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The continued decline of mobile service costs and the rise in smartphone adoption will help moderately increase mobile internet usage in Mexico this year, though the country’s mobile phone uptake in general remains low compared with many of its neighbors in Latin America, as explored in a new eMarketer report, “Mobile Mexico 2016: Updated Forecasts and Key Growth Trends” (eMarketer PRO customers only).
América Móvil’s Telcel still controls more than half of Mexico’s mobile market in terms of mobile connections (68.4% of the total as of Q4 2015) and revenue (72.4%), according to The Competitive Intelligence Unit (CIU). However, telecom reforms enacted in 2013 have brought increased competition and lowered prices for consumers.
Perhaps the most important factor that influenced steep price reductions last year was the abolition of domestic and international long-distance and roaming charges in December 2014. The Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía (INEGI) found that although annual inflation in Mexico stood at 2.6% in March 2016, prices for telecommunication services were down 11.3% from the previous 12 months.
Lower prices, however, are not enough to bring mobile phone and internet penetration in Mexico up to those in Argentina, Chile and Colombia. Overall mobile adoption in Mexico remains low, a hangover of the high prices that prevailed during América Móvil’s decades-long near monopoly on mobile service.
In 2016, Mexico’s mobile connection base will reach 110.4 million, or 90.3% of the population, eMarketer estimates. Mexico will remain the only major economy in Latin America with a mobile connection penetration totaling less than 100% of the population.
Mobile connections in the eMarketer definition include mobile phones as well as nonvoice devices such as tablets, wireless modem cards, netbooks, ereaders and telematics systems.
Most of Mexico’s mobile connections are linked to prepaid contracts. Such contracts had an 83.6% share in 2015, down slightly from 85.4% in 2011, according to the CIU.
A more telling measure of a mobile market is the base of individuals who use a mobile phone. Mexico will rank fourth in this metric among markets in Latin America in 2016, with 69.0% of its population using the device at least monthly. Chile, Argentina and Colombia will lead the way with penetration rates of 73.9%, 71.4% and 70.0%, respectively.
A December 2015 survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau México (IAB México) and Millward Brown found that, for the first time, smartphones were the most commonly used devices to connect to the web in the country. Fully 68% of internet users ages 13 to 70 said they used their smartphone to go online, up from 62% in 2014. Laptops were second with 58%, down from 70% during the same timeframe.
The same survey found that smartphone ownership among internet users reached 74% in 2015, up 6 percentage points from a year earlier. Laptop ownership (67%) slipped 9 percentage points and desktop ownership (42%) dropped by 11 percentage points.
eMarketer estimates the number of mobile phone internet users in Mexico will reach 60.3 million this year, up 12.9% from 2015, while internet users will total 70.7 million, up 8.6%. However, fixed broadband subscription increased just 1.5% last year, according to the Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT) – Mexico.
eMarketer PRO customers can view the full report here.
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