Brazil’s national telecommunications regulator Anatel has approved plans to conduct an auction of radio frequencies suitable for fourth-generation (4G) wireless services in the country, Bloomberg reports. Under the tender outline, carriers which secure 4G spectrum will be required to launch services in the six Brazilian cities hosting soccer’s Confederations Cup by April 2013, and in the twelve host cities for the 2014 Football World Cup, by the end of 2013. The country’s five leading cellcos – Telefonica Brazil (Vivo), TIM Participacoes (TIM Brasil), Telecom Americas (Claro), Telemar Norte Leste (Oi) and NII Holdings’ Nextel Brasil – are all expected to participate in the auction, while Sky Brasil (part of the DirecTV group) may also take part.
Anatel intends to sell off frequencies in the 2.5GHz band and the 450MHz band, with the latter being deployed to boost rural coverage. Anatel commissioner Marcelo Bechara said that the watchdog expects that the bandwidth on offer will be sufficient to allow three or four carriers to provide nationwide coverage. The regulator will publish its reserve prices for the spectrum later this month after its plans are reviewed by the federal accountability office, Anatel said.
Anatel’s decision comes in the wake of operator concerns over the timing of the 4G auction. As reported in yesterday’s CommsUpdate, Vivo Participacoes joined with fellow carrier TIM Brasil to criticise Anatel’s 4G auctions plans, when its network planning director Leonardo Capdeville said that whilst the cellco was not against the auction of Long Term Evolution (LTE) licences per se, it had doubts over the timing of the tender process. Echoing TIM Brasil’s concerns over what it sees as ‘a premature initiative’, Capdeville expressed concern over matters such as the low level of availability of 4G devices in the country, the fact that the auction is coming too soon after Brazil’s 3G auction, and a legislative minefield which Vivo felt needed to be addressed before the 4G auction went ahead.