Brazilian PCS licence holder Oi has announced that it closed the first quarter of 2003 with 1.72 million subscribers, up from around 1.4 million three months earlier, 78% of which were pre-paid. Oi, a subsidiary of fixed line telco Telemar, only entered the mobile sector in June 2002 but has already managed to catch up with its longer standing rivals BCP and Tess which had customer bases of 1.24 million and 1.18 million respectively at the end of 2002. The cellco has attributed its success to its GSM service; it is one of few Brazilian operators to have launched the technology and is confident that it will have attracted a customer base of around ten million by 2010. Oi’s concession allows it to operate in Brazil’s regions I, III, IV, VIII, IX and X, covering the areas of Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and the north and northeast of the country.
GSM is currently the least popular technology among Brazilian mobile operators, with the majority having opted for CDMA. With the regulator Anatel planning to award 3G licences in the next few years, however, more TDMA operators will need to decide on either CDMA or GSM as their migration path to next generation services, and judging by the popularity of Oi’s service, GSM looks likely to become the favoured application in the future. In the past regulator Anatel has attempted to award PCS concessions several times but has thus far failed to generate much interest; in the 2001 auction only three D-band and one E-band licences were sold out of a total of nine C, D and E-band concessions, while the second attempt in August 2002 saw the C and E-band licences awarded but still failed to sell the two remaining D-band concesions.