Colombia’s total mobile subscriber base grew by around 44% in the year to the end of March 2004, on the back of an economic recovery over the last few years. Customer numbers rose from 4.88 million to 7.04 million, while mobile penetration grew from 11.1% to 16.6%. Of the total América Móvil subsidiary Comcel accounted for 4.1 million users, up from 3.3 million twelve months earlier, with BellSouth Colombia taking 2.29 million (1.6 million) and relative newcomer Colombia Móvil, which operates under the banner Ola, claiming 653,338.
The dramatic growth in the wireless sector coincided with the country’s economy getting back on track after a period of recession in the late 1990s. Moreover, competition has stepped up a gear thanks in part to the entry of a third player to the market. Colombia Móvil launched services in October 2003, and has revealed plans to pump COP600 billion (USD224 million) into the expansion of its network and services during 2004, in a bid to deal more effectively with demand in the 140 cities where it already operates, as well as expand coverage to a further 40 cities before the end of the year. The dramatic change to the state of the market associated with the entrance of Colombia Móvil, has prompted the regulator to reveal plans to either hold an auction for a fourth mobile licence in the country or to sell additional spectrum to existing operators before the end of the year, a move which is likely to see growth accelerate further.