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Despite the Hype, Mobile Internet Traffic Still Lags in Latin America

PC internet traffic still represents more than 92% in Argentina and Brazil

Latin America’s mobile boom is all the hype these days—and with good reason. Double-digit annual smartphone growth rates are commonplace and, with an additional 43.6% increase this year, eMarketer estimates there will be 111.6 million smartphone users in the region. The bold expansion will continue with a 28% improvement in 2014 to reach 142.9 million.

However, PCs still dominate internet traffic in Latin America. In September 2013 research by comScore, Argentina and Brazil were the least mobile internet markets measured in the region, each with 92.1% of traffic coming through PCs. And while Mexico appeared to have made strides deeper into mobile internet usage, the 15.1% share of internet traffic held by noncomputer devices (that is, mobile phones, tablets and other internet-enabled mobile devices) was still far from the 32.3% the UK registered in January 2013.

The good news? Less than a year earlier in March 2012, UK internet traffic distribution looked much like that of leading Latin American markets today. According to comScore records, noncomputer devices drove 10.2% of internet traffic in the UK that month, compared with 89.7% from PCs.

With device prices dropping to levels well within the reach of consumers in the lower rungs of the income ladder in Latin America, fast smartphone uptake will likely continue in 2014. Movistar, for example, recently added Firefox OS-based devices to its lineup in myriad countries across the region. Such devices can go for as little as MXN799 (around $60.71) in Mexico, according to Alejandro Zunzunegui, marketing deputy director at Movistar México.

eMarketer estimates Mexico will lead Latin America in smartphone penetration among mobile phone users (45.0%) in 2014, followed by Argentina (35.0%) and Brazil (26.8%). But in absolute terms, Brazil will take the top spot, with 39.9 million smartphones next year, followed by Mexico (32.2 million) and Argentina (12.3 million) in a distant third place.

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