Ecuador Table of Contents
Although the system underwent expansion and modernization in the 1970s and 1980s, telecommunications remained underdeveloped with most facilities located in Quito or Guayaquil. The media and broadcast facilities likewise remained concentrated in the country's two main urban areas and often displayed regional rivalries or biases in their coverage. Foreign television, motion pictures, and books dominated the entertainment and publishing arena.
Despite improvements beginning in 1970, the telephone system still failed to provide adequate service to most customers, and facilities remained concentrated in Quito and Guayaquil. In 1987 the country counted 343,000 telephone lines, 70 percent residential and 30 percent business, an average of only 3.5 lines per 100 inhabitants. This compared poorly with averages for other countries--5.8 lines per 100 inhabitants in Venezuela, 9.5 in Colombia, and 78.7 in the United States. Over three-quarters of the country's telephones were in the capital and in Guayaquil, with most of the remainder scattered throughout provincial capitals. In rural areas, with about 40 percent of the population, many towns had only one public telephone or were totally without telephone service. Customers in Quito and Guayaquil took advantage of a small telex network with more than 3,000 subscribers.
The quality of telephone service remained poor, with frequent breakdowns of the entire system and difficulties in completing calls. In the late 1980s, much of the equipment in the telephone switching centers was obsolete and overworked, and an average of only one-third of the telephone calls dialed could be completed. This completion rate dropped to nearly zero on calls between cities during business hours. Nearly all telephones were connected to automatic exchanges, and domestic long-distance calls could be dialed by customers without the assistance of an operator. International calls, however, had to be placed through an operator, with call completion waits ranging from several minutes to several hours.
Most long-distance calls within the country travelled on a 960- channel microwave trunk that linked Quito with Guayaquil. A lowercapacity microwave route extended out to smaller cities and also ran north from Quito into Colombia and south from Guayaquil into Peru. Most international calls were routed to the ground satellite station east of Quito. With a 30-meter antenna permanently pointed to the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization's Atlantic Ocean satellite, this ground station could handle more than 300 simultaneous telephone calls from Ecuador to locations in North America, South America, and Europe.
The Ecuadorian Institute of Telecommunications (Instituto Ecuatoriano de Telecomunicaciones--Ietel), a government-owned corporation, provided all international and domestic long-distance telephone services, the telex services, and 95 percent of local telephone service. The Public Municipal Enterprise for Telephones, Potable Water, and Sewers (Empresa Pública Municipal de Teléfonos, Agua Potable y Alcantarillado--Etapa) provided local service for the remaining 5 percent of the population with telephones in the city of Cuenca. The Ministry of Public Works and Communications controlled both Ietel and Etapa.
Radio broadcast facilities were numerous, and all areas of the country could receive at least one domestic station. As with other communication services, however, Quito and Guayaquil dominated mediumwave amplitude-modulated (AM) stations; of the more than 260 stations nationwide, more than 40 were in Guayaquil and three dozen in the capital. Most broadcasting was in Spanish, but a few rural stations had programming in Quichua and Shuar. Sixteen stations of the National Radio (Radio Nacional) were publicly owned; the remainder were in private hands and loosely organized into five networks. The country had an estimated 3 million radio receivers.
In addition to mediumwave broadcasts, in 1989 Ecuador boasted thirty-nine domestic shortwave stations, one international shortwave transmitter, and several frequency-modulated (FM) stations. Shortwave frequencies were used to transmit to isolated areas in the Oriente or to reach a broader audience nationwide. The country's sole shortwave station intended for an international audience, the Quito-based HCJB, the "Voice of the Andes," was missionary-run with primarily religious programming. FM service was found primarily in Quito and Guayaquil.
Ecuador had only ten television stations--four in Quito, three in Guayaquil, and one each in Esmeraldas, Portoviejo, and Cuenca. Channel 10 in Quito, however, maintained a network of small relay stations so that most of the country could receive its signal. Each station was required to broadcast a minimum of five minutes of literacy programming every day. Ecuador had the same television system as the United States, thus permitting the use of United States-made television sets or the taping and viewing of United States programs on video recorders without modification or conversion. A 1989 estimate showed 600,000 television receivers including 250,000 color sets.
The National Postal Enterprise provided postal service and maintained more than 500 offices throughout the country. Service was slow and unreliable, however, with frequent reports of thefts or loss of mail.
The press was concentrated in Guayaquil and Quito, each city having four daily newspapers. El Universo, an independent paper published in Guayaquil, had the largest circulation in 1989, with 225,000 subscribers, followed by El Comercio, a conservative, business paper from Quito with a circulation of 130,000 (see The Media , ch. 4).
Ecuador had no national news agency. Foreign wire services with offices in Quito and Guayaquil included Associated Press and United Press International from the United States, Reuters from Britain, the West German Deutsche Press-Agentur, Agencia EFE from Spain, the Cuban Prensa Latina, TASS from the Soviet Union, and the New China (Xinhua) News Agency.
Motion pictures remained a popular source of entertainment and communication. Because Ecuador produced no films domestically, all movies were imported and either dubbed or subtitled in Spanish. Movie attendance was high, with an average of 5.5 visits to a theater annually. Increased sales of video cassette recorders made home viewing of movies as well as sports events and foreign television programs increasingly popular.
Data as of 1989
Ecuador Table of Contents