Although a number of Latin America telecom operators have already engaged in 5G network trials, and a few telcos in Uruguay and Brazil have already launched FWA 5G services, the region lags substantially behind in terms of mobile 5G deployments. The Covid-19 pandemic and the deterioration of the macroeconomic environment across the Latin America region has further delayed the arrival of mobile 5G, pushing the first commercial releases to 2021.
In the first half of 2020, a number of regulators in Latin America announced delays in the release of 5G spectrum as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In March, for instance, the Mexican regulator IFT announced it was considering delaying the 600MHz band spectrum auction initially scheduled for the second half of 2020. In a similar way, in June 2020, the Brazilian regulator Anatel confirmed delays in the 700MHz, 2.3GHz, 3.5GHz and 26GHz mmWave spectrum auction originally planned for 2020 and now postponed to the first quarter of 2021.
Affordable handsets key in driving 5G adoption in Latin America
GlobalData expects to see the first commercial developments in the region by 2021. Although we expect a slow update in 2021, the uptake of mobile 5G services will accelerate in the coming years supported by increased spectrum availability and operator investment in network rollouts.
The availability of affordable handsets will be key to driving adoption, particularly in light of strong economic headwinds caused by Covid-19 affecting consumer income. Moving forward, the development of the IoT industry, particularly in verticals such as healthcare, smart cities and industry automation, will help support 5G growth. By2025, mobile 5G subscriptions in Latin America will account for 11.6% of total mobile subscriptions in the region.