5G for LatAm: Nokia knows why, but perhaps not who

A new report from Nokia predicts huge economic add over time from 5G adoption in LatAm. But will Huawei, ZTE et al reap the rewards more than Nokia?

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A new report from Nokia makes a convincing case for rapid adoption of 5G mobile technology in Latin America. Nonetheless it seems likely that much new Latin infrastructure will be supplied by companies like Huawei rather than companies like Nokia.

The new report is titled Why 5G in Latin America? It was produced by Nokia with analyst house Omdia, and published at the end of August. It makes several key points about the suitability of 5G for Latin America in particular.

The first of these is that mobile broadband is already in very widespread use among Latins. In Mexico and Peru more than 80 per cent of mobile subscribers use mobile broadband; in Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Colombia the figures are above 60 per cent. And yet, 4G is not nearly so common. In other words, large numbers of Latin users are getting their mobile data service via 3G technology: some, via 2G. For them, 5G would offer an enormous improvement, much greater than that experienced by a typical North American or European 4G user switching to 5G.

Then there’s the fact that fixed broadband connections are still not that common in Latin American homes, with household penetration still below 50 per cent across the region. When there is a connection, it tends not to be very good. Fixed broadband speeds in LatAm average 33.6 Mbps, well below the global average of 46.4 and far below top-ten nations such as Singapore, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region and the USA, where fixed speeds average well above 100 Mbps. Many Latin respondents to an Omdia survey said they didn’t use fixed home broadband because it was unavailable, slow or unreliable.

5G could be used to bring household broadband to the huge numbers of Latin homes which don’t yet have it: it would also vastly improve the mobile services used by hundreds of millions of 3G subscribers across the region. In other words, 5G is much more exciting to Latin users than it is to users in developed nations who tend to have good home connections and who are probably already using 4G for mobile.

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