LIVE FROM GSMA MOBILE 360 LATIN AMERICA, MEXICO: The number of people across Latin America using mobile devices to access the internet is set to grow by 50 per cent by the end of the decade, according to a GSMA study.

It forecast 150 million subscribers will be added by 2020, taking the total to 450 million, and “driving economic growth, innovation and digital inclusion”.

The total number of unique mobile subscribers in Latin America is set to reach 524 million over the same time, up from 414 million at the end of 2015, making this the second-fastest growing global region after Sub-Saharan Africa.

Subscriber penetration is forecast to increase to 78 per cent from 65 per cent in 2015 – but the picture varies widely, from 28 per cent in Cuba to more than 90 per cent in markets such as Argentina, Chile and Uruguay.

“Latin America has seen rapid growth in the number of mobile internet subscribers over recent years, helping to build an ‘app economy’ in areas such as mobile commerce and mobile content, and supporting a flourishing local start-up environment,” said Mats Granryd, director general of GSMA.

“This is due in large part to local mobile operators being able to successfully migrate existing subscribers to smartphones and mobile broadband networks, despite dealing with growing competitiveness and regulatory pressures in many regional markets.”

GDP contribution
The use of mobile technologies and services across the Latin America and Caribbean region generated $255 billion in economic value last year, equivalent to 5 per cent of the region’s GDP. This is set to increase to more than $315 billion by 2020, or 5.5 per cent of expected GDP.

The region’s mobile ecosystem also supported around 1.9 million jobs in 2015, and made a $40 billion contribution to the public sector via general taxation.

But the continued growth does not come without challenges.

“To continue this growth, the mobile industry and government must work together to tackle barriers to digital inclusion in areas such as network coverage, affordability, digital skills and the availability of locally-relevant content,” Granryd said.

“Modernising existing regulatory frameworks will be the next challenge in enabling future mobile services growth, fostering industry investment and maximising future digital ecosystem opportunities for Latin American economies,” he continued.