Artur Coimbra, Broadband Department, Director, MINISTERIO DAS COMUNICAÇÕES, Brazil is taking part in a regulator panel discussion entitled : “Spectrum Consolidation and Challenges and Opportunities for LTE Success”, taking place at the LTE Latin America conference on the 28th-30th April 2014, at the Windsor Barra Hotel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Ahead of the show we speak to him about his vision for the future of telcoms in Brazil.
What your vision for the future of Brazil’s telecommunications in the next few years?
Mobile telecommunications in Brazil will keep growing as the major vehicle of Internet access to the population, especially for those who are looking to gain access to the Internet for the first time. That will happen naturally. On the other hand, despite some investment in optical fibre, local networks will be made to support 4G deployment and usage—we think that the growth of FTTx technologies will not increase at the same level as 4G access, for example. Therefore we think a number of incentives will be needed to foster fixed broadband access networks growth.
What is the Brazilian government’s key strategy for promoting the roll-out of 4G networks?
We auctioned the 2.5GHz band and next we will auction up the 700MHz band. Coverage obligations begin with the World Cup host cities and go through all cities above 30,000 inhabitants. There’s also the obligation of taking mobile broadband (3G or 4G) to all cities smaller than 30,000 inhabitants until 2019.
Spectrum is a scare resource worldwide. What are the particular spectrum challenges in Brazil, particularly around 700MHz?
Our main challenge is to preserve broadcast services nationwide, because it is the most popular communication medium in Brasil—98 per cent of Brazilian households have a TV set. So there’s a task of rechanneling a great number of TV stations and also a concern with coordinating that with the 700MHz deployment progress.
While analogue services remain active in Brazil, will the roll-out of 4G networks be challenging?
In most cities we will not have any problem with the coexistence of analogue TV channels and LTE on 700MHz. However, in the biggest cities we will have to finish drawing a plan to speed up digitalization. We will have to work on transmission and reception.
While urban areas are likely to be well served, what provision are you making for bringing 4G to rural parts of the country?
Since the 450MHz auction there’s an obligation of coverage for 91 per cent of rural households in Brazil. As 3GPP has standardized LTE450, we think some operators will already work with that technology. The 700MHz notice to bid proposal creates mechanisms to guarantee that all of these rural household will be covered with mobile 4G technology.
Infrastructure sharing is touted by some as a way of lowering network roll-out costs, particularly in large countries. Is this the way forward for Brazil?
Sure it is! Actually, in Brazil, the level of infrastructure sharing is already very high. Besides making that an even more common path for operators, we are also observing more advanced infrastructure sharing techniques, such as backhaul sharing and RAN sharing. Evidently there’s a limit to infrastructure sharing, and the government wants to preserve it. If it goes too far, cartel risk comes too close.
How important are events such as the LTE LATAM conference for promoting and encouraging ideas around 4G in the region?
As I said before, 4G is the current trend on individual broadband access in Brasil and, I believe, also in Latin America. We believe that more people will have Internet access through 4G than through fixed broadband by 2017. Therefore, we will come to LTE LATAM to talk about perhaps the most important telecommunications issue for the continent nowadays.
The LTE Latin America conference is taking place on the 28th-30th April 2014, at the Windsor Barra Hotel, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Click here to download a brochure for the event.