Mobile network ecosystem
Historically, the telecommunication service was provided in El Salvador only by the State through the National Administration for Communications (ANTEL). However, in 1996 the Salvadorian Congress created the Electricity and Telecommunication General Superintendence. Also, in 1997 the Telecommunication Law that is currently governing this sector was enacted. Initially, the Privatisation of the National Telecommunication Management Law established the division of the State Company in two: One company in charge of the wired service (CTE-ANTEL) and the other of the wireless service of telecommunication, INTEL.
In 1998, 51 percent of shares from CTE-ANTEL were sold to France Telecom for US$275m; the government owned 42.9 percent and workers and pensioners 6.1 percent. Later, CTE-ANTEL was acquired by América Móvil from México, which has invested in telecommunication companies in all Latin America. INTEL was acquired by Telefónica from Spain, holding 51 percent of shares while the remaining 49 percent is owned by the government.
Also, in 1998, the Superintendencia General de Electricidad y Telecomunicaciones (General Superintendence of Electrical Power and Telecommunications - SIGET) was created and put in charge of the regulation of telecommunication services. It establishes the maximum charge in landlines and mobile services, as well as the basic charges of interconnection. The Superintendence of Competition regulates the telecommunication market from the economic side with SIGET supporting as a technical advisor.
In 2005, 82.42 percent of subscribers to mobile phones in El Salvador had a prepaid plan and 17.58 percent had a postpaid plan. This was a special case in Central America, because postpaid plans were among 8 percent and 11 percent on average in Central America. Also, El Salvador was the only country with four mobile companies; the other Central American countries had between two and three operators.
In 2011, the Superintendence of Competition denounced Telemóvil El Salvador, Digicel, Telefónica Móviles El Salvador and Intelfón for agreeing prices to keep them artificially high (US$0.21 plus taxes per minute). These companies appealed to the Administrative Litigation Room (from the Supreme Court of Justice) and on April, 2018, the fines were ratified forcing Intelflon to pay US$58,289.70. Also, in March, 2018, the Salvadoran Phone company Telemóvil El Salvador commonly known as TIGO, was compelled to pay more than US$1m in fines. The fines were issued by the Superintendence of Competence, "for abuse of dominant position" by hindering the entry of new competitors into the Salvadoran market. The argument of the Superintendence is that there was collusion between the five mobile companies to hamper the market, so they could keep prices high.
In 2015, Mobile Number Portability was authorised, allowing mobile subscribers to change company without losing their phone number. In 2018, more than 680,000 subscribers used the Mobile Number Portability to change their current mobile operator. The telecom penetration rate is about 153 percent meaning that there are approximately 9.2 million mobile phones for a population of 6 million.