This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data
Last Published: 11/1/2018
Chile has the most modern and mature telecommunications infrastructure in Latin America. Since its privatization in 1980, the telecom sector has experienced continual growth.  Nonetheless, industry sources indicate the investment in telecom infrastructure needs to be doubled to overcome the existing digital gap. Chile imports almost all of its telecommunications equipment.  Therefore, while significant opportunities exist, U.S. suppliers face intense international competition. 
On June 6, 2018, the Undersecretariat of Telecommunications of Chile (SUBTEL) announced a plan to increase investment in telecommunications in Chile by 30% over the next four years. To achieve this goal, SUBTEL invited all Chilean and international telecommunications players (industry, public sector, and academia) to join the recently launched Telecommunications Investment Working Group.  The group is open to U.S. companies and has four sub-groups: 1) Digital infrastructure; 2) International connectivity (including a cable to Asia); 3) IoT Services and Applications; and 4) 5G Implementation.  Leveraging the consensus and input from players in these groups, by December 2018, SUBTEL plans to have a four-year telecommunications and digital development investment agenda.

Mobile telephone and broadband services (internet and telephone) are the fastest growing telecommunications sectors where investment demand is the highest.  One-third of Chile’s telecommunications investments have gone into the wireless market. Two wireless operators, Movistar (Telefonica, Spain) and Entel PCS (Chile), dominate the Chilean market share, followed by Claro (America Movil, Mexico). In 2015, Nextel Chile was sold to Novator Partners and re-branded as WOM, which has successfully positioned itself as a new low-cost mobile phone service carrier and earned a spot in the market among its top competitors.

 2015201620172018 estimated
Total Local Production13984110120
Total Exports59485080
Total Imports718648640900
Imports from the US161126180220
Total Market Size798684800940
Exchange Rates: 1 USD654677649640
(total market size = (total local production + imports) - exports)
Units: Millions of USD
Source: Estimates based on industry sector sources and Chilean Customs data.

Leading Sub-Sectors

The telecommunications industry has seen tremendous growth in the wireless sector.   In December 2017, Chile’s mobile phone penetration reached 124.6 subscribers per 100 inhabitants, with 23 million subscribers.  Approximately 13 million are pre-paid subscribers and 10 million have an annual contract.  The three main operators (Entel, Movistar, and Claro) own 86.7% of the market.  The other operators possess just 13.3% of the market; however, growth in this segment is highlighted by the arrival of WOM (formerly Nextel Chile) in 2015, which grew 61.1% in the last year.

Internet access in the Chilean market grew by 20.2% over the last 12 months, reaching 19.4 million accesses from both landlines and mobile internet (3G and 4G).  3G internet connections are currently being replaced by 4G, which had 4.48 million accesses in the last 12 months.  Of the total internet accesses, 84.2% are mobile, highlighting the growth of smartphones (24.6% in 2017).   Fixed, landline internet growth reached 5.3% in the last 12 months. As of December 2017, the main technologies were HFC (55%), ADSL (25%), and fiberoptic (13%).  The 5G rollout is a top priority for the Piñera Administration, which aims to have implementaiton underway by 2020.

Cable TV
Cable television household penetration reached 56.7% in December 2017, with an 8% increase in subscribers in the last 12 months.  Even though the demand for cable TV increased in 2017 compared to 2016, growth has been very limited during the last several years due to increased demand for other alternatives, such as Netflix and other streaming services.

Long Distance
Since August 2014, all domestic calls in Chile are considered local.  The downward trend in international long distance phone call traffic continues. 

Both television and radio are very important forms of communication in Chile. Radio is among the most widely used sources for local news, emergencies, and connectivity with the rest of the country and world, particularly in areas outside Santiago. In addition to radio, television continues to grow in Chile, and subscriptions of paid TV service increased 3.5% in terms of subscribers.

Under Secretary of Telecommunications Pamela Gidi said that Chile must increase its investments in the telecommunications sector in order to face the technological revolution and the development in all areas of the digital ecosystem, including infrastructure, services, users, and applications. 

Once SUBTEL’s Telecommunications Investment Working Group submits their proposals by December 2018, SUBTEL will announce the investment agenda for the next four years.  This is expected to open many opportunities for U.S. companies in the four telecommunications sub-group areas (i.e. digital infrastructure, international connectivity, IoT services and applications, and implementation of 5G). 

Southern Fiber Optic Project
SUBTEL offered a subsidy of $100 million to encourage the completion of the Southern Fiber Optic Project, which will span 3,000 kilometers, covering one-third of Chile’s southernmost region in Los Lagos, Aysen and Magallanes.   In October 2017, the submarine and part of the terrestrial project was awarded to the Chilean company CTR, in association with the Chinese company Huawei.  SUBTEL declared the bid null for the terrestrial project in the region of Los Lagos and Aysen and will call for bids again.

5G Network
SUBTEL made 5G one of the four priority sub-groups for the next four years, and as such is keenly interested in fostering collaboration between the public and private sectors to promote investment in infrastructure and move forward with the creation of Chile’s 5G network.   SUBTEL has frozen the 3.5GHz band network as it decides how to make more efficient use of the spectrum and accelerate research on how to incorporate the future 5G network.

Web Resources
For additional information, please contact CS Santiago Commercial Specialist Isabel Valenzuela,

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