about VTR between March and mid-May, of which 95% were related to telephone and fixed internet services, and television.
The company admitted the problems, saying traffic soared 40% in March alone and call center agents needed to work from home, but also attributed part of the disruptions to an increase in vandalism since last October amid the country’s social unrest.
Because of this, VTR decided to accelerate its investment plans for the year and spend most of the amount in April and May, focusing mainly on increasing the network’s capacity.
In the first quarter, Liberty Latin America’s quarterly revenue
fell 1.2% to US$931 million, with VTR/Cabletica contributing to US$240mn (-13.2%). Ninety percent of VTR/Cabletica’s revenues came from the fixed business, 7% from mobile and 3% from B2B.
, Telefónica led Chile’s fixed telephony market with 39% of all lines in service at end-2019, followed by VTR with 20% and EntelPhone (17.2%).
The Spanish group is studying ways to divest its HispAm operations
, which includes the Chilean business. In the meantime, though, it’s business as usual. The group’s HispAm investment strategy focuses on the growth of the highly profitable mobile postpaid market and fiber accesses.
The company recently signed content agreements with OTT providers to transform its fiber IPTV platform into an entertainment hub. Overall, Telefónica HispAm’s January-March capex (which excludes spectrum and Telefónica Infra) totaled 325 million euros (US $365M), up 9.5% as reported and 19.7% organically year-over-year.
Reports say Telefónica
hired Banco Santander
to help sell 50% of Chilean fiber optic subsidiary Infraco
. Telefónica leads the local fiber broadband market, accounting for 611,000 of the roughly 1 million active fiber accesses by end-December, up 17% on a year before.
According to Telefónica, the growth was bolstered by a 33% increase in homes-passed, mainly in capital Santiago. Most of the 310 million euros invested in Chile last year by Telefónica went to FTTH deployment, but it missed the self-imposed target of nearing 900,000 homes-passed.
Likely due to the imposed stay-at-home measures, with clients needing more reliable fixed networks and mobile data, Claro
’s sales of postpaid plans jumped 50% in April over the month before, according to press reports.
Concurrently, number portability from other companies to Claro nearly doubled in April compared to March, while the sale of accessories increased almost 10 times, the reports said.
Overall, Claro has half a million fixed internet subs in Chile and 23% of the local pay TV market, which is by far the most disputed telecom segment in the nation.
However, Claro’s Mexican parent América Móvil
admitted it could reduce its previously announced US$8.5B global capex for 2020 (which was flat compared to 2019) due to the COVID-19 crisis.