Mobile communications continued to spread in Latin America this year, with 53.5% of the population, or nearly 328 million people, using mobiles, according to a November 2013 GSMA report. Meanwhile, the number of mobile connections (that is, active SIMs) reached 636 million in June 2013.
Looking forward, GSMA predicted about 10 million new consumers would join the mobile user base in Latin America each year through 2017, when mobile users would total 374.3 million, or 58.7% of the region’s population.
eMarketer estimates the number of mobile phone users—individuals of any age who own at least one mobile phone and use the phone at least once per month—in Latin America will rise by 3.7% in 2014 to reach 430.0 million.
Broken up by countries, GSMA’s data showed that Brazil had a commanding lead in the region, with 238.7 million mobile connections and 112.5 million mobile users—or one-third of the region’s entire mobile market by both measures. As it is often the case, the remaining top three economies in the region, Mexico and Argentina, took second and third in mobile connections, with 97.6 million and 52.9 million, respectively.
It is worth noting that Colombia came close to Argentina in both connections and unique users. According to GSMA’s figures, the South American nation, with an estimated population of over 45 million, had 43.9 million mobile connections and 24.0 million mobile users, making it Latin America’s fourth-largest mobile market.
Just like Mexico, the size of the mobile market in Colombia is at least partially due to a swelling young population and not the result of widespread adoption. In fact, both countries are yet to attain 100% penetration for both mobile connections and users, according to GSMA. But while Mexico ranks second to last in mobile connections penetration (83%) and dead last in mobile user penetration (39%) in Latin America, Colombia denizens are making deeper strides into mobile adoption, with penetration rates for both metrics reaching 95% and 55%, respectively.
eMarketer predicts Brazil (149.0 million), Mexico (71.7 million) and Argentina (35.3 million) will continue to lead the mobile phone user category in Latin America during 2014. Furthermore, the three leading economies will continue to outpace the rest of the region’s mobile markets through the end of the forecast period, increasing their combined share of the Latin American mobile market from 59% in 2014 to just over 60% by 2017.
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