The deadlines continue for wireless and telecom infrastructure rollout, with cities of over 200,000 people to be covered by Dec. 31, 2015, and those with over 100,000 residents having 4G coverage by Dec. 31, 2016. Those municipalities must have 80% 4G coverage, Anatel head of international affairs Jeferson Fued Nacif told EE Times.
“The occurrence of mass concentration of mobile users in one location… may result in temporary problems in the enjoyment of the service,” an Anatel report reads. “There is need, therefore, that the providers… estimate the demand of future events to meet their satisfaction.”
Following the World Cup, carriers will work to deploy in host cities LTE-Advanced, an upgrade of LTE supporting carrier aggregation. Brazil is already investing in the “beginning stages of LTE-A,” Pearson told us, adding that he expects existing networks to have advanced capabilities by the 2016 Olympics.
“Over time, we will see upgraded networks, and the Olympics will be another juggernaut of mobile broadband,” he said. “Mobile broadband is increasing, and connections to the Internet via mobile devices exceed those of fixed. You will see a gradual increase because of LTE being available in more coverage areas in the country of Brazil as well as the rest of the region.”
Before LTE-A can gain traction, says Pearson, more radio spectrum needs to be brought to market. While the government may auction parts of the 700 MHz band to mobile carriers, military use of that spectrum may negate its potential for consumer use.
At the same time, Anatel is advocating for strengthened 3G service in urban and rural areas. Anatel expects at least 60% of municipalities with fewer than 30,000 inhabitants to have access to 3G by April 2016, which may be a more realistic use case than 4G.
A large number of Brazilians may continue to use 2G and 3G phones. Developing or importing high-end, LTE-A capable phones is difficult.
Brazil’s import tariffs for cellphones and telecommunications equipment are extremely high, a document from the US Trade Representative stated. Brazil’s tariffs are often significantly higher than those of other countries in the customs union Mercosur.
“Brazil’s import tax rate is really high, more than 80%, so the penetration rate of smartphone use is very low,” says Henry Woo, a partner in venture capital firm JB Plus, who spends half the year in Brazil. “Brazil is kind of bipolar with a very rich group and a very poor group, so maybe people try to buy a smartphone but have to put up three months’ salary to buy it.”