Venezuelan telecoms deteriorate amid dollar squeeze, group says
By Alexandra Ulmer and Eyanir Chinea
CARACAS, Sept 15 (Reuters) - Venezuela's telecoms industry was deteriorating because of a scarcity of dollars, putting roaming and mobile internet services at risk, the crisis-hit country's telecoms chamber said on Tuesday.
Telecoms, like almost all sectors of socialist-run Venezuela's battered economy, depend on a strict state allocation of dollars for imports and investments.
But a tumble in oil prices and an economic crisis have restricted the availability of hard currency, causing shortages ranging from iPhones to catheters and flour, and harming investments.
"The scarce allocation of hard currency so far in 2015 is substantially less than the average of previous years, accelerating the process of disinvestment in the sector," the executive committee of the chamber, Casetel, said in an e-mailed response to questions.
Private telecoms companies were owed around $700 million in arrears, Casetel said, whose 35 members include Venezuelan state phone company Cantv and Satellite TV provider DirecTV.
Cell phone coverage can already be patchy or non-existent outside the capital Caracas, internet is slow, and provider Movistar has restricted international calls to 10 countries.
Roaming services and long-distance calls could be further curtailed as providers avoid spending hard currency, Casetel said, which would compound a sense of isolation amid a severe reduction in flights, also caused by the currency crisis.
Network coverage and expansion, data, quality of services, and new technologies could also suffer. Continuación...