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Espanol Mobile Asks: Why is the Latino Population Underserved in the Mobile Telecomm Market?

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Latinos represent the fastest growing segment of the United States population. According to the 2010 United States census, 16.9% of Americans describe themselves as Latino or Hispanic. Today, nearly four years later, it is estimated that this number is closer to 18%.

The Latino population in the American southwest is especially dense. For some perspective: the Latino population of Texas alone is equal to the combined populations of the states of Oregon and Washington.  

While the greatest concentration of Latino Americans can be found in the southwest (from California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas), the Latino population throughout the rest of the nation is steadily increasing as well.

As of the conclusion of the fourth fiscal quarter of 2013, the Latino population contributed upwards of 35% in the technology, entertainment, and telecommunications industries in the United States. Additionally, approximately 50% of the Latino American population owns a smart phone. 

With such a significant market share, one would assume that American telecommunications providers would meet the needs of the Latino population with enthusiasm. In actual fact, however, this is not the case at all.

"If you look at some of these companies, they really haven't offered plans that serve the population as a whole," says Andy Taber, CEO of Espanol Mobile, a subsidiary of Pix Wireless. There are plenty of telecommunications companies that offer services in Spanish. But while this minimal step has been taken, the fact remains that providers have overlooked the tendencies and needs of the Latino population at large. 

The specific plans offered by cell phone providers are meant to be created with the needs of the customers in mind. Given that this is the case, one would assume that American telecommunications companies would cater to the 50+ million Latino citizens in the United States. This, however, is far from the present state of the industry.

As noted by Taber and Espanol Mobile: "If you look at some of the data, Latinos do not use a whole lot of voice minutes. They're very family-oriented, so family plans are important to them. This population of people requires affordable and comprehensive family plans in addition to access to plans that allow freedom in text messaging instead of talk."

But is there a solution to this proposed problem? Yes. The answer is quite simple. Companies who wish to address this problem will begin to take the same approach that they have taken with the other major segments of the population. This will mean paying attention to Latinos' tendencies, tastes and priorities, and ultimately crafting a product consistent with the needs of the people.  

To some degree, this process has already begun. At the end of 2013, The New York Times pointed out that retailers are beginning to take the growing Latino population more seriously when it comes to their outreach to potential customers. This trend is expected to continue in all industries, including the telecommunications industry. 

"I think by bringing low cost data options, as well as voice service, you're able to get these products into the hands of people who wouldn't ordinarily have access to them," the Espanol Mobile Chief Executive told us. "Something else that we've done is institute financing plans to make sure that everyone who wants a device, but can not necessarily afford it outright, has the opportunity to access such huge amounts of information on 4G networks."

This statement suggests that providing easy accessibility and offering plans that meet the style of use exhibited by the general Latino population are not the only adjustments that must be made to the plans offered by cell phone companies if they wish to tap into the Latino market more effectively. In addition to these two major shifts in approach, companies may begin to tinker with plans that are more affordable for the working class Latino population.  

The fact that these questions are being asked and that theories are being formulated in response bodes well for consumers. Large companies and massive industries often live in a bubble. It is only when you get them out of that bubble that you can expect true and significant customer-friendly adjustments to be made.


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