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
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
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
(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