Postponed until H1 2021, Brazil’s 5G auction — tipped to be the largest in the world — will be decisive for the provision of the technology across Latin America. However, according to data from GSMA Intelligence, even with the experimental launch of the 5G network by some commercial carriers and several trials throughout the region, it is 4G technology that is set to pave the way for connectivity in Latin America for the coming years.
“We expect 4G to be the dominant technology for many years, coexisting with the growing number of 5G connections,” estimates Alejandro Adamowicz, director of Technology and Strategic Engagement for Latin America at GSMA. [restricted]“By 2025, the share of 4G will rise to 67 percent of total connections, driven by the growing number of smartphones — the adoption of which will rise from 69 to 79 percent between 2019 and 2025.”
According to the expert, Latin America is one of the top regions in terms of traffic growth, boosted largely by video and social networking applications. “The mobile network traffic is growing at an average of 50 percent per year, and in some countries it is doubling every 12 months,” he adds.
With GSMA estimating that USD 90 billion will be injected into the region’s GDP in 10 years through productivity gains, new products and services, and technology-based exports, the 5G network promises to update the Latin American digital landscape. The technology promises to provide increased internet speeds for end users, and increase adoption by business and government sectors, developing what are called “vertical applications” such as Digital Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Smart Grid, Mining, Health, Transport, and Smart Cities.
“The real innovative and transformational impact of 5G on the lives of end users will come from a variety of applications that 5G will unlock and that will be delivered through a B2B2C business model: operators selling services to companies that will transform them into tangible benefits for the people.”
Looking forward to 5G auction day
In Brazil, though the auction of 5G frequencies has yet to take place, the country’s leading telecom carriers have already announced their plans for commercial networks involving the new technology. The idea is to use dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), which would allow 5G connections on frequency bands that are already used by 4G, 3G, and 2G networks, eliminating the need to increase the spectrum.
TIM Brazil — a Brazilian subsidiary of Telecom Italia — postponed its launch until this month, despite having announced the new service for three cities in September. Competitor Oi, on the other hand, launched its first 5G mobile internet commercial operation in capital city Brasília last week. Claro and Vivo began activating the technology in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, and other state capitals back in July.
In addition to the carriers, tech behemoth Apple also intends to surf the wave of consumer excitement around 5G. Announced on Tuesday, all models of the new iPhone 12 in the U.S. will — according to the company — support millimeter-wave 5G, the fastest variant of the technology, as well as lower-frequency bands.
Outside the country, however, the new devices will not be compatible with millimeter waves. In Brazil, as well as in other countries, iPhone 12 models will only support lower-frequency versions of 5G.
After successive postponements, the 5G auction still has no defined rules and it will be up to President Jair Bolsonaro to give the final say on whether or not Chinese giant Huawei will participate in the process.
Mr. Bolsonaro is reportedly considering banning the Chinese firm from providing components for the future network in Brazil, as he “sees China as a global threat to data privacy,” according to a senior government official anonymously quoted by Bloomberg.
This article on remote work was originally published on LABS – Latin America Business Stories, a news platform covering business, technology, and society in the region for an English-speaking audience.