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Brazilian telecoms urge postponement of 5G auction this year due to pandemic

Brazilian telecommunications firms have urged the government to postpone a spectrum auction for fifth-generation (5G) mobile network this year, citing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Latin America’s largest economy.

“In a moment of crisis as such it is difficult to think in a long-term investment,” said Marcos Ferreira, head of industry group SindiTelebrasil in Tuesday evening interview, adding that 5G technology will require heavy investments.

SindiTelebrasil represents Brazil’s main carriers Telefonica Brasil SA, TIM Participacoes SA, America Movil’s Claro and Oi SA, among others.

Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel launched public hearings on spectrum availability and other rules for the auction, which is expected to be concluded by April 17. If confirmed, it could mark the world’s largest bandwidth auction for 5G to date.

In February, Anatel President Leonardo de Morais told Reuters in an interview that the long-awaited auction would take place in November or December at the latest.

“The ideal, as we can no longer see the long-term picture and there are too many uncertainties … is carrying out the auction later on,” Ferreira said.

Anatel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In late March, as the government scaled back non-essential services to curb the coronavirus outbreak, Anatel indefinitely halted field tests for the 3.5 GHz frequency, used to detect potential interference with other signals.

In addition to economic fallout from the pandemic, Ferreira noted that carriers would also like to resolve pending issues before the 5G auction, including a change to legislation on towers and antennas, a longtime demand of the sector.

He also called for changes to the taxation of autonomous connected devices known as the ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT), which is addressed in a bill under consideration in the Senate.

“We’re ready for the auction as long as these issues are solved,” Ferreira said. He declined to estimate how much the Brazilian spectrum auction could raise.

In June 2019, Germany raised 6.55 billion euros ($7.4 billion) in its frequency auction for 5G mobile services after a nearly three-month battle that resulted in the entry of a fourth operator in the German telecoms market.


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