Brazil ramps up its telecom services ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup
For Brazil, 2012 was a disappointing year, with GDP growth well below expectations. The sluggish result has been blamed on the unfavourable global environment. The only sector that grew in 2012 was services; industrial and agricultural activities both shrank. Investments in 2012 were down 3.6% – and yet, paradoxically, domestic consumption rose by 3.1%, buoyed by a general sense of optimism. To revive the economy, President Dilma Rousseff adopted a series of measures to help spur much needed investment.
With the upcoming 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games being held in Brazil, operators are rushing to roll out new technology such as LTE and FttH networks. The Brazilian government has issued a law offering tax breaks for new telecom investments in networks that support access to fixed or mobile broadband. Companies wishing to secure the tax breaks must submit their network projects to the Communications Ministry by 30 June 2013.
The asymmetric measures introduced by the General Competition Plan in November 2012 are a significant step in the Brazilian telecom environment. The regulation of network unbundling and controlled wholesale prices should pave the way for a more competitive broadband market. The General Competition Plan requires operators with Significant Market Power (SMP) to share their networks and infrastructure with small or new service providers, at reference prices approved by Anatel.
Fixed/mobile consolidation is reshaping Brazil’s telecom industry. Telefónica operates through Telefônica Brasil, which has integrated its fixed-line and mobile services under the brand name Vivo, previously only used for its mobile business. The América Móvil group in Brazil comprises long-distance incumbent Embratel, mobile operator Claro, and cable TV provider Net Serviços. The group has started to integrate its fixed and mobile services under the brand name Claro – which likewise was previously used solely for mobile services. Oi offers all fixed line and mobile services under the Oi brand name.
Brazil’s fixed-line teledensity is slightly higher than average for South America, and the number of fixed lines continues to grow – but ever so slowly; teledensity has gone up by only one percentage point in six years. The two regional incumbents Oi and Vivo control 43% and 24% respectively of the country’s fixed lines in service, but they mostly keep to their own regions of operations despite the lifting of geographical restrictions. While their basic telephony services have been losing customers, the Claro/Embratel/Net group and GVT have been steadily increasing their local market share (respectively to 22% and 8%). GVT is the country’s most successful alternative network provider, offering fixed-line services only.
Brazil is home to more than one third of all mobile users in Latin America and the Caribbean. Mobile penetration is upward of 132% and still growing. Thanks to the rules attached to the 3G licences auctioned in December 2007, which required operators to extend services to all towns and municipalities with no mobile coverage, Brazil managed to achieve mobile coverage of all its 5,565 municipalities in December 2012. Four companies dominate the country’s mobile telecom market: Vivo, Claro, Oi, and Telecom Italia’s TIM Brasil. Together, these four operators control 97% of the country’s mobile subscriber base. Vivo is the leader, TIM Brasil and Claro compete neck-and-neck for second place, and Oi is fourth.
In preparation for the FIFA World Cup and Olympic Games, substantial investments and regulatory reforms are being implemented to boost Brazil’s broadband development – such as the General Competition Plan and the National Broadband Plan. Also, the Atlantic Cable System (ACSea), when completed, should substantially increase bandwidth and reduce broadband prices. Oi is Brazil’s leading broadband network operator, closely followed by Net; Vivo is in third place, and GVT is fourth. Oi and Vivo, which use mainly ADSL technology, have been losing market share to Net and GVT, which offer faster connections – the first over HFC cable, and the second over a NGN network with a Fibre-to-the-Cabinet architecture.
Since 1996, Brazil’s pay TV market has experienced sustained growth, not even slowing down during the global credit crunch of 2008/09. Although Brazil has the largest number of pay TV subscribers in Latin America, its pay TV penetration lags behind other major countries such as Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, and Colombia. There is therefore ample room for growth, and investors have been eager to gain a foothold in the market, especially since the pay TV law of 2011 removed restrictions on foreign investment and on telcos being able to provide pay TV services.
- To tackle the problem of insufficient bandwidth, the Brazilian government has entrusted state-owned Telebrás with the construction of a new submarine cable network – the Atlantic Cable System (ACSea) – linking Brazil with the USA, Europe, Africa, and several Latin American countries. The ACSea submarine cable will increase bandwidth and reduce broadband prices for all of Latin America.
- Brazil’s incipient MVNO market has attracted a great deal of interest from national and international investors. The most significant MVNO operator with plans to enter Brazil is Virgin Mobile, but its service launch, scheduled for the second half of 2013, may be delayed due to bureaucratic complications and difficulties in reaching MVNO agreements with mobile network operators.
- Vivo, Claro, TIM Brasil, and Oi have won 4G licences and are deploying LTE networks. The government is keen for Brazil to have LTE services available for the FIFA World Cup. Claro was the first of the mobile operators to launch commercial LTE services, in December 2012.
- Smartphone penetration in Brazil is slightly lower than the estimated world average, but sales are expected to soar in 2013, partly thanks to a tax break introduced by the government at the start of the year, which should help lower the average selling price of smartphone handsets.
- In preparation for the World Cup, Hispasat has launched Amazonas-3, a satellite equipped with 33 Ku-band and 19 C-band transponders, as well as nine Ka-band spot beams. Amazonas-3 has been built to transport higher capacity telecom data than any other satellite in the region.
- Although GVT has garnered an excellent reputation and has been performing extremely well financially and operationally, its parent company Vivendi has been trying to sell it – and GVT’s future will depend on the outcome of the sale – if it materialises.
BuddeComm’s yearly update of Brazil – Telecoms, Mobile, Broadband, and Forecasts provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and developments in the telecommunications market of Brazil, including the regulator’s statistics, company data, and other industry indicators to end-2012, as well as estimates for 2013 and expected market developments in the coming years.
For detailed information, table of contents and pricing see: Brazil – Telecoms Mobile Broadband and Forecasts
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