Telecommunications in Uruguay
Telecommunications in Uruguay includes radio, television, telephones, and the Internet.
Radio and television
Uruguay has a mixture of privately owned and state-run broadcast media; more than 100 commercial radio stations and about 20 TV channels. Cable TV is readily available. Uruguay adopted the hybrid Japanese/Brazilian HDTV standard (ISDB-T) in December 2010.
- Main lines: 964,900 lines in use (2011).
- Mobile cellular: 4,757,000 lines (2011).
- Domestic system: fully digitalized, most modern facilities concentrated in Montevideo; nationwide microwave radio relay network.
- Teledensity: 170 telephones per 100 persons overall fixed-line and mobile-cellular teledensity.
- Calling code: 598.
- Submarine cable systems: UNISUR submarine cable system provides direct connectivity to Brazil and Argentina.
- Satellite earth stations: Two, Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean).
- Internet users: 1.405 million (2012).
- Internet hosts: 1.036 million (2009).
- Top-level domain: .uy
- ADSL services, provided by the monopoly state-owned company (ANTEL). As of 2012, 4 Mbit/s/512 kbit/s cost about US$ 60/mo.
- Wireless ISPs, which have a tendency to be more expensive because of high taxation and radio spectrum license costs.
- WiMax launched by Dedicado in 2012.
- The "VERA Network" currently being installed by ANTEL, a FTTH network to the whole country, expected to cover most of Montevideo in 2013.
- WiFi access provided at some shopping malls and other commercial business.
- Cyber cafes, which are very common throughout the country and very inexpensive (from about US$ 0.40 an hour).
- EDGE and GPRS mobile Internet services offered by all mobile phone companies at very low flat rates.
- 3G mobile Internet, offered by all the mobile phone companies with data rates of up to 3 Mbit/s. The 3G prices are relatively low compared to the world, because of the lack of the country population and also lack of cultural technology immersion.
- LTE 4G service with high speed connections, about 20 Mbit/s, recently launched by ANTEL and Claro (Telmex).
Access from Uruguay to the Internet at large is concentrated in a few providers, which puts the country in the "significant risk" category for total loss of Internet connectivity in the case of internal or external turmoil. As of December 2012, the only other South American countries in this situation are Bolivia and Paraguay.
ANTEL, a telco company owned by the government, is the only ISP to provide ADSL service since it enjoys a monopoly in the basic telephony area. Other ISP use other technologies, such as radio, to get to customers.
Some services marketed to home users by Antel as of April 2013 are:
Unlimited data plans
- Plano 1: 2048 kbit/s down and 512 kbit/s up for 490 UYU (26 US$) a month
- Plano 2: 3072 kbit/s down and 512 kbit/s up for 585 UYU (31 US$) a month
- Plano 3: 5120 kbit/s down and 512 kbit/s up for 883 UYU (46 US$) a month
- Plano 4: 10240 kbit/s down and 512 kbit/s up for 1268 UYU (67 US$) a month
These plans still have a data limit at 100 Gbyte, at which point their down and upload speeds get halved.
Metered data plans
- Flexible 5 Giga: 5 Gbyte limit for 288 UYU (15 US$) a month
- Flexible 20 Giga: 20 Gbyte limit for 387 UYU (20 US$) a month
- Flexible 30 Giga: 30 Gbyte limit for 490 UYU (26 US$) a month
- Flexible 40 Giga: 40 Gbyte limit for 590 UYU (31 US$) a month
- Flexible 60 Giga: 60 Gbyte limit for 790 UYU (42 US$) a month
- Flexible 80 Giga: 80 Gbyte limit for 890 UYU (47 US$) a month
- Flexible 100 Giga: 100 Gbyte limit for 990 UYU (52 US$) a month
No down and up speeds are quoted for these plans. All prices include VAT. ADSL service requires having a corresponding phone line with Antel. All plans provide a dynamic IP address only.
Despite a fully developed cable network in all mid- and large-size cities, there is no Internet access through cable TV systems in Uruguay as it has been steadfastly opposed by government regulators. Cuba is the only other country in the Americas missing this component of the Internet access ecosystem.
Fiber to the home
On November 2010, ANTEL announced that it would start rolling out Fiber to the home (FTTH) in the second half of 2011. As of April 2013, the Antel website claims to have connected over 389,000 homes to the Internet via fiber. There is no evidence that the government will allow private companies to offer their own fiber networks to the home. Thus, the Uruguayan state will likely continue to wield monopoly power on physical media Internet connections to the home for the foreseeable future.
Some services marketed to home users by Antel as of April 2013 are:
Antel fiber to the home monthly plans
- Vera 20 Megas: up to 20 Mbit/s down and 2 Mbit/s up, monthly data capped at 150 Gbyte† for 690 UYU (36 US$) a month
- Vera 50 Megas: up to 50 Mbit/s down and 10 Mbit/s up, monthly data capped at 200 Gbyte† for 990 UYU (52 US$) a month
- Vera 80 Megas: up to 80 Mbit/s down and 10 Mbit/s up, monthly data capped at 250 Gbyte† for 1290 UYU (68 US$) a month
- Vera 120 Megas: up to 120 Mbit/s down and 12 Mbit/s up, monthly data capped at 350 Gbyte† for 1590 UYU (84 US$) a month
- † When this cap is reached the connection is throttled back to 10% of its advertised speed for the rest of the month. Note that if a user were able to run the connection steadily at its advertised downlink speed he/she would reach the cap after a period between 5 and 16 hours and would get 10% of advertised speed for the rest of the month.
Most of Uruguay's landmass is too far away from cities to have wired Internet access. For customers in these rural and low density suburban areas, fixed wireless ISPs provide a service. Wireless Internet service has also provided city Internet users with some degree of choice in a country where private companies have not been allowed to offer wired alternatives (e.g. cable TV Internet, fiber to the home) to the state-operated ADSL service.
Dedicado is a local wireless ISP. It appeared before or about at the same time as Anteldata (about in 1999), but since ADSL was not available at the same time on every neighborhood, Dedicado had the majority of the permanent Internet connections. As of November 2007, ADSL is available in every neighborhood in Montevideo, and in most other cities, and Dedicado lost a big market share, both because being more expensive and giving bad service to their users. They started a big advertising campaign, but didn't pay attention to the technical details related to their number of users, so their quality of service decreased. As of 2012, their quality of service issues appear to be on the mend, but their pricing issues continue especially in the rural market where they have no credible competition and have steadily increased prices. Dedicado originally operated Ericsson fixed wireless equipment and later transitioned to Motorola Canopy technology. In 2005, they started deploying WiMAX services. However, as of May 2010, the service is not offered nor advertised yet. There are other wireless ISPs, but Dedicado is the main one.
Telmex is another entrant in the Uruguayan fixed wireless space, with the technology knowhow and financial backing to offer world class service and increase competition in the fixed wireless space. As of early 2012, they were still a tentative player however, with limited coverage of the country and some technical shortcomings (e.g. no Skype connectivity).
In February 2012, Antel announced a push to provide fixed wireless Internet service to rural customers using their 3G cellular network. As of November 2012, the service was being actively offered to customers of the company's Ruralcel fixed wireless telephone service. Customers who sign up get the equipment (a ZTE MF612/MF32 or Huawei B660 3G router) and monthly Internet service for free. While the network and router are capable of supporting multi-Mbit/s service, the free offering is throttled back to 256 kb down/64 kb upload speeds and capped at 1 Gbyte of monthly data transfer (except for a small number of customers grandfathered from a previous service). Once that data limit is reached, the customer has to recharge the service using a prepaid card at a rate of approximately US$10/Gbyte. There is an alternative monthly billing plan that offers 2 Mbit/s down and 512 Mbit/s up with a 5 Gbyte data cap for US$ 15, plus US$ 10 for each additional Gbyte (up to 5 Gbyte). There is no unlimited data plan, which limits this technology's ability to compete in the non-residential fixed wireless space against vendors like Dedicado.
Internet access via cell phone networks is probably the most vibrant and competitive Internet marketplace in Uruguay. All the Uruguayan cell phone companies (Antel, Claro, Movistar) offer data plans for their smartphone users as well as USB modems for personal computers. Ancel/Antel even offers a bundle of cellular Internet access and ADSL, an unusual but potentially attractive combination for home ADSL users who also want to have Internet access on the go. The speeds delivered by all companies within their areas of coverage keep getting faster, and the areas of coverage keep expanding (as of 2012 Ancel probably still has the edge in % of the country's land covered). Vendors are shifting from 3G to 4G, starting in the area around Montevideo. From a consumer's standpoint, the only discouraging trend in this market is the adoption of data volume caps by all vendors. As of August 2012, no vendor web-site offered an unlimited mobile Internet data plan (the closest was an "unlimited during nights and weekends" from Claro). This means these offerings are unlikely to cross sell into the fixed wireless Internet market where unlimited data plans tend to be the rule.[according to whom?]
Internet Service Providers
- ANTEL (http://www.antel.com.uy)
- Claro (http://www.claro.com.uy)
- Dedicado (http://www.dedicado.com.uy)
- Movistar (http://www.movistar.com.uy)
- TelMex, also related to CTI Movil (http://www.telmex.com.uy)
Many of those services also have an installation cost, which is equal to one or two months of service.
Internet censorship and surveillance
Uruguayan law provides for freedom of speech and press, and the government generally respects these rights in practice. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combine to ensure these rights. The law also prohibits arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home, or correspondence, and the government generally respects these prohibitions in practice.
- Could it happen in your country?
- Anteldata website
- Cable TV operators to sue Uruguayan state to be allowed to offer Internet service (Spanish)
- Only Cuba and Uruguay don't offer Internet access via cable modem (Spanish)
- Antel FTTH Announcement (Spanish)
- Anteldata website
- Antel Rural Internet Announcement (Spanish)
- "Uruguay", Freedom in the World 2013, Freedom House, 11 January 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- "Uruguay", Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, 21 March 2013. Retrieved 1 January 2014.
- URSEC, Unidad Reguladora de Servicios de Comunicaciones (Regulatory Services Unit for Communications) (Spanish).
- UY NIC, Regostro de Dominios UY (Registrar of Domains for UY) (Spanish).