Mobile ownership

The official figures from Conatel show that in 2017 there existed 86 active mobile lines for every 100 inhabitants, that is, 28,451,182 subscribers in a country with 31,977,065 people at the end of 2017. The penetration rate in the previous years had been over 100 percent, which shows the decrease in the number of mobile phones lines available. According to the same figures, 13,517,785 people own a smartphone. Pew Research Center (in Mediatelecom Policy & Law, 2018) placed the penetration rate of smartphones at 38 percent, placing Venezuela among the least advanced countries in this aspect, even though when this technology was appearing Venezuela was expected to be one of the Latin American leaders.

According to information from Tendencias Digitales, 56 percent of Internet users in Venezuela connect using their mobile phones, a figure that has been increasing in the last years, especially thanks to the use of social networks and, mainly, the mobile banking and payment systems, that have substituted cash in a hyperinflationary context. That is, smartphones have had a significant effect in society, greater than that of normal mobile phones. Disaggregated data about the use of mobile phones are not easy to access and, when they exist, they are usually available under purchase from private companies.

Income level defines the strongest digital divide. There have been efforts from the government to reduce this divide and to make mobile and Internet network available for everybody. Some measures where the nationalisation of companies, the legal limitations of prices - which at the same time made it very complicated for companies to survive - and the distribution of mobile phones with strong price reductions among underprivileged people by Movilnet. Nevertheless the connection problems were not solved, the quality is still low and the prices, due to hyperinflation, have continued going up, so many people may access the network but cannot afford it. These measures are over now, but they have proved negative for private companies, that must struggle to compete in unequal conditions. They have also led to slower Internet and mobile connections due to the lack of investment and renovation of the infrastructure, which is not made for such a big network.