4G auction roadshow launched as digital TV switchover schedule finalised

25 Jun 2014

Brazil’s Ministry of Communications has finalised a schedule under which analogue TV services will be phased out across the country by November 2018, freeing up extra spectrum for expanding 4G mobile broadband services nationwide, via Ordinance No. 477 of 20 June 2014 (published in the country’s Official Gazette on 23 June). Via the provisions of Decree No. 5,820 of June 2006 as amended by Decree No. 8,061 of 2013 – which provides for the implementation of Brazil’s chosen digital terrestrial television (DTT) standard SBTVD-T – the ministry’s ordinance sets regional deadlines for TV broadcasters to turn off analogue services (while in the interim mandating them to offer both analogue and digital services) and surrender the frequencies/channels used for analogue broadcasting (‘the digital dividend’) back to the government upon reaching the cut-off date. The digital switchover has its pilot deadline in November 2015 in Rio Verde, followed by five major cities in 2016 – Brasilia (April), Sao Paolo (May), Belo Horizonte (June), Goiania (August) and Rio de Janeiro (November). During 2017 a further 15 cities/regions are scheduled to switch off analogue services between June and November that year, and in 2018 – between July and November – another 16 named cities plus all other regions make the switchover according to the ministry’s schedule, with the final analogue shutdown scheduled for 25 November 2018.

The 698MHz-806MHz (700MHz) frequency range currently occupied by TV channels will be released with the analogue-digital changeover, and will be used to expand the 4G mobile services which have so far been rolled out in Brazil using the 2.5GHz band (alongside pilots in other bands such as 450MHz). While the frequencies will become available nationwide during 2015-2018, telecoms regulator Anatel and the Ministry of Communications have pencilled in an open auction of 4G 700MHz mobile licences for August this year, and in an announcement on its website this week, the ministry highlights the 700MHz auction as an opportunity to attract new telecoms investors to the country. The release notes that a Brazilian delegation including communications minister Paulo Bernardo plus members of Anatel are promoting the 4G licence auction to international investors by making presentations in New York and London between 23-26 June. The ministry adds that the specific objective is to attract companies that do not currently operate in Brazil. The New York event is sponsored by the Consulate General of Brazil, while the London investor roadshow is in cooperation with the UK Brazilian Embassy.

Brazilian news site Zero Hora adds a cautionary note to the digital dividend proceedings however, with a report which quotes an expert in social communications and digital TV as saying that the government’s schedule is doubtful, as, although DTT transmissions started in Brazil nearly seven years ago, ‘there are still many small stations not adapted to the digital signal, and the process is even more complicated for the public: a new television may seem cheap, but for those who are poor it is not. For many families, the television is the only source of information and entertainment.’ On the other hand, the expert also conceded that, despite these concerns, ‘there is pressure [on the government] for the analogue signal to be switched off as soon as possible.’