QUITO: Latin American consumers are turning to smartphones and mobile broadband in ever increasing numbers but it will be some years yet before subscriber growth slows, a new report has said.

According to a study from the GSMA trade organisation – The Mobile Economy: Latin America 2014 – there were 718m mobile connections in Latin America at the end of September 2014. Smartphones accounted for almost 30% of these, a proportion projected to hit 70% by 2020.

Further, unique subscriber penetration (as a percentage of the population) currently stands at around 52% and is predicted to increase to 60% in 2020. And as the GSMA noted, that figure was "still well below" the figure at which subscriber growth tends to stall – around 70% to 80%.

Subscriber penetration rates vary widely across the region, however, from a low of 37% in Mexico to a high of 77% in Costa Rica.

At present the majority of mobile connections are 2G (60%) but the report said this share would fall to around 20% over the next five years as users migrated to mobile broadband and as 4G deployments accelerated.

"We are seeing a rapid technology migration in Latin America," said Anne Bouverot, director general of the GSMA. "The increasing adoption of smartphones – alongside expanding mobile broadband coverage – is unlocking new business opportunities for all players within the mobile value chain, as well as enabling millions of people to connect to the mobile internet."

This combination of accelerating mobile broadband and smartphone growth is driving rising mobile data consumption across the region, with Cisco forecasting a 66% CAGR over the next few years, well ahead of the growth expected in more developed markets.

The report also found that the number of mobile broadband connections surpassed fixed broadband connections in the region in 2011. Brazil, for example, has five times more mobile broadband than fixed broadband connections.

Brazil is the largest single market in Latin America, accounting for one third (114m) of the region's total unique subscriber base. Together with Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and Venezuela, the top five countries account for 70% (230m) of the regional total.

Data sourced from GSMA; additional content by Warc staff