According to the Brazilian regulator Anatel, the total number of mobile subscribers in the country rose to 65.6 million in 2004, a penetration rate of 36.6%, up from 46.4 million and 26.2% at the end of 2003. Broken down, the centre-west region of the country accounted for 6.65 million of the total, a penetration rate of 53.1%, the south had 12.1 million (46.01%), the south-east 32.25 million (42.38%), the north 3.85 million (27.4%) and the north-east 10.63 million (21.32%). In December alone 4.41 million new lines were sold in the country.
Anatel has attributed the growth to the rapid rollout of GSM networks in the country; Brasil Telecom, Claro, Oi, TIM Brasil, Amazonia Cellar and Telemig Celular have all launched GSM networks. The trend means that GSM has taken over from CDMA as the nation’s second largest mobile platform, and looks likely to become the leader in 2005, overtaking TDMA in the process. Brazil’s GSM customer base grew by 224.6% in 2004, leaving just Vivo – the joint venture between Telefónica Móviles and Portugal Telecom – as the sole CDMA network operator in the country. Although it is the largest operator, Vivo faces increasing competition from the GSM, EDGE and GPRS services offered by its rivals.
Anatel expects to see similar customer growth in 2005, with the pre-paid sector playing a central role; at the end of 2004 pre-paid subscribers accounted for around 80.5% of the total. Operators are also expected to concentrate on non-voice services to drive revenues; GPRS, EDGE and push-to-talk over cellular services (PoC) are expected to prosper.