Brazilian wireless carriers want the 700 MHz band for deploying LTE. And the government might auction this spectrum band ahead of schedule, sometime next year. The primary issue is that the 700 MHz band is used for analog television signal—and the digital TV transition plan states that all analog TV will be turned off by 2016—but the government is re-evaluating the schedule. The carriers would like the change, since they want to have access to this spectrum as soon as possible.
In fact, telecom operators tried to postpone the 2.6 GHz auction because they hoped to deploy LTE in a lower band. In the end, the government held the 2.6 GHz auction in June, and the big four operators secured bands.
During this week’s 56th Telebrasil Panel, which was held in Brasília and hosted by the Brazilian Association of Telecommunications, government officials said that the 700 MHz auction might take place next year, but it will impose strict obligations on the winners of the frequency bands. The communications minister, Paulo Bernardo, said that the upcoming 700MHz auction will facilitate the expansion of mobile broadband throughout Brazil, including in rural areas.
The frequency could also be used to require that operators have higher access speeds. “This frequency is coveted by the industry, and it allows us to place requirements, including speed. I think it must carry obligations, even if it means fewer resources in the bidding,” Bernardo said during his speech.
Regarding Brazil’s digital TV transition plan, the minister said the allocation of the 700 MHz band for mobile broadband must not hinder the population’s TV access, or jeopardize the security and investment return for digital TV broadcasters, both large and small.
The Ministry of Communications has also been studying a possible timing change for broadcast digitization, a process which will release the 700 MHz band. According to Bernardo, since there are different use profiles for investment frequency and pace, one idea is not to shut down all the analog signals on a single date.
“We can change the scheduled shutdown of the analog signal, which is set generally for June 1, 2016. It is possible to accelerate it in some areas and work to have the shutdown occur in stages,” he explained. “In 2015, it could go off in a big city, then three or four months another, and so it will happen gradually.”
The measure was celebrated by the carriers’ CEOs. “The bidding of this range could mark the beginning of an important partnership between the broadcasting industry and telecommunications,” said Antonio Carlos Valente, Telefónica’s Vivo president and also president of Telebrasil. “It would be great to have the 700 MHz band auction in the first half of next year,” he added.
The carriers, however, prefer to see less, not more, obligations associated with radio frequency. During the event, as reported by syndicate partner Convergência Digital (read here), some carriers argued that the 700 MHz band should be seen as a complement to this year’s 2.5 GHz auction—which had associated goals, such as offering broadband in rural areas.
As for Brazil’s telecom regulator, Anatel counselor, Jarbas Valente, noted that the 700 MHz spectrum auction will be hotly disputed because there will not be enough spectrum for five operators: “perhaps not even four,” he said.