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Mobile Connection Uptake Plateaus in Chile

Mobile connection penetration stabilizes at about 130%

Perhaps one of the most developed nations in Latin America, Chile reached a $15,542 GDP per capita in 2012, while also reducing the portion of the population living in poverty from 15.1% in 2009 to 14.4% in 2011, according to World Bank records. In fact, Chile and Uruguay are the only nations in continental Latin America (Caribbean aside) catalogued as “high income” by the global organization. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico have each reached upper-middle-income levels only.

So it comes as no surprise that consumers in Chile—a country of 17.4 million, according to the CIA World Factbook—embraced mobile technology en masse and faster than most markets in the region. Mobile connection uptake in Chile was so fast that the number of subscriptions surpassed that of inhabitants by 2010, according to Subsecretaría de Telecomunicaciones (SUBTEL), the nation’s telecom regulator.

But after years of dwindling growth rates, the expansion has finally stalled. SUBTEL reported that the number of mobile connections dropped 1.2% in 2013. This brought the total to 23.7 million, down from 23.9 million the previous year. As growth rates have fallen since 2011, mobile connection penetration among the population has hovered around 130% for the past three years.

Meanwhile, mobile internet uptake continues to expand. The number of mobile internet subscriptions—including 2G and 3G technologies—reached 9.8 million, or 55.5% of the population, in 2013, according to SUBTEL. However, growth fell to single digits last year (9.1%), after increases of 51.4% in 2011 and 12.8% in 2012.

Such an abrupt slowdown is likely the result of saturation among the higher rungs of the income ladder in the country. In fact, a closer look at mobile broadband adoption (that is, 3G connections), shows that most of the improvement in mobile internet uptake is coming from consumers switching from older mobile connections to faster 3G devices.

According to SUBTEL, 3G connections surged at triple the pace of overall mobile internet connections, reaching 6.4 million in 2013, up from around 5 million a year earlier.

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