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Brazil’s Anatel gets green light to debate 700 MHz for LTE

The Brazilian Ministry of Communications (Minicom) has published its decision in the official gazette (Diário Oficial) to allow the allocation of the 700 MHz spectrum band for LTE mobile broadband. This means that the Brazilian telecom regulator Anatel now has the green light to open debates and studies on the use of 700 MHz for LTE deployment. Currently, the  700 MHz spectrum is allocated for analog television in Brazil.

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According to the minister of communications, Paulo Bernardo, the government has two main objectives in the coming process: to accelerate the digitalization of TV in anticipation of the analog signal shutdown in Brazil scheduled for July 2016. The second goal is to make broadband with higher speeds more widely available.

The ordinance states that Anatel can initiate administrative procedures for the spectrum discussion after TV digitalization. Bernardo said that the actual auction might take place in February or March 2014. Anatel’s auction framework is expected to be released by the end of this year.

Raising money won’t be the primary goal of the auction, according to Bernardo. Instead, the auction rules may prioritize obligations for the winning operators, such as requiring fiber optic infrastructure that guarantees a speed of at least 10 megabits per second in about 700 to 800 of Brazil’s largest cities.

Bernardo added that the government will not allow the analog signal to be shutdown without a major public awareness campaign.

Anatel might focus the spectrum debate on meeting the goals of the National Broadband Plan (PNBL) and setting another spectrum band for current digital and analog TV services to make sure that existing coverage is maintained. In addition, Anatel may also ensure that there will be no LTE service interference in TV broadcasting.

LTE services are just starting in Brazil. Last year, Anatel auctioned the 2.5 GHz spectrum band, and four big carriers won licenses. Claro was the first carrier to launch LTE services in some areas, and it is still the only one currently offering the next generation of telecom technology. Vivo, TIM and OI have until April to launch services in the cities that will host FIFA Confederations Cup (check out Anatel’s auction rules).

Brazilian wireless carriers have wanted to use the 700 MHz band for deploying LTE for some time. In fact, some telecom operators tried to postpone the 2.5 GHz auction because they hoped to deploy LTE in a lower band.

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