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Digital nation

“There are several battle fronts to turn a country into a digital nation”

Luis Alberto Powell, Director of Telecommunications for ASEP in Panama gives us an accurate overview of the reality that the country and, more specifically, its telecommunications sector, are experiencing in these difficult times.

As ASEP’s Director, could you identify the main effects of the current health and economic crisis on the telecommunications sector in Panama?

Due to the lockdown, telecommunications networks worldwide have experienced a significant increase in the use of distance education, telework and leisure services, and Panama was no exception. While this may appear as a positive development for the operators, the latter have seen their income dwindle as a result of the substantial investments required to upgrade their network capacity, the reduction or cancellation of contracted service plans and the Government’s moratorium on payments for telecommunications services, as well as an increase in the clients’ delinquency rate.

Which measures are being implemented to accelerate the modernization and development of the sector, and to turn Panama into a true digital nation?

There are several battle fronts to turn a country into a digital nation. Great efforts are being made to connect the unconnected, by developing and deploying fiber optic infrastructure in rural areas, as well as expanding the mobile network. This comes in addition to the continuous work carried out to identify the IMT bands, which are extremely important for the development of new access technologies such as 5G.

What are the main deficiencies that you can identify on the market? Would you say that they are related to the lack of accurate data in the sector?

Our objective as a country is to ensure that the networks and services meet high technological and performance standards, and we are aware that large investments are needed to make this a reality. However, telecommunications service operators have to find a balance in their cost matrix to make the latest technology services affordable for as many citizens as possible.

Regarding the statistics of the telecommunications sector, the National Authority of Public Services has access to data related to the behavior of the various telecommunications services, which are complemented by surveys on the users’ perception of the quality of services.

Do you think that Big Data plays a relevant role in ensuring greater transparency and regulatory compliance in the telecommunications market? If yes, how?

Having access to information pertaining to services, network operations and user perception is a very important basis for efficient regulatory management. The more transparent the information sent to the Authority by the service providers is, the easier it is to optimize the regulatory model.

How do you see the market behaving in the last months of the year? Will new measures be announced to make Panama a digital hub?

Unfortunately, income-wise, the telecommunications market is going through difficult times. However, Panama’s telco industry has enabled the various activities necessary to promote the digital economy and tele-education. With the support of a committed government, the country’s ICT sector has become one of the strongest mechanisms to reactivate the economy and investments. The aim is to turn Panama into a regional Digital Hub, by attracting investment from technology companies and enhancing the country’s human resources and digital economy, in a joint effort involving both the industry and the government.

Luis Alberto Powell, ASEP’s Director of Telecommunications

Want to read more about the current situation of the sector in Latin America? Click here.