Just last month, Brazil’s communications minister Fabio Faria said the much-delayed auction would take place in July, but this now appears to have been optimistic
Brazil’s path to allocating 5G spectrum has been laboured, delayed bother by the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and the squabbling of nation’s operators over terms and conditions.
The regulator, Anatel, had first approved the 5G tender process back in March 2019, with the Ministry of Science, Technology, Innovations and Communications finally doing likewise in February 2020. At the time, the auction was anticipated to take place towards the end of 2020, before being pushed back to June 2021.
Soon, June was upon us, but no auction would materialise, with communications Minister Fabio Faria suggesting that the auction would take place in July.
Now, giving an update at Mobile World Congress, Faria has said that the telcos must wait one more month, delaying the auction to August as a result of an ongoing analysis of the auction’s rules by the Federal Court of Accounts.
The 5G auction is set to make frequencies in the 700MHz, 2.3GHz, 3.5GHz, and 26GHz spectrum bands available.
Part of the stipulations from the regulator mean that the operators will be required to launch standalone 5G networks (i.e., networks operating purely with 5G spectrum, not supported by 4G) in state capital cities by July 30 2022. For the operators, this will be no small feat, engendering a much heavier investment than a non-standalone 5G network.
Couple this with additional requirements to provide connectivity to the currently underserved Amazon region, primarily via the laying of optical fibre cables in riverbeds, and the operators will have their work cut out for them if they want to access 5G spectrum. The rules will also require them to improve connectivity to the country’s north-east region, as well as all federal highways.
But there is some respite for the operators when it comes to the rollout of 5G. Anatel has made the geopolitically important decision not to restrict operators from using Huawei equipment in their upcoming networks. Many of the operators already rely heavily on the Chinese vendor and as a result they have heavily petitioned to resist US pressure to ban the network supplier, arguing that to do so would cost them billions of dollars.
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