Tech Roundup: Telecom regulator to incorporate postal services

? Brazil’s telecom agency to gobble up postal services. ?️ Trends for 2020 Black Friday. ? How to mitigate interference ahead of the 5G auction

You’re reading The Brazilian Report’s weekly tech roundup, a digest of the most important news on technology and innovation in Brazil. This week’s topics: the revamp of the Brazilian Telecom watchdog, Google trends for 2020 Black Friday, and the costs to mitigate interference with satellite TV ahead of the crucial 5G auction. 

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Telecom regulator set for name change, incorporating postal services

The recently recreated Communications Ministry presented its first big change this week: [restricted]rebranding the National Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) as the National Communications Agency (Anacom), which would be responsible for supervising both telecoms providers and the national postal service. 

Why it matters. The move has been framed as key in speeding up the privatization of Correios, the federally-owned postal company. The move has been planned since the Michel Temer administration and was included in President Jair Bolsonaro’s privatization plan. The cash-strapped government hopes to raise BRL 15 billion (USD 2.7 billion) from its sale.

  • However, the project never actually took off, due in part to intense backlash from civil servants.

Why the change? Communications Minister Fábio Faria said the proposal is “more about principles than rules,” as Congress will be responsible for defining Anacom’s role, as well as for deciding on the privatization of Correios.

  • If it moves forward, the bill would alter Brazil’s General Telecom Law, which deals with Anatel’s powers and responsibilities.
  • Mr. Faria added that the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) has hired consultancy firm Accenture to carry out studies on the privatization of Correios. Its findings shall be available within four months.

Benchmark. The structure of the new agency would be similar to Portugal’s Anacom, a communications watchdog that also handles postal services. The Portuguese institution had already been cited as a positive benchmark by Anatel chairman Leonardo Euler de Moraes.

Timetable. As the proposal has yet to be analyzed by the president’s Chief of Staff — before being put to Congress — there is no concrete expectation on when the change would be carried out.   

Pandemic trends to boost Brazil’s Black Friday

Black Friday has already established itself as one of the main retail events in Brazil. According to Google, things will get even bigger in 2020, as consumers transition to making their purchases online — a process fueled by the pandemic. Google searches for deals have already surpassed 2019 figures, weeks before the event on November 27.

  • Searches for some segments obliterated records to the point that normal search parameters have been altered. Current searches for “decor,” for example, are 51 percent above previous highs. “Food” and “drinks” — which are not the most sought-after products during Black Friday — saw jumps of 40 percent and 23 percent, respectively.

Looking for deals. Searches for sales grew 38 percent between April and July against the same period in 2019, reversing a trend seen in Q1. Google says the data shows Brazilians consumers have become more price-sensitive after the pandemic.

Cashback and coupons. Another major feature for consumers is the possibility of getting discounts or cashback on their online purchases. Searches for coupons are 35 times more frequent than cashback searches, but the interest for terms related to cashback is growing by 74 percent yearly — twice the rate of the interest for coupons.

Free shipping. In July, searches for free shipping were 118 percent higher than what was seen for last year’s Black Friday. Other postage solutions, such as express shipping and click-and-collect, are likely to become more relevant in the pandemic scenario. 

Why it matters. E-commerce has been retail’s silver lining during the pandemic, as the population’s consumer habits have become more digital while brick-and-mortar stores face restrictions. Other major selling events, Children’s Day and Father’s Day underperformed by 8.8 percent and 10.6 percent, respectively, which makes the retail season kickstarted by Black Friday even more crucial to the sector. 

Migrating satellite TV signal to reduce 5G interference is too costly, say companies

The possibility of interference with satellite TV dishes has been among the main roadblocks for Brazil’s impending auction of 5G frequencies. However, while Anatel has yet to reach a consensus on the matter, telecom companies are already presenting their own solutions. 

  • In a new study, Conexis Brasil Digital — an association gathering the main telecom providers and industry players in Brazil — found evidence to support the use of LNBF filters to mitigate 5G interference on satellite TV signals, at a cost of BRL 224 million (USD 40 million) for companies. Anatel, meanwhile, has demonstrated its support for migrating satellite signals to the Ku frequency band, a process which could be up to eight times more expensive. 

Understanding the issue. Using the 3.5 GHz frequency band for 5G runs the risk of causing interference with the reception of satellite antennas, affecting some 1.37 million homes in Brazil, according to Conexis. The problem is similar to the interference of 4G interference with analog TV signals, solved by installing devices on analog TVs, paid for by companies.

  • Earlier this year, the Science and Technology Ministry ordered Anatel to carry out studies to find out the best way to mitigate the interference, but tests were delayed amid the pandemic. 
  • Among the options, there is the adoption of filters or the migration of signals from the C band to the Ku band. The agency’s president, Leonardo Euler de Moraes, said in August that tests were still ongoing, but they were leaning toward migration. 

Costs. Conexis says that migrating signals would affect over 4.8 million homes — far more than those who may experience interference — and cost as much as BRL 1.8 billion. The association says that if the companies awarded 5G contracts are forced to pay for this, it would “harm the quick expansion and massification of the new technology.”

Take note

  • Phone loans. Telecom provider Vivo will launch a new credit service, VivoMoney. Customers of monthly phone plans may take out loans of up to BRL 30,000, with interest of 1.99 percent per month. The service will be fully digital and is Vivo’s latest attempt to become a digital hub beyond telecom services. 
  • System crash. Services of digital bank Nubank experienced instability on October 15, and many users reported glitches on the platform on social media. We at The Brazilian Report noticed instabilities on the bank’s Nuconta current account platform, but credit card services appeared to be working normal. In a statement to newspaper O Estado de S.Paulo, Nubank said the disruption was related to their internal services but provided no further detail.  
  • Partnerships. French ride-hailing app Blablacar will begin selling bus tickets in Brazil, after seeing usage drop by up to 60 percent in April. The app has partnered with 40 bus companies to offer tickets on its marketplace and hopes to reach 100 partnerships by 2021.  
  • Climate change. Brazil and the United Kingdom signed a cooperation agreement on sharing climate data and preventing natural disasters. The project Climate Science for Service Partnership Brazil (CSSP) will be carried out by three leading research institutes in Brazil (INPE, INPA, and Cemaden), alongside the UK Met Office. The project will have three main areas: carbon cycle modeling to inform mitigation policy, development of climate models, and climate impact and disaster risk reduction. The UK will provide GBP 4 million (USD 5.17 million) in funding, while each Brazilian institute will redirect funds of their budgets to the initiative, and the Science and Technology Ministry will contribute an additional BRL 500,000 (USD 89,000).
  • PIX. The Brazilian Central bank informed that over 33 million PIX “keys” have been registered in Brazil. Digital bank Nubank leads the way with roughly 8 million keys, followed by Mercado Pago — Mercado Livre’s digital wallet service — with 4.7 million keys. However, a report by website 6Minutos shows that users are accusing both services of registering keys without their consent, a practice they deny. The issue may also have been caused by scammers, as at least 60 fraudulent websites were found to be targeting PIX on the first days of registration. 
  • Marketplace. Digital bank Banco Inter opened up its marketplace platform to people that are not currently bank customers. New clients will have access to 100 stores registered on the platform and benefits such as cashback.[/restricted]

By Natália Scalzaretto

Natália Scalzaretto has worked for companies such as Santander Brasil and Reuters, where she covered news ranging from commodities to technology. Before joining The Brazilian Report, she worked as an editor for Trading News, the information division from the TradersClub investor community.