The race is on to expand 4G-LTE services in Mexico

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on The race is on to expand 4G-LTE services in Mexico
May 092016

AT&T and Telcel are competing for the concession of 80 megahertz (MHz) of spectrum for the provision of 4G-LTE mobile broadband service in Mexico. The winner is expected to have to pay somewhere in the region of 700 million dollars to the government in order to acquire the rights.

Movistar coverage, 2G, 3G, 4G - 2016

Movistar coverage, 2G, 3G, 4G – 2016

The three major competitors currently in the 4G-LTE market in Mexico are Movistar (Telefonica), Telcel (America Movil), and AT&T.

Telcel is the dominant player and reaches 65 million users nationwide. Movistar serves about 50 cities (see map). AT&T’s 4G-LTE network currently reaches 40 million people in 36 cities, but the firm is investing aggressively, with plans to reach 75 million people by the end of 2016 and 100 million by 2018. Under construction is AT&T’s new 300-million-dollar operations center in Guadalajara, which will benefit from that city’s well-qualified workforce and enhance its importance as Mexico’s tech sector hub.

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Oct 282015

The 2015 survey of connectivity by Mexican consultancy Gabinete de Comunicación Estratégica (GCE) provides further support, if any were needed, of the north-south digital divide that we have commented on several times previously.

GCE carried out a telephone survey of 49,600 people, across the entire country, including respondents in the 76 largest cities. Respondents ranged in age from 18 to 50; 48% had a university degree and about the same percentage was categorized as “lower middle class”.

The survey question was “¿Cuenta usted con conexión a Internet?” (Do you have a connection to the Internet?)

At city level, Cancún was the most connected city. The two cities sharing the lowest levels of connectivity were Tlaxcala and Acapulco.

Cyber-connectivity in Mexico, 2015. Data: GCE 2015. Cartography: Geo-Mexico

Cyber-connectivity in Mexico, 2015. Data: GCE 2015. Cartography: Geo-Mexico

At state level (map), Baja California Sur led the way in terms of Internet users (84% of respondents claiming access to the Internet), followed by Nuevo León (81.5%) and Baja California (80.4%). (Note that the likely margin of error in results is plus or minus 4%.)

Guerrero is at the other end of the scale, with just 49% of residents online. After last-place Guerrero came Zacatecas, where 53% were connected, and Oaxaca with 55%.

Most Internet users in those three states used a desktop computer to connect. On average, most Internet users spent an hour or two a day online and social networks were the most popular destination for 20% of respondents. Facebook led the way among those networks with 74%, followed by WhatsApp with 12% and Twitter with 7%.

Another question in the survey asked which was the most trustworthy source for information: the Internet, television or newspapers. The Internet won with 28%, television came second with 25% and newspapers trailed with 24%. Frederico Berrueto Pruneta, general manager of GCE, asserts that, “What we are seeing is a very clear tendency where the Internet has won the battle over television, which had already won against newspapers”.

  • Full Report (Spanish, pdf): Connectivity in Mexico in 2015

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Jun 082015

Mexico’s official online database of all the country’s roads and highways has just been updated. As of May 2015, Mexico has a total of 322,859 kilometers of roads and highways.

They are all shown on a map accessed via this web-page. [Link to no longer working.]

Mexico's major highways (Fig 17-3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico).

Mexico’s major highways, 2009 (Fig 17-3 of Geo-Mexico, the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico). All rights reserved.

Here is a summary of some of the more useful statistics found in the database:

  • 158,180 km of paved highways, including
    • 48,685 km of federal highways,
    • 92,590 km of state highways
    • 9412 km of toll highways
  •  36,139 km of urban roads
  • 118,812 km of rural (unpaved) roads.

The highway network connects 25,844 places, and has links to 39 ferry routes. It also includes 847 toll stations, 3476 bridges and 178 tunnels.

According to the report, Mexico currently has 6480 gas stations. However, this number is expected to increase rapidly in the next few years as competitors enters a market over which PEMEX previously held a monopoly, prior to recent energy reform laws.

If you are planning to drive across Mexico, then the online system at will give you routes, distances and estimated times and costs.

Further reading:

Mexico’s internet connections and e-commerce

 Other  Comments Off on Mexico’s internet connections and e-commerce
May 172014

Mexico, Argentina, Spain and another twenty countries from around the world celebrate today (17 May) as “World Internet Day”.  This seems like the ideal time to review just how “connected” (or not) Mexico’s cybernauts are.

Household survey figures from INEGI, the National Statistics Institute, show 11.1 million homes in Mexico (35.8% of the total) have a computer, but that 14% of these households do not have internet access. About 46 million Mexicans aged six years or older access the internet. Three quarters of all users are under the age of 35.

Digital divide map

Internet traffic flows Credit: Stephen Eick, Bell Labs / Visual Insights, <>)

64% of users utilize the internet for information, 42% as a means of communication, 36% for entertainment, 35% for education and 35.1% for social networking. (These categories are not mutually exclusive.) 43.6% of all users access internet daily, 45.5% weekly and 7.1% less often. In terms of education, 20.2% of all users have completed primary school only, 24.5% junior high and 28.6% senior high, while 23% already have a degree and 2% have postgraduate qualifications.

Data from the Mexican Internet Association (AMIPCI) shows that Mexicans’ acceptance of e-commerce is rising very rapidly. E-commerce was worth around $9.3 billion in 2013, an increase of 41% from a year earlier when the comparable figure was $6.6 billion. Indeed, APIPCI data show that e-commerce has risen at double digit rates for several years. There is still considerable room for growth since the INEGI survey shows that only about 6% of Mexico’s cybernauts currently use the internet to make purchases or pay bills.

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The important role of telenovelas and historietas as forms of communication in Mexico

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on The important role of telenovelas and historietas as forms of communication in Mexico
Dec 312012

The highest rating programs on TV are televised novels, telenovelas. A telenovela is a limited‑run television serial melodrama, somewhat like a soap opera but normally lasting less than a year, and where the eventual ending has already been scripted.

image of los ricos tambien lloranThe first global telenovela was Los ricos también lloran (“The rich cry too”), originally shown in 1979. Telenovelas are now a $200 million market. Some critics claim they are effective promoters of social change, others deride them as being nothing more than mass escapism. Whichever view is more accurate, their portrayals reflect society’s values and institutions.

Advocates of telenovelas point to their role in challenging some traditional Mexican media taboos by including story lines about urban violence, racism, homosexuality, birth control, physical handicaps, political corruption, immigration and drug smuggling. Early telenovelas tended to be shallow romantic tales. The form subsequently evolved to include social commentaries and historical romances, some applauded for their attention to historical detail. Some were used for attempts at social engineering. An early government-sponsored telenovela promoted adult literacy programs. Several others openly advocated family planning and have been credited with contributing to Mexico’s dramatic decline in fertility rate. Other telenovelas have targeted younger audiences, focusing on issues connected to pop music, sex and drugs.

Rius historieta: The failure of education in Mexico

Rius historieta: The failure of education in Mexico

Besides the shallowness of the plot lines in most telenovelas, the other common criticism is that their stars are almost always white-skinned, blue-eyed blondes. Sadly, all too often, actors with indigenous looks are relegated to roles portraying menial workers such as home help or janitors.

Telenovelas have been extraordinarily successful commercially. They have become immensely popular not only in Latin America and among the US Hispanic population but also in more than 100 other countries, mainly in Eastern Europe and Asia.

In print media, a similar role to the telenovela has been played by historietas (comic books), the best of which have tackled all manner of social, political and environmental issues well before such topics made the main-stream press. Historietas helped educate millions of Mexicans and were also a commercial success. Their circulation peaked in the 1980s but has since declined due to competition from television and, more recently, the internet. The most influential creator of historietas is the cartoonist and writer Eduardo del Río (Rius) whose work earned him a 1991 United Nations Environment Programme prize.

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How does Mexico’s telephone system compare with that in other countries?

 Excerpts from Geo-Mexico  Comments Off on How does Mexico’s telephone system compare with that in other countries?
Nov 192012

Mexico’s first telephone line was erected in Puebla in the early 1880s. Before long, the Mexican Telephone Company, a subsidiary of Bell, was operating in Mexico City. The first telephone lines did not work very well and were limited to downtown areas. Only public officials, police stations, a few select businesses and the wealthy used the telephone service.

The growth of telephony was slow because it lacked strong government support, was expensive and had a very limited range. By 1893 telephone services had spread to 13 more cities even though intercity lines would not become available until much later. In about 1950 all Mexico’s telephone companies were purchased by a single group of investors to form Teléfonos de México (Telmex) which established a monopoly. Even after the government nationalized the company in 1972, few incentives were offered for expansion and it was still almost impossible to obtain a new telephone line.

Access to fixed line and cell phones by country.

Access to fixed line and cell phones by country. Fig. 18.1 of Geo-Mexico; all rights reserved.

In 1990 Telmex was re-privatized in one of Mexico’s largest, most complicated and most controversial privatizations. The government sold majority voting rights and a 20% stake in Telmex to a consortium of investors for $1.8 billion and it sold $3.7 billion in shares to the public. The newly privatized Telmex invested significantly in the mid 1990s, enabling millions to get new lines but raising rates dramatically. Competitors were allowed to enter the telephone market but Telmex has remained the dominant player, especially for residential services. It remains fashionable for its customers to complain about its poor service and very high long distance rates.

Mexico and the USA are closely linked by telephone. Over 90% of the international calls from Mexico go to the USA whereas roughly 13% of all US international calls go to Mexico.

For a country of Mexico’s wealth and sophistication, it lags behind most of the world in telephony (see graph). In 2007, Mexico had 19 fixed telephone lines per 100 population compared to 53 in the USA and 56 in Canada. The Federal District had the best service with about 50 fixed telephone lines per 100 people, followed by Nuevo León with 33 and Baja California with 27. Chiapas had the fewest with only 5 per 100, not far behind Oaxaca with 6 and Tabasco with 7. Telephone communications are difficult or inconvenient in these southern states; this limits their residents’ quality of life and economic competitiveness. Other states with poor telephone service (less than 12 lines per 100 people) are Hidalgo, Zacatecas, Campeche, Tlaxcala, Guerrero, Veracruz and San Luis Potosí.

Mexicans have better access to cell phones than fixed lines with 63% of the population owning one in 2007, compared to 84% in the USA, 62% in Canada and a staggering 107% (more than one cell phone per person) in Argentina. While lagging slightly behind Guatemala where 76% of the population has a cell phone, a higher percentage of people in Mexico use cell phones than in China or India.

Cell phone use in Mexico has grown rapidly in the capital and other big cities but has also grown spectacularly in southern and rural areas where there are few wired telephones. Many rural villages with only a few fixed line phones now have dozens of cell phones, mostly used by those under age thirty. When asked why they don’t use cell phones more, some older rural adults say they find cell phones too complicated because of their many small buttons.

Many rural residents get cell phones from relatives who have migrated to the USA. They avoid monthly fees by buying pre-paid cell phone cards when they have the money. When the card runs out, they make no calls until they can afford to buy another one. Some enterprising rural residents use their cell phone as a pay phone. In short, cell phone technology has greatly improved communications in many Mexican rural areas.

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Jun 182011

ITESM, a university based in Monterrey, established Mexico’s first internet connection in 1989. Other universities soon followed. In the late 1990s Telmex started to provide internet service to businesses and the general public. Other providers entered the market but by 2005 Telmex still had about 80% of the market.

Public access via internet cafes is relatively inexpensive. With computers in many schools and cyber cafes in most Mexican towns, about 21% of Mexicans used the internet in 2007. This is relatively low compared to 94% in South Korea, 73% in Canada and the USA, 27% in Peru, 35% in Brazil and 26% in Argentina. Though Mexico is ahead of China (16%), Guatemala (10%) and India and Nigeria (7%), it is still lagging in internet use relative to its overall level of development.

An impressive three-quarters of Mexico’s personal computer internet connections are broadband. Internet use is highest in urban centers but is making steady inroads into rural areas. The highest usage is among 12- to 18-year-olds, with slightly more male users than female. However, less than a third of those in this group use the internet. Just under half of internet use is in the home, the rest is in schools, offices, public centers or cybercafes. About 44% of all users visit the internet for educational purposes, 40% for e-mail, 35% for general information, and 21% for online telephoning (VOIP). The internet is having an enormous impact on Mexican society.

Digital divide map

Internet traffic flows Credit: Stephen Eick, Bell Labs / Visual Insights (

The digital divide

Overall, just how well does Mexico do in terms of the digital divide? The Digital Access Index (DAI) is a compound index assessing the level of information and communications technologies (ICTs) that a country possesses. The DAI combines variables measuring infrastructure, affordability, literacy and educational level, the availability of broadband, international internet bandwidth per person and internet usage. Sweden placed highest in 2002 with a score of 0.85 out of a maximum possible score of 1.0. Canada and the USA were in equal 10th place.

Mexico (index: 0.50) placed a lowly 65th of the 180 countries in the rankings, level with Brazil but well ahead of China (0.43). Though digital communications in Mexico are expanding rapidly, Mexico lags behind rival countries in these important technologies. This could possibly hamper Mexico’s future ability to compete economically in the increasingly flat world of free trade.

There are some encouraging signs, though, that Mexico is catching up. For example, data for 2008 show that it has become the country with the 8th highest number of internet hosts, the services which provide access to internet servers.

– – –

Want to know what it feels like on the wrong side of the Digital Divide? Try the ICTP Digital Divide Simulator!

The text of this post is an excerpt from chapter 18 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Buy your copy today, and learn more about Mexico’s fascinating geography. The more knowledge you acquire, the more pleasure you will derive from your next trip to Mexico!

WiFi hotspots in Mexico

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on WiFi hotspots in Mexico
Oct 142010

Mexico City is about to become the first city in Latin America where all public schools enjoy free internet access.

The city already has more than 600 “hotspots” offering free Telmex wireless (WiFi) internet access. Telmex is adding an additional 350 locations to this list by the end of this year. Most of the hotspots are located in public spaces and buildings, such as universities, schools, hospitals and shopping centers. The plans for Mexico City hotspots are part of Telmex’s projected nationwide network of 3,000 free hotspots, including all major airports, hospitals, bus stations and universities.

Several major restaurant and hotel chains also offer free WiFi access. The following link may help you plan internet access during your next vacation…

Mexico’s communications, including telephones, the internet and the “digital divide” are discussed in detail in chapter 18 of  Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.  Buy your copy today to have a handy reference guide to all major aspects of Mexico’s geography!

Broadband in Mexico

 Mexico's geography in the Press  Comments Off on Broadband in Mexico
Feb 252010

According to the National Statistics Institute, 27.2 million Mexicans now have internet access, 22% more than a year ago. About 75% of connections are broadband.

No sooner had Teléfonos de México (Telmex) announced that it would boost broadband speed this year (2010)  from 4 Megabytes per second (Mb/s) to 10 Mb/s, than Cablevisión, the cable division of media conglomerate Televisa, followed suit. Cablevisión promises speeds in excess of 10 Mb/s in Mexico City and surrounding areas within the next few months.

Televisa has dented Telmex’s dominance in telecommunications by bundling television, online and phone services into attractively-priced packages. However, to promote competition, Telmex, which supplies about 89% of fixed line telephone service in Mexico, is not currently authorized to also offer television services.  Televisa is now reported to be considering launching its own cell phone network, perhaps in association with French firm Vivendi.

[Mexico’s communications, including telephones, the internet and the “digital divide” are discussed in detail in chapter 18 of  Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.]