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Latin America: iPhone Fever

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3G and handsets like the iPhone are helping boost Latin America's wireless market, already the fastest-growing worldwide.

BY CHRONICLE STAFF

After the smashing debut in Mexico last month, the rest of Latin America is preparing for iPhone fever this week. Both Mexico-based America Movil and Spain-based Telefonica - Latin America's two largest pan-regional wireless operators - are planning to launch the Apple phone this week – on the very same day, in fact.

On Friday, August 22, America Movil will launch the popular phone in 10 markets, while Telefonica will launch in eight markets. That means the two operators will go head to head in eight markets, including Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Uruguay.  America Movil will also launch in markets like Honduras and Paraguay, where it won’t face direct competition from its Spanish rival.

HIGHEST PENETRATION

Argentina, Uruguay and El Salvador have Latin America’s highest wireless penetration rates, so products like the iPhone will help operators get new business from existing clients.

However, despite the buzz around the iPhone specifically and 3G services in general, it will only be with a massive distribution of affordable third-generation phones that the 3G market will start taking off in Latin America, experts say. And that may not happen until 2010.

“As from 2010…a possible reduction in the cost of handsets will provide the value added services (VAS) offering with a new dynamic in the region’s most developed markets: Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela,” argues Argentina-based Signals Telecom Consulting.

As a result, 3G service revenues should reach more than $5 billion in 2010 and jump to $36 billion in 2013, Signals forecasts. That compares with less than a $1 billion today.

FROM MESSAGING TO 3G

Meanwhile, also basic technology such as text messaging will grow strongly and help operators with their bottom line. Latin American revenues from messaging will reach...



Keywords: America Movil, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Claro, Mexico, Nextel, Oi, Peru, Pyramid Research, Strategy Analytics, Telcel

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