Mobile Operators and Towercos Operate over 161 Thousand Wireless Towers In Latin America

Date: 2015-11-22

Wireless tower infrastructure in Latin America plays a particularly crucial role in enabling broadband Internet access as fixed infrastructure has traditionally been relatively weak and underdeveloped across the region. The wireless tower industry is represented by mobile operators and tower companies as owners of tower assets. In Latin America, mobile operators and towercos operate over 161 thousand wireless towers. With over 50,000 wireless towers deployed, Brazil accounts for close to 31% of Latin America’s total wireless towers. Mobile operators continue to almost exclusively build and manage their own tower infrastructure across most markets in the region, with the exception of Brazil and Mexico.

– The majority of demand for new wireless towers in the region will be driven by mobile operators’ need to augment the capacity of their mobile networks to cope with the sustained growth of mobile data. A growing LTE subscriber base and the explosion of video traffic driven primarily by LTE-capable smartphones is already putting substantial pressure on regional mobile operators’ access network (RAN), creating the pressing need for adding wireless tower sites.

– Increased 4G spectrum licensing activity in the region since 2012 is also driving the demand for mobile infrastructure as licensees seek to comply with ambitious coverage guidelines. Given the poor propagation quality of the majority of the 4G spectrum allocated in Latin America, operators will be required to deploy a greater number of cell sites to provide the coverage, driving demand for wireless towers.

– Though LTE will be the primary technology for investment, most mobile operators in Latin America will continue devoting sizeable resources to extend the reach of their 3G networks to support 2G to 3G migration efforts. 

– Municipal-level permitting stands as the biggest challenge for the deployment of new wireless tower infrastructure. In recent years governments in Brazil, Colombia and Peru have approved and sanctioned new regulations that seek to standardize and simplify wireless infrastructure permitting procedures, and eliminate bureaucratic obstacles for the timely deployment of wireless infrastructure, including wireless towers.
 
– More recently, mobile operators have increasingly turned to small cells for extending coverage and providing additional capacity. In Latin America, mobile operators such as Avantel in Colombia and TIM in Brazil have announced multi-year small cells roll out plans.

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