United World met with Victor García Talavera to talk about the moment telecommunications are going through in Costa Rica and Claro’s situation in particular. He explained the most important measures of its arrival in the country, its strengths and opportunities and the strategies for the future. He described the leadership Claro has attained and the obstacles they must overcome to keep on developing positively. Lastly, he gave us his opinion on how telecommunications directly influence the country’s economic and social growth.
Costa Rica is going through a historic change on a political and governmental level. The new administration is betting on social development and economic drive. What new possibilities arise in the telecommunications sector?
The telecommunications sector transversally reaches almost all the country’s economic and social sectors. So we should really point out the opportunities the sector offers the new administration, given the vertiginous development telecommunications have experienced in the country, propelled in part by a model of open competition, where the private sector, and Claro in particular, have been important protagonists.
It has been demonstrated that telecommunications are a source of socio-economic development. From the moment Costa Rica opened its telecommunications market with Claro's entry, we have seen an absolute transformation in the sector. The penetration of mobile services and Internet access in Costa Rica increased in a radical manner: in less than three years they have reached levels of 151 percent and 50 percent respectively, and they are now the highest in the region. Under the circumstances they considered opening the market, Costa Rica had extremely low indicators that didn’t correspond with the country’s levels of income and education.
At Claro, we are convinced that mobile services offered under competition are notoriously closing the digital gap in Costa Rica. The whole sector has gone from representing 1 percent of the GDP to representing 2.4 percent; so the economy of telecommunications has more than doubled in Costa Rica, with all the positive consequences that represents in matters of employment opportunities and increase in the country’s competitiveness levels.
Due to the accelerated growth of telecommunications in the country, here in Claro we aren’t surprised that Costa Rica has gone up three positions in the most recent global competitiveness ranking, and it now holds 54th position, which means fourth place in Latin America. The elements that made that possible are the ones related to our sector, like innovation capacity based on technology, a good education level, the capacity of creating more sophisticated businesses and the capacity to adopt new technology. The development of our sector, thanks to the opening of the market, has become vital for the country’s qualitative improvement in the competitiveness index.
In consequence, and considering telecommunications is a sector that transversally affects all other economic sectors, I believe this administration has a great opportunity to continue delving into the economic overture model, which the majority of Costa Ricans voted for in the historic referendum of 2007. The model has proven it works, that it generates more riches and higher competitiveness levels; and it is precisely in that model that Claro and the private sector play a fundamental role.
The President has pointed out the importance of receiving foreign investments that develop cutting-edge technology. How does Claro fit into this idea?
Without a doubt, in Claro we develop our investments precisely in the sector that generates the infrastructure and necessary conditions to propel technological innovation. Claro's entry into Costa Rica’s telecommunications market came with an initial investment plan of over $700 million, immediately turning us into one of the largest investors in the country and, therefore, into one of the greatest believers in Costa Rica’s stability and legal certainty.
At Claro, we are betting on the closure of all existing gaps in terms of access to technology to improve the quality of life, because when those gaps begin to close, a greater individual and social empowering will occur and higher levels of education, productivity and efficiency will be reached in all productive sectors. As a company, we generate the conditions for innovation and we are also innovative, because we are directly involved in the development of investments destined for the use of communications and information technology to improve the people’s quality of life. Claro's investments are directly linked to our vision of improving people’s quality of life, their businesses and communities by being more and better connected to the world.
In terms of access to information and service quality, Claro is a leading company in Costa Rica. We were the first one to break with the mobile services monopoly and we have brought a whole range of possibilities that didn’t exist before and that encourage competition in the sector; this is the case with satellite TV services, high-speed mobile Internet and cell phone plans tailor-made to fit our clients’ necessities.
Inside the telecommunications sector in Costa Rica, in which niches do you see the greatest opportunities?
The telecommunications market in Costa Rica is growing according to the international tendencies of developed countries, reflected in the great demand for data services. In Claro, we have positioned ourselves as the fastest network in the market and more than 60 percent of our devices are smartphones, which are the vehicle for data consumption. The new model has made it possible for seven out of ten inhabitants in Costa Rica to have access to the Internet through their mobile devices and today there are over 3.5 million mobile lines connected to the Internet, surpassing the projections we had for the market for the year 2020. Claro has bet on data service for its positioning in the Costa Rican market, so it presents the opportunity of increasing our presence in the country even more and to continue to work in that direction, for example with the recent implementation of our 4G LTE network.
Another opportunity we see in Claro is the possibility of closing the access to mobile services gaps. Even though Costa Rica has already reached 151 percent penetration, we calculate the country’s economy would make it possible to easily reach levels over 200 percent, as long as this new model continues to consolidate. The telecommunications market in Costa Rica has to continue growing.
Finally, I would like to point out that one of the greatest opportunities for the market’s development lies in delving into this competition model, to make it profitable and sustain its benefits in the short and long terms. We have seen how competition and private investment have closed the gaps, have propelled economic growth and have brought fresh investment to the country; but there are still great opportunities to consolidate and sustain this model. It is important to precisely define the game rules in terrain where we compete against State companies, surpass the institutional obstacles that exist for the deployment of our infrastructure and truly open the market up for competition, avoiding inadequate economic regulation for the current market conditions and that is preventing us from adequately segmenting our commercial offers.
What specifically does Claro offer that other competitors don’t?
At Claro, we offer the fastest mobile Internet in the market with coverage of 96 percent of the country’s districts. We have positioned ourselves as the leading operator in mobile Internet in the market and that is the vision with which we have been working, and will continue to do so. We have the best and fastest mobile Internet navigation experience and we have worked on that because we believe that is where the future lies. It took us a little more time to reach the coverage we now have but we did it because we wanted to offer a better service.
Claro arrived in Costa Rica with the firm purpose of contributing to the development of the Internet in the country and transforming its connectivity, offering the fastest mobile internet in the market. Our contribution isn’t just about commercial elements; it is a key point in the closure of the digital gap and the improvement of our clients’ quality of life. The closure of the digital gap will be achieved through broadband mobile services or it won’t be achieved at all. The elements of Claro's offer are recognized in Costa Rica, as is demonstrated by the leadership we have achieved in the number portability process since 2014.
We are leaders in quality and innovation in the market with a participation quota that already surpasses 20 percent. This leadership reached by Claro, as I mentioned, is accompanied by our contribution to the closure of the digital gap and the country’s economic growth.
What is your personal objective in this environment?
In the specific context of what we do from Claro, I would like to continue making history, as we have been doing since the very moment we entered into the open telecommunications market in Costa Rica. We want to be recognized as active participants in the success story of Costa Rica’s telecommunications sector.
Vanessa Massimini (ProjectDirector)
Matteo Transtevere (Editorial Director)