By: Harry Baldock
In a meeting between Millicom CEO Mauricio Ramos and Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen, Ramos announced major investment plans, as well as the creation of a Fintech Hub
Millicom is keen to demonstrate its commitment to advancing the digitalisation of Panama, announcing a plan to invest $250 million into their local business over the 2021–2022 period.
The funds will be used to expand Millicom’s fixed and mobile networks, including to underserved areas such as Bocas del Toro, Darién, Coclé and Indigenous Comarcas, thus contributing to the government’s strategy of closing the digital divide.
The news comes following a meeting between Millicom CEO Mauricio Ramos and Panamanian President Laurentino Cortizo Cohen yesterday, in which Ramos outlined his plans for continued investment in Panama and the wider Central American region.
“By working together with the government, we are enabling expanded and improved access to telecommunications, adding to the country’s competitiveness, and creating a better, increasingly digital future for all the communities we proudly serve,” said Ramos. “We share the same ambition: to bring progress to all corners of the country and promote the sustainable digitalization of Panama.”
As is becoming an increasingly common phrase throughout the telecoms industry, President Cortizo said that Millicom must be a ‘facilitator’ for digitalisation, just as it was the government’s responsibility to be a facilitator for investment.
“As we sit here today, the decision has been made to modernize the network, impacting 800,000 Panamanians, of which 200,000 had no coverage. Millicom’s investment of $250 million will have great social and economic impacts and will provide coverage to locations that are difficult to access, which is part of the Colmena Plan,” noted the President.
Ramos said that the company is already working hard to rapidly improve coverage and bring connectivity to those currently cut off from engaging in the digital world. Since the start of May this year, 78 new mobile sites have been deployed throughout the company, expanding Millicom’s coverage to over 450,000 people. By the end of the year, 143 new sites will be added around Panama.
Beyond improving coverage, Millicom has also announced that it has selected Panama as their Financial Hub in the region, from which the company will expand their mobile financial services throughout the region. Millicom’s mobile banking platform, operating as Tigo Money in Latin America, reportedly doubled its digital transactions on the platform in the last year.
Panama is not the only LatAm market where Millicom is increasing its investment. The company is reportedly investing $135 million to upgrade its 4G networks in Bolivia, Honduras and Paraguay, tapping Ericsson for 5G-ready equipment. As a result, Ericsson will become Millicom’s sole network equipment vendor in these three markets.
“It makes things easier at a market level, at a country level, that seems to be the recipe for us,” Millicom CTIO Xavier Rocoplan told Fierce Wireless. “That way you have scale by market directly. So these markets are going 100% to Ericsson now.”
According to Rocoplan, expanding 4G services throughout the region is a priority, but one that may not rest entirely on terrestrial infrastructure. Noting the difficult geography inherent to some of these markets, Rocoplan said that satellite connectivity could be an efficient way of delivering connectivity to hard-to-reach areas.