Cuba’s Etecsa offering free mobile internet during test – Cuba, Haiti

T-Mobile deploys extended-range LTE coverage in Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico

América Móvil claims it will be the first to deploy 5G – Regional

LatAm developers urged to leverage open banking API – Regional

Can ride-sharing, delivery apps disrupt the LatAm payments space? – Regional

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Cuba’s Etecsa offering free mobile internet during test – Cuba, Haiti

Cuban state-run telecom operator Etecsa will offer free internet to users of data-enabled mobile phones as it carries on testing its newly deployed 3G network, the company said in a statement on Friday.

Etecsa will run a 72-hour test of its mobile access system from Saturday to Monday, during which time it will provide prepaid users of compatible equipment with 50Mb of free-of-charge internet, with the possibility of adding another 50Mb.

Cuba has been offering the service for a few months now to state journalists and post-paid clients.

The island appears ahead of only Haiti in the International Telecommunication Union’s 2017 ICT Development Index in the Americas, with 35.5 cellphones per 100 inhabitants, 7.5% of households enjoying internet access and – as of last year – no mobile broadband connections.

T-Mobile deploys extended-range LTE coverage in Puerto Rico – Puerto Rico

T-Mobile lit up its new, extended range LTE network using the 600MHz band in 35 US states plus Puerto Rico, the company said in a statement, laying the basis for 5G connectivity deployment in 2020.

The company announced this week that it launched its new network in 1,254 cities and towns in the US mainland and Puerto Rico, “including some of the areas hit hardest by Hurricane Maria like Humacao, Utuado, Barranquitas and Naranjito.”

Local newspaper Metro quoted company officials as saying that the new network reaches around 40% of the island, with plans to reach 100% of Puerto Rico by December.

T-Mobile added that “with the future opportunity to deploy up to 50MHz of 600MHz spectrum in Puerto Rico, the Un-carrier [T-Mobile] remains committed to helping the island become a hub for technology and innovation.”

The company said it is still working with TV broadcasters that are using the frequency to move to other parts of the spectrum, after purchasing the rights to use the frequency in April 2017.

Other countries such as Mexico are also in the process of liberating the 600MHz band to repurpose it for telecommunications.

América Móvil claims it will be the first to deploy 5G – Regional

Mexico’s América Móvil will be the first to offer 5G services as it looks to connect people to devices such as autonomous cars and houses, company chairman Carlos Slim Domit told an event in Mexico City.

The giant telco has been deploying 4.5G networks in Mexico, Brazil, Austria and the Dominican Republic, the company said earlier this year. It expects to cover at least 76 of Mexico’s largest cities with the technology, which is10 times faster than current leading standard 4G, by the end of this year.

“We have been pioneers in the development of prepaid, in deploying the latest technologies and will be first in 5G, detonating connectivity not just among people but also between things,” Slim Domit was quoted as saying by local media. He did not specify whether he meant the first in Mexico or elsewhere.

Several countries in the region are currently in the process of either liberating spectrum earmarked for 5G, such as Mexico with its plan to allocate the 600MHz band, or deciding which bands to tender for next-generation mobile services, like Brazil.

América Móvil is the largest telecoms company in Latin America with around 360mn subscribers from Mexico to Argentina. The company has announced investments of up to US$8bn this year.

LatAm developers urged to leverage open banking API – Regional

Swedish fintech Instantor hopes Latin America’s vibrant startup community will leverage its banking API to create new financial services products.

This month the firm announced it had opened up its API to global startups and developers – providing them with access to transactional data from more than 300 banks in 25 countries.

Data can be accessed once the end user – the bank client – has given their consent.

Instantor has branded the initiative World Domination Starter Kit.

“You have a startup scene, so we really hope that we will see products targeting specific markets,” Instantor CTO Helene Westerlund (pictured) told BNamericas. “They could, for example, start in Latin America and then, maybe, go global eventually. That’s the beauty of the internet.”

A central aim of the move to open up the API is to help spur innovation in the financial services sector and raise levels of financial inclusion.

Westerlund said: “There’s so much that you can do with the data. The power is not within the data itself; it’s what you do with it – and that’s the area we focus on.

“We hope that a lot of new financial products will be born on top of this. There are a lot of creative people in the world that have great ideas, so we just really want to make the data accessible to them so they can take their ideas and come up with financial products. There could be partnerships, there could be competitors, there could be totally new product lines. We definitely see all of the three happening. A little bit of competition is always good. Keeps us on our toes.”

In Latin America, Instantor works with 29 banks in Brazil, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, including majors like BBVA, Citi, Bradesco and Santander.

Banks integrate Instantor’s API into their loan processing flows. Loan application data is then run through Instantor’s machine learning platform to confirm the applicant’s identity and calculate the probability they will pay back the loan.

Instantor was founded in 2010, initially to provide services like identity and income verification.

The number of players entering the Latin American fintech arena is rising. The average annual growth rate in number of startups in key markets Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico is around 47%, according to data from accelerator Finnovista.

According to a May report from Finnovista, Brazil is the No. 1 player in Latin America, with more than 370 fintech startups, with Mexico and Colombia holding the second and third places, respectively.

Leveraging fintechs to create a digital ecosystem – where customers can fulfill different needs in a single integrated experience – is seen as a necessary step for traditional banks to move closer to their clients, multiply interactions, generate new revenue channels and monetize data.

Can ride-sharing, delivery apps disrupt the LatAm payments space? – Regional

Ride-sharing and delivery apps could be the next big disrupters in Latin America’s payments space, according to market observers.

Speaking at the Mobile World Congress Americas conference in Los Angeles, Lindsay Lehr, senior director of Americas Market Intelligence (AMI), said the trend has emerged in Southeast Asia, citing Singapore-based ride-sharing and logistics companies Grab, and Jakarta-based GO-JEK, which is Indonesia’s first unicorn. Both also offer digital payments.

Lehr said that there is no reason why ride-sharing apps present in Latin America likeUber, Cabify and Easy Taxi, and delivery services such as Rappi and iFood, can’t do the same.

The banks will maintain their position but are working more with technology companies. Rappi, MercadoPago, there are only a handful of companies that have the scale and regional ability to do anything with payments,” Lehr (on the left in the picture) told BNamericas on the sidelines of the event.

“Uber has been around for a long time and hasn’t done anything yet with payments. Easy Taxi is working on enabling bank accounts for drivers. It is something that could potentially happen based on what is going on in other parts of the world.”

Lehr said that the real game changer in mobile commerce will be in recurring payment models like online gaming, mobile top-ups, delivery services, video and music streaming, and ride sharing, as providers can leverage a large subscriber base to offer additional payment systems.

To date the most advanced country in e-payments is Brazil, which has 43mn mobile banking users and US$28bn spent annually on e-commerce, and where Samsung Pay and Apple Pay are active, according to AMI.

Mexico is the second largest e-commerce market, but has only 10% credit card penetration compared to 27% in Brazil and 30% in Chile. Nevertheless, Amazon Cash is already present in Mexico, and the market’s close proximity to the US give it an advantage in adopting new trends.

In the Southern Cone, Argentina and Chile are smaller markets but recurring revenue players like Netflix and Spotify have been very successful in both countries, which have high credit card and mobile phone penetration.

Colombia and Peru also show potential. In those markets delivery services are massively popular.


Santiago Rojas, business development manager at Ogangi, a Miami-based mobile engagement solutions company, said that the major challenges for spreading mobile commerce in Latin America are smartphone penetration, which is still only at around 60%; patchy 4G coverage; regulation, and cultural adaptation to this means of payment.

“People struggle to adapt to new things. It’s a learning curve and will only be a matter of time,” Rojas (second from left in picture) told BNamericas.

Cristina Nicoara, VP of sales with d-local, an online payments solutions company that focuses on emerging markets, said that payment companies and banks in particular need to be more innovative in encouraging consumers to adopt new payment mechanisms by introducing freemium models and focusing more on the user experience.

Ogangi offers solutions that encourage engagement through gamification and discounts.

Some innovation has been seen with the likes of Mexican retail store chain Oxxo, which has created the OXXO invoice, a document that contains a barcode and can be paid in any one of the 13,000 OXXO convenience stores located throughout Mexico.

In Brazil there is the barcode payment system known as boleto bancário. Both methods spell a move away from the use of cash, which is still engrained in Latin America.

Online security is another obstacle, the panelists said, while Lehr added that mobile operators have a big opportunity to cash-in on micro loans and mobile payments but haven’t found a successful business model yet.

The information presented and opinions expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of CANTO and/or its members

Thursday, September 13, 2018