Chile , Brazil , Peru , Mexico , Guatemala , Argentina and Colombia

The LatAm countries where 5G phones are making big inroads

Bnamericas Published: Wednesday, August 03, 2022
The LatAm countries where 5G phones are making big inroads

Chile was the first nation in Latin America to hold an auction for 5G spectrum and it is also the leading country when it comes to penetration of 5G smartphones.

That is according to an analysis by telecoms consultancy Canalys on 5G adoption in Latin American countries.

The report, authored by analyst Damian Leyva-Cortes, shows that 5G shipments in Chile made up 35% of all smartphone sales in Q1, compared to 29% in Brazil and 25% for Mexico.

Chile is not only showing a greater penetration of 5G devices, but according to Canalys it is also seeing a greater adoption of mid-tier 5G smartphones, with a 15% increase in shipments in the US$300-499 price range year-over-year in Q1.

“Chile is setting a different trend compared to others in the region. There, in most cases, shipments are growing at entry-level - below US$100 - and over US$500,” said Canalys.

According to the consultancy, this benefits not only smartphone vendors but also operators such as Entel, Movistar and WOM, who are using the new technology as an incentive to attract subscribers and to differentiate themselves from virtual operators, while they increase their 5G coverage across the country. 

“This type of strategy would be unthinkable in other markets. However, in Chile it is possible given that more than 40% of the country’s population is concentrated in the Metropolitan area of Santiago," Canalys said.

Leyva-Cortes added that this strategy have already had a positive impact on customer and revenue growth for Chilean operators.


Canalys sees the deployment of commercial 5G in Latin America as uneven with two groups of countries emerging, due primarily to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The first includes those that have already made 5G networks commercially available. 

Canalys places Chile, Brazil and Mexico in this group, although countries like Guatemala have seen soft commercial launches of the technology.

The other group comprises countries without a set timetable for the launch of 5G, and where a spectrum auction for the technology has not yet been held. This group includes large consumer markets such as Argentina, Colombia and Peru.

According to the report, there is a “clear correlation between the commercial offering of 5G and higher sales of 5G-enabled smartphones.” 

In Colombia and Peru, shipments of 5G-compatible smartphones amounted to 20% and 18%, respectively, according to Canalys' estimates.

The consultancy said that the strategy of Chilean telcos to make 5G accessible as an improved user experience rather than an exclusive, higher-priced service, is growing the market for both smartphone vendors and telcos.

“The idiosyncrasy of the Chilean market makes this model difficult to replicate in other markets, though it can serve as an example of how to accelerate 5G adoption and increase telco revenues without directly impacting prices for consumers,” said Leyva-Cortes.

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