No fanfare as Nextel launches 3G data plans in Brazil

17 Dec 2012

Nextel Brasil, the Brazilian unit owned by US-based NII Holdings, has launched a range of 3G data plans in the country, without much fanfare. RCR Wireless News reports that the operator is now selling 3G data plans (modem-based), with plans to add voice call services by the start of 2013. The softly, softly approach was confirmed when the cellco posted tariff plans on its web site, confirming that a 4GB data plan will cost BRL79.90 (USD39) per month, plus BRL24.90 for the modem on a contract. Without discount the modem will cost BRL150, it said.

Last month TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that NII Holdings had received the go-ahead from the Brazilian government to buy privately owned cellco Unicel do Brasil Telecomunicacoes (Unicel, trading under the banner Aeiou) to provide its Nextel Brasil subsidiary with additional network capacity in the Sao Paolo metropolitan area. The unconfirmed report claimed that the industry regulator Anatel supported NII Holdings’ earlier filing of a ‘change of control request’ and also had the support of the government for a deal that will cost in the region of BRL370 million. The government was said to be considering whether to sanction the plan for Nextel to acquire Unicel as a way of increasing competition in the mobile market. Brazil’s big four – Vivo, Claro, TIM Brasil and Oi SA – cannot bid for Unicel as they each hold the maximum 80MHz of spectrum permitted under local law, while Nextel owns just 20MHz.

NII Holdings reported a dramatic spike in customer churn in 2Q12, due in the main to its ongoing delays in rolling out commercial 3G services in Brazil and across Latin America as a whole. At the time it said it planned to launch in Brazil by the end of this year and had paid out USD595 million to buy spectrum covering Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Brasilia. It hopes to better compete with the big four and the acquisition of Unicel could further this goal. Unicel, which is 49% owned by Saudi-based HiTS Group, offers GSM service under the Aeiou brand, began operations in Sao Paulo in August 2008, and has acquired an extension of 2.5MHz spectrum in the 900MHz band to support its business.