The opening of Costa Rica's telecom sector has borne fruit, as evidenced by the fact that the country's mobile penetration of 170% exceeded the global average last year. Nonetheless, the development of an open market has caused some grief to the country's most renowned telco.

The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad (ICE) has lost luster since new competitors entered the mobile market, consistently losing subscriptions to other operators. By no means does this mean that ICE has lost all its strength, as the telco still holds over 50% of the market.   

ICE, a state-controlled power utility, began offering telecommunication services in 1963 and the company then held a monopoly over the telecom sector until the market was opened in 2008.

ICE's telecoms subsidiaries are business and government service provider Radriográfica Costarricense (Racsa) and pay-TV operator Cable Vision, which was acquired in 2013.

In 2013 ICE signed a partnership with Nicaraguan power utility Enatrel to provide telecom services in Nicaragua thorough a firm named Tecomunica. The company was created with the goal of catering to the government and business sectors and deploying broadband networks in rural areas in order to help Nicaragua breach its digital gap.

Jaime Palermo, ICE's telecommunications manager, said in an interview with media outlet IT Now that the Costa Rican telco would launch services in Nicargaua this year. However, some media sources report that Tecomunica has already begun operations, albeit in a very low-profile fashion.

Since 2012, telecommunications have contributed 38-45% of ICE's revenues. In the first quarter of this year ICE reported revenues of 327bn colones (US$574mn) and the telecom business contributed with 143bn colones.


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