Regulator Anatel has approved the rules for the upcoming 5G spectrum auction without any limitations on using Huawei equipment

Back in December 2020, reports suggested that Brazil’s government, headed by controversial president Jair Bolsonaro, was looking for a legal route to exclude Huawei from its upcoming 5G networks. Bolsonaro, much like then-US president Donald Trump, believes that the Chinese vendor shares information with the Chinese government, thus making them a threat to national security. Such information sharing is as yet, unproven.

The US had been applying pressure to countries around the world to ban Huawei, with the Brazilian government proving quite responsive but the local telco sector baulked at the additional costs implied by replacing Huawei equipment. Huawei technology currently accounts for about 50% of the network equipment in Brazil’s current 3G and 4G networks. Industry representatives have said in the past that the company’s exclusion would set the country back three to four years in terms of network technology. 

The US government was not perturbed, however, with Trump even going so far as to offer Brazil $1 billion in financing if it would agree to ban Huawei.

But, by January, following the inauguration of President Joe Biden in the US, Huawei’s prospects in the country were looking up. The newspaper Estado de S. Paulo was reporting that the financial pressures of a potential Huawei ban, coupled with the loss of Donald Trump as vocal ally, were forcing Bolsonaro to step back on his initial plans to force a ban.

Now, Brazil’s regulator Anatel has approved the rules for the upcoming 5G spectrum auction, and restrictions on Huawei equipment are notably not included.

The rules include obligations for telcos to cover the northern Amazon region with broadband, primarily through building a national fibre backbone built into the riverbed of the waterway itself. Some of the operators have been vocally opposed to this scheme thus far, arguing that while they agree in principle the specifics of the plan remain challenging to implement and largely unknown.

Perhaps the most challenging condition, however, is that the rules obligate telcos to migrate to stand-alone 5G by next year – an enormous undertaking that the country’s major telcos, Telefonica Brasil, America Movil, and Claro are instead seeking five years to complete. 

The rules must now be approved by Brazil’s Federal Audit Court. The auction itself is scheduled for the end of June 2021.


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