700MHz spectrum auction underwhelms; two lots go unsold

1 Oct 2014

The auction of 700MHz Long Term Evolution (LTE)-suitable spectrum in Brazil concluded yesterday, watchdog Anatel has announced, generating a total of BRL5.85 billion (USD2.39 billion) – well below the regulator’s BRL7.71 billion target. The country’s three largest mobile operators by subscribers – Vivo, TIM Brasil and Claro – all picked up nationwide spectrum blocks, generally paying slightly over the asking price, while one regional player – Algar Telecom – boosted its spectrum holdings in its existing service area. Oi, Brazil’s fourth-largest mobile operator, did not participate in the auction.

America Movil (AM)-backed Claro paid BRL1.947 billion for ‘Lot 1’, representing a 1% increase on the reserve price, while TIM Brasil bid the same for ‘Lot 2’ (0.99%). Vivo, meanwhile, met the reserve price of BRL1.928 billion attached to ‘Lot 3’, while Algar paid BRL29.57 million (0.02%) for spectrum covering 87 municipalities in the states of Goias, Minas Gerais, Mato Grosso do Sul and Sao Paulo (‘Lot 5’).

However, ‘Lot 6’, covering the municipalities of Londrina and Tamarana in the state of Parana, where Sercomtel operates, did not attract any bidders. Neither did ‘Lot 4’, which offered national coverage with the exception of the areas covered by Lot 5 and Lot 6.

The use of the 700MHz spectrum band, currently in use by TV broadcasters, is expected to allow the country’s mobile operators to extend their LTE networks into rural areas; currently 4G in Brazil is provided using the 2500MHz band, which was auctioned in June 2012. Although the government originally hoped that the analogue switch-off would take place in 2016, there will now be a staggered transition between 2015 and 2018; any analogue transmitters continuing to operate will serve rural areas.