Thursday May, 31st , 018

Mobile phone credit: Cuba’s newest informal payment system – Cuba
ICT: The week in 10 stories – Regional
MercadoLibre, Bind announce online investment platform – Regional
Additional funds for Puerto Rico, USVI telco restoration – Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
LatAm among fastest growing smartphone markets – Regional

Mobile phone credit: Cuba’s newest informal payment system – Cuba

Cubans are increasingly using the credit balance on their mobile phones as an unofficial method of payment through balance transfers from phone to phone, according to local media.
The exchange occurs when people pay goods and services by transferring the balance on their mobile accounts to another user’s account, something for which state telephone company Etecsa charges .30 convertible Cuban pesos (CUCs), the equivalent of US$.30.
Cubans can exchange balances between phones once a day between pre-paid Etecsa mobile accounts. Local media has reported Etecsa’s business strategy and technology VP, Tania Velázquez, as saying the company plans to start allowing up to three balance transfers a day by June 5, at a cost of 0.20 CUCs each.
Some media outlets on the island have reported that the popularity of the informal payment system is being boosted by anxiety surrounding the announcement of a currency unification, which would bring together the Cuban peso and the CUC.
“Mobile balances are used a lot to buy and sell goods on the street. It is a payment method that works among Cubans,” Norge García, a coffee shop employee, told news outlet Cubanet.
Some customers use it as a sort of remittance system, by having relatives abroad recharge their accounts and then using them to pay for goods and services locally, according to the 14ymedio website.
With 5.2mn mobile lines and one of the lowest penetration rates in Latin America, Cuba is in the process of increasing coverage and plans this year to start offering mobile internet services via 3G technologies.
ICT: The week in 10 stories – Regional

Cloud services provider Amazon Web Services (AWS) is actively pursuing opportunities in the education sector in Latin America.
Teresa Carlson, AWS VP worldwide public sector, visited Argentina and Chile this week and on Wednesday met with Chile’s President Sebastián Piñera and the country’s economy minister, José Ramón Valente, to promote “long-term partnerships” and the use of cloud computing in the public sector.
Pamela Gidi, head of Chilean telecoms regulator Subtel, will begin talks next week with Peruvian counterparts about abolishing roaming between the two countries.
The news comes as Chile finalizes details of plans to eliminate roaming between Chile and Argentina in 2019.
Mexico could host at least seven internet exchange points (IXPs), as it looks to improve efficiency and security in data usage and boost technological development, according to local technology and telecoms consultancy The CIU.
The country recently launched its second IXP, which allows internet providers to exchange content and traffic, in the southeastern state of Yucatán.
Motorola Solutions seeks to open up Mexico’s radio communication network, which is dominated by IRIS network operator Cassidian, a unit of Airbus, in order to make way for an open architecture allowing greater interoperability between equipment.
Vicente Roqueñí, business development director for Motorola Solutions in Mexico, spoke with BNamericas about the company’s plans.
Netflix and Telefónica announced a global partnership to integrate Netflix’s service into Telefónica’s TV and video platforms in Europe and Latin America.
Around 72% of Argentines connect to the internet from mobile devices and eight in 10 connect to the internet via fixed and mobile devices every day, according to a survey conducted by the association of internet users for operators Personal and Fibertel.
Cuba could soon announce the launch of a mobile internet service in the country via its expanding 3G network, an executive from state operator Etecsa said on local TV show Mesa Redonda.
Peru’s telecoms industry grew at an average annual rate of 10% in the last four years, according to transport and communications minister (MTC) Virginia Nakagawa.
Investment in the sector rose to 3.3bn soles (US$1bn) in 2017 from 2.6bn soles in 2013, while the total number of mobile lines reached 38mn last year compared to 29mn in 2013. Internet connections reached 20mn compared to 0.8mn.
Federal budget constraints, fiscal difficulties and an upcoming change in government after the October elections are the main obstacles for the Brazilian telecom industry to see near-term advances with a series of what the players consider to be crucial measures.
Authorities in Brazil’s biggest city, São Paulo, could approve a new law in the next month that streamlines and expedites the licensing and installation of cell phone antennas.
MercadoLibre, Bind announce online investment platform – Regional

Regional e-commerce giant MercadoLibre is strengthening its foothold in the financial services sphere.
The Argentina-headquartered company is developing a digital platform that allows users of its digital wallet MercadoPago to invest in short-term debt instruments such as lebacs, issued by the central bank.
MercadoLibre founder and CEO Marcos Galperin (pictured) announced the platform – dubbed MercadoFondo – but did not give a launch date, local paper La Nación reported.
MercadoLibre is working on the initiative in partnership with local lender Banco Industrial, or Bind as it is known.
About half of Argentine adults do not have a bank account and initiatives launched by the company target these potential users.
“This initiative will allow those who use our digital wallet to generate, with their balance, returns similar to those obtained from lebacs,” Galperin was quoted as saying.
The service is due to launch in Argentina first before being rolled out in Brazil and Mexico, MercadoPagoVP Osvaldo Giménez was quoted as saying by Reuters. “Initially we’re going to create a very conservative fund, which is going to invest in fixed-income instruments, lebacs, fixed-term, so that there’s no investment risk.”
Platform users will be able to instantly access invested funds if they need to, he added.
The MercadoPago digital wallet allows users to make and receive payments online. The company has also launched a prepaid card in partnership with MasterCard and offers loans to qualifying merchants who sell through the site.
In addition, MercadoLibre clients in Argentina can make payments via QR codes in participating retailers. The payment is debited from the user’s MercadoPago account. Linked credit or debit cards can also be used.
MercadoLibre Merchants, meanwhile, can purchase mobile phone-mounted card readers to facilitate card present payments.
“We see many hurdles that today impede many people from accessing products and services, above all in the area of payments and financial services. We want to democratize payments,” Galperin was quoted as saying.
At the end of March, MercadoLibre, present in 18 countries in Latin America, had 223mn registered users, up from 182mn a year earlier. Gross merchandise volume in Q1 was US$3.13bn, up from US$2.33bn. Total payment volume through MercadoPago in Q1 was US$4.18bn, up from US$2.61bn.
The firm posted net revenue for the three-month period of US$321mn, up from US$270mn, and a net loss of US$12.9mn compared with a profit of US$48.5mn in 1Q17.
Additional funds for Puerto Rico, USVI telco restoration – Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

US telecom regulator FCC has approved an additional US$64mn in immediate funding for short-term telecommunication restoration in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands (USVI) as a new hurricane season approaches.
Both territories were hit heavily last year by hurricanes Maria and Irma.
The commission said it is also seeking public comments on the injection of around US$900mn in medium and long-term funding to expand broadband coverage.
During last year’s hurricane season, hurricane Maria destroyed around 90% of Puerto Rico’s cellphone towers and left the island without power for weeks. Despite progress in repairing the damage, the FCC stated in a March report that at the time 4.4% of cell sites in Puerto Rico and 13.8% of the Virgin Islands’ were still down.
In its outlook for the 2018 hurricane season US atmospheric authority NOAA expects up to 16 named storms, up to nine hurricanes and up to four major hurricanes, including category 3 to 5 ones. Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30, it added.
In addition to the immediate funding, the FCC also announced it will waive US$65.8mn in previous funding from future universal service support payments. It is also looking for public commentary on three blocks of funding, including US$445mn over the next decade for Puerto Rico’s fixed broadband expansion, as well as US$187mn for similar purposes for the US Virgin Islands, as well as US$259mn of medium-term financing for 4G LTE expansion.
“The Commission’s action today will not only help complete the recovery from last year’s devastating storms, but seeks comment on much-needed funding for long-term improvement and expansion of broadband throughout Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” FCC Chairman Ajit Pai was quoted as saying.
In April, the US department of housing and urban development (HUD) granted US$18.4bn of disaster relief to Puerto Rico, mainly to finance infrastructure and housing reconstruction.
LatAm among fastest growing smartphone markets – Regional

Latin America, the Middle East and Africa will be among the fastest growing smartphone markets outside of Asia/Pacific in 2018, given the still relatively low penetration rates, according to consultancy IDC.
As these markets recover from the economic downturn seen over the past two years, IDC expects consumer spending to rise.
Despite that, after shrinking 0.3% in 2017, the worldwide smartphone market is expected to contract again in 2018 before returning to growth in 2019.
Smartphone shipments are forecast to drop 0.2% this year to 1.462bn units, down from 1.465bn in 2017 and 1.469bn in 2016.
Looking ahead, IDC expects the market to grow roughly 3% annually from 2019 with worldwide shipment volume reaching 1.654bn in 2022 and a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 2.5%.
The biggest driver of the 2017 downturn was China, which saw its smartphone market decline 4.9%. IDC forecasts consumption in China will decline another 7.1% in 2018 before flattening out in 2019.
The biggest upside in Asia/Pacific is India with volumes expected to grow 14% and 16% in 2018 and 2019.
The other catalyst to watch will be the introduction of 5G smartphones. IDC predicts the first commercially ready 5G smartphones will appear in the second half of 2019 with a ramp-up across most regions happening in 2020 to represent 7% of smartphone volume or 212mn devices.
Android’s share is expected to remain relatively stable at 85% of shipments worldwide, the consultancy said.


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