By Matthew Reed, Ovum

The number of mobile subscriptions in Africa will reach one billion by the end of 2016, according to figures from research firm Ovum. But even as the continent nears this landmark, its telecoms market is changing fast, and data and digital services rather than mobile voice and SMS will lead the next phase of development.

In the first decade of the 2000s, Africa underwent a mobile revolution as the roll-out of mobile networks across the continent brought communications technology to many for the first time. By the end of the decade, the mobile-money service M-Pesa was showing that mobile services might be able to plug some of the other gaps in Africa’s infrastructure, such as in financial services. Read more

By Jon Fredrik Baksaas, GSMA

There are a myriad of social and economic benefits made possible by bringing communication services to previously unconnected populations. This commitment to “Digital Inclusion” – the ability to extend connectivity to all corners of the globe – is driving internet access and usage, and providing access to vital services such as healthcare, education and commerce.

One barrier to digital inclusion is the availability of networks. To address this mobile operators have invested billions rolling out 3G/4G mobile broadband across the globe. Today mobile broadband networks cover 80 per cent of the world’s population, providing internet access to many markets where fixed access is either prohibitively expensive or non-existent. Read more

The Rio Olympics that begin today will be the first games where 4G networks are available – one area where Rio is delivering on its Olympic promise. This is an opportunity for the city to showcase its technological progress to visitors from around the world, while benefiting from the international exposure of visitors’ images and videos on social channels, helping boost tourism even after the games.

Even with one in seven Olympic tickets yet to be sold, operators are expecting a 50 per cent increase in data traffic at the Rio games compared with London 2012. Handily, Rio benefits from having hosted the 2014 World Cup, and the infrastructure that was put in place then. On top of this there will be 8,600 free-to-access WiFi hotspots near key events, supported by some of the network operators and by corporate sponsors. Read more

By Joy K Gallup of Paul Hastings

The transformation of Mexico’s telecoms sector has begun. Reforms enacted in 2013 promise to transform the investment opportunities and market dynamics of the sector and have already had a major influence, managing the current market dominance of América Móvil through the regulatory actions of IFETEL and opening the sector to foreign investment. In the past few months we have seen fines and other regulatory decisions taken against the dominant players, including América Móvil’s subsidiaries Telmex (which controls 80 per cent of Mexico’s fixed-line telephone market) and Telcel (which controls 70 per cent of its mobile phone market). In recent days, AT&T completed the purchase of Mexico’s third-largest wireless company Iusacell for $2.5bn from Grupo Salinas, and announced an agreement to buy Nextel Mexico from NII Holdings for $1.8 bn (expected to close mid-year). So, what do these reforms mean for the future of the smaller telco companies in Mexico, such as Axtel, Alestra and Maxcom? Read more

Growing in Brazil has long been in the sights of Carlos Slim’s América Móvil. The company has almost as many subscribers there as in Mexico, where it is under regulatory pressure.

So teaming up with an existing carrier to buy the country’s No. 2 cellphone carrier might be a smart move.

According to Bloomberg, América Móvil is talking to Brazil’s Oi about teaming up to make a joint bid for the Brazilian operations of mobile operator TIM. Read more

Mexico’s Congress should this month pass legislation designed to give the country’s fixed and mobile phone users access to greater competition in a market dominated by Carlos Slim’s Telmex fixed-line company and Telcel mobile network.

Slim’s companies have 80 per cent of Mexico’s fixed-line market and 70 per cent of mobile, so the reform aims to boost consumer choice by giving rivals cheap access to his network in order to catch up – something that naturally has not gone down too well with Slim.

But is this so-called asymmetric regulation a bad thing? Will it boost competition? And will it boost investment? Read more

Latin America and the Caribbean have some catching up to do in the provision of broadband internet services, according to a score sheet compiled by the Inter-American Development Bank.

Broadband penetration is expected to grow quickly, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 per cent in the five years to 2015 across the region, but for now it compares poorly to OECD countries. Read more

By Tim Gosling of bne

PPF Group has sealed a deal to buy a majority stake in the Czech Republic’s largest mobile operator Telefonica CR from the Spanish telecommunications group. The November 5 agreement could put a dent in the Czech regulator’s hopes of encouraging greater competition on the market; it might also herald a new chapter in the emerging markets telecoms business, suggest analysts. Read more

América Móvil on Thursday became the latest company to sound a sour note on the Mexican economy after it reported a near 50 per cent drop in third-quarter profit.

The pan-American mobile phone operator controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim saw profit for the three months to September 30 collapse to 16.4bn pesos ($1.2bn), compared with 30.4bn pesos in the same period a year ago and well below market expectations of 25.6bn pesos. The reasons? Soaring financing costs, currency headwinds and losses incurred from its ill-timed investment in KPN, the ailing Dutch telecoms group it tried to take over this year. Read more

Foreign companies operating in Venezuela have to put up with no small amount of inconvenience. Aside from runaway inflation, which drives up operating costs, they also have to watch the money they make in the country depreciate because Venezuela’s tight capital controls mean they can’t easily repatriate it back home.

On Thursday, Movistar, a subsidiary of Spain’s Telefónica and the second-largest mobile carrier in the country, discovered yet another risk associated with working in Venezuela: price controls. Read more

By Hans-Holger Albrecht of Millicom

Africa invariably grabs the headlines whenever the mobile revolution is discussed. Commentators rightly point to the extraordinary rate at which mobile phones are being adopted and the impact the technology is having on lives and livelihood.

But while no one can doubt the transformation underway – or the innovation it is unleashing – it is a revolution still based largely on second-generation technology. If you want to see what the future holds for emerging markets, it is Latin America which holds more of the answers. Read more

Jon Fredrik Baksaas, chief executive of Telenor, Norway’s biggest telecoms group, talks to the FT’s Richard Milne about emerging market worries and EU regulation.

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just 11 days after América Móvil (AMX) ended a shareholder agreement with KPN that capped its stake in the Dutch phone carrier at about 30 per cent, the Mexican group controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim made its move.

With a great thud of cash hitting the table, Slim’s AMX on Friday announced a €7.2bn bid for the 70 per cent of KPN it does not already own. Read more

Get ready for some competition in Colombia Carlos Slim.

Millicom International, a Luxembourg-based telecoms company, on Monday announced plans to merge its Colombian operations with the fixed-line business of state-run Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM) in a move to create “a leading digital lifestyle company” in the country. Read more

Mobile money services in Africa isn’t just all about M-Pesa in Kenya. Orange Mobile has just rolled out its first international mobile money transfer service between Mali, Senegal and Ivory Coast – the first such service in the region.

But there are some big players offering similar, rival services. Can Orange make a difference? Read more

It’s possible that Carlos Slim has never downloaded an application into his mobile phone. He’s not known for his information technology prowess – he doesn’t even have a computer in his office. What he is known for is his business acumen.

His latest venture into music recognition app Shazam for $40m, through his multinational telecommunication company, América Móvil, is a case in point.

 Read more

A lot of the leading innovations in payment systems are coming from the world’s more peripheral financial markets, a trend reinforced by a recent decision by six Polish banks to band together to create a mobile phone-based payment system.

The six, led by PKO BP, the country’s biggest bank, are setting up a joint venture that will allow clients with a special smartphone application to make payments debiting their bank accounts using one-time codes generated by the mobile phones. Read more

India’s Telecom Commission, a high level committee charged with formulating telecoms policy, has approved a proposal to increase the limit on foreign direct investment into mobile phone services to 100 per cent from a current level of 74 per cent. The proposed change would make it possible for service providers such as UK-based Vodafone and Russia’s Sistema, which operate in India with local partners, to buy those partners out.

But if other recent changes to rules on FDI are any guide, investment will not flood in overnight. Read more

Diego Molano, Colombia’s minister of information technologies and communications, called it, “the auction of the decade”.

And what an auction it was. In what is probably one of the largest auctions in the ICT sector in recent years in Latin America, Colombia raised COP$770.5bn ($400m) from the sale of 4G licences to five companies this week. Read more