Region II holding company Brasil Telecom has announced plans to enter the country’s mobile market in the second half of 2003 in a bid to expand its portfolio. The operator, which currently controls nine local fixed line operators in Brazil, said it expects to receive approval from regulator Anatel in July this year, having completed its requisite build-out goals in February, with plans to launch services sometime in the second half of the year. According to chief executive Carla Cico, Brasil Telecom is looking to offer mobile services as a complement to its fixed line business, and is aiming for a low-key launch; the telco will not even create a new brand for mobile services, planning to launch them under the Brasil Telcom banner. The operator said it will invest around USD350 million in its wireless operations over the next three years. Although it already owns three cellular licences in the 1800Mhz band, it is currently awaiting a decision from the regulator on whether the licences can be used on the 1900Mhz band. It has also said it may acquire competitive local exchange operator Vesper if Anatel allows that company to offer mobile services on its 1900Mhz band network.
Brasil Telecom will enter a highly competitive market when it launches cellular services, competing against 21 local operators in ten operating regions with a total of 33.38 million customers at the end of 2002. In its own concession region its main rivals will be Telesp Celular, which claimed 6.06 million subscribers at the same date, BCP (2.78 million) and Tess (1.18 million). The market still has room for growth, however, with the cellular penetration rate standing at around 18%.