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Brazil: 5G network auction expected to raise US$9 billion

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – In addition to the main network, for general use, Brazil will offer the operation of a parallel network for the government’s exclusive use, in which equipment from Chinese Huawei may not be deployed, excluded under the terms of the call amid a geopolitical dispute over allegations of espionage.

A total of 15 companies submitted proposals to the National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL), including the 3 large companies currently operating telephone and Internet services in the country: TIM (Brazilian subsidiary of Telecom Italia), Telefónica Brasil (owner of the Vivo brand and subsidiary of the Spanish group) and Claro (subsidiary of Mexico’s América Móvil).

This Thursday, Brazil will auction its 5G network. (Photo internet production)

“The auction is expected to reach R$50 billion (US$9 billion). It is the country’s largest telecommunications auction and one of the largest 5G tenders internationally. The potential is tremendous,” said Christian Perrone, coordinator of the Law and Technology area of the Institute of Technology and Society of Rio de Janeiro (ITS).

Of this total, the government plans to collect approximately R$10 billion for frequency use and the remainder would be for investments in new infrastructure, including equipment and transmission towers. Experts estimate that 5G requires between 4 and 10 times more antennas than 4G.

Regional and national blocks of different frequencies will be in dispute, each with a different purpose, speed and range. Operating licenses cover a period of 20 years.

INTERNET OF THINGS

The winning companies must provide 5G to the Federal District and the 26 state capitals by July 31, 2022. Other cities, with populations of over 30,000, are expected to have 5G between 2025 and 2028.

“Consumers will not notice the difference, other than an improvement in the speed of their device when watching movies and videos. But from the industrial perspective, a new reality is unveiled for plants, the production sector, and agribusiness,” says Conexis Brasil Digital CEO Marcos Ferrari, the association that represents 5 of the companies disputing the slots.

Connected agricultural tractors, drones to monitor plantations, autonomous vehicles in cities and remote surgeries: 5G will allow connecting devices to each other and to the cloud, with immediate response times.

5G is therefore often presented as the technology behind the “internet of things,” a world in which connected devices can potentially “talk” to each other without human intervention.

While aiming to make this leap into the future, Brazil will seek to make up for the lag in its less developed areas, where some 40 million people are still offline. The auction includes the commitment of the winning companies to take internet to locations lacking it, expand coverage on highways, in public schools and in the Amazon region.

GOVERNMENT NETWORK

The auction date was postponed several months amid the geopolitical dispute between China and the United States, which led Brazil to demand a parallel network to keep Huawei away from its most sensitive data.

A world leader in equipment for 5G mobile internet networks, Huawei is barred from accessing the U.S. market, as Washington accuses it of espionage and encourages its Western allies to do likewise.

Jair Bolsonaro’s government then designed a bid for equipment to be used in the general network, but not in the one serving exclusively government bodies, such as Ministries, Congress, the Armed Forces or the Judicial branch.

Despite being one of the first countries in Latin America to launch its 5G network tender, Brazil is “2 or 3” years behind the world’s pioneering countries, Perrone says. This will hinder it from transitioning from a mere consumer to a creator of new technologies. “When 6G advances internationally, we will still be in the process of installing the 5G network in Brazil,” he notes.

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