Analysts recently compared Colombia's telecom market to that of Mexico, given that both have a particularly dominant operator in mobile telephony and broadband, and that operator happens to be the same in both cases: América Móvil.

Both markets have adopted asymmetric regulations to soften the dominant operator's competitive advantage, and the two are evenly matched in fixed broadband penetration, with 12% in Mexico versus 11.5% in Colombia at year-end 2015.

However, Mexico is ahead in terms of overall mobile internet penetration, with a rate of 57% by year-end 2015, whereas the official figure in Colombia was 32.1% in 1Q16, combining on-demand users with those who have data plans.

On the other hand, according to 5G Americas, in Colombia the number of 4G connections equates to 10.3% of the population, compared to 8% in Mexico.

And lately Colombia has scored better than Mexico in ICT rankings like the WEF's Network Readiness Index and the ITU's ICT Development Index (IDI). Colombia in fact comes second to top Latin American scorer Chile in Telefónica's global Digital Lifestyle Index, with Mexico third in the region.

Where Colombia leads over Mexico, this could be partly due to the differing intensity of América Móvil's dominance in each country.

In Colombia, América Móvil has more than twice the market share of the next strongest operator in mobile telephony, mobile internet and pay TV, and a 60% larger share in fixed broadband.

In Mexico, the group has much more of a stranglehold - more than three times the share of the next strongest operator in mobile telephony and mobile broadband, and six times the next best operator's share in fixed broadband, but admittedly, no activity in pay TV.

One of the main conclusions from a 2014 OECD study of the Colombian market was that Colombia needed to give its telecom regulator CRC more autonomy, but in September 2015 a fresh study run by state planning department DNP, ICT ministry Mintic and the World Bank decided that the priority was to cut taxes and improve the average connection speed of fixed broadband, with no mention of strengthening CRC.

Colombia's good positioning in the above rankings, and service penetration metrics that put it at roughly the same level as many peers, perhaps justify the local authorities' decision to focus more on direct action in the market, rather than adjusting the regulatory machinery.

Figure - Fixed Broadband Penetration in Key LatAm Markets


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