After several postponements, Anatel has finally defined the rules for the auction of 5G frequencies in Brazil and has also established the date by which the winners will have to guarantee access to the service for consumers in large cities: 31 July 2022.
Four frequency bands will be offered:
700 MHz and 2.3 GHz: intended to improve 4G coverage and deploy 5G in the future. In the case of 700 MHz the auctions will be regional.
3.5 GHz: intended for “pure” 5G for end consumers
26 GHz: intended for “pure” 5G for fixed broadband. Only the SCM (Multimedia Communication Service) license will be required and not the SMP (Personal Mobile Service) license, a decision that will also allow the Oi to be able to participate in the auction.
The 3.5GHz frequency is the most requested, as it is the most used in the world and offers a fast connection to the final consumer. Anatel has decided that for this frequency the technology to be adopted will be that of the “release 16” of 3GPP, which will require completely new “standalone” networks. The hypothesis of a gradual transition from 4G to 5G (release 15), which would have allowed telecom companies to use part of the current 4G facilities, was therefore rejected. The adoption of “release 16” was supported by TIM, while Vivo and Claro defended “release 15”.
For the 26 GHz frequency, 3,200 MHz will be offered in 5 national blocks and 400 MHz in 213 regional blocks.
The TCU (Brazilian Court of Auditors) will now have to analyze the document and establish the basic values of the auction, which should be carried out within the first half of 2021.
The auction will not have a significant financial return for the Brazilian state, given that large investments will be required from the winning companies for the creation and modernization of the plants.
Main obligations of the winning companies
The auction imposes the obligation of roaming throughout the national territory: the winning companies will have five years to guarantee the access of subscribers of competing companies not present in the area of competence. In practice, if a location only has Vivo’s 5G antenna, it will be obliged to provide the signal to Claro, Oi and TIM users as well.
The companies that win the auction of the 3.5 GHz frequencies will have to:
– pay the costs of migrating the television channels transmitted via satellite dish which today occupy this frequency and those nearby
– build a secure and exclusive telecommunications network for the entire federal administration, ownership of which will pass to the federal government and will be entrusted to the management of Telebrás. This infrastructure, which will be called Safe Network, must be in fixed optical fiber, with encryption, and reach the entire national territory where there are federal public bodies.
– build high-speed networks to connect northern municipalities with optical fiber (backbone), as part of the Integrated and Sustainable Amazon Program. This network is expected to cover 13,000 kilometers, connecting 20 million people.
The companies that win the auction of the 2.6 GHz frequencies will have to:
– guarantee coverage of 95% of the municipalities without 4G, with priority for the provision of 4G and for the construction of high-speed transport networks, preferably in optical fiber, in the municipalities not yet served in the North and Northeast.
Despite all the controversy surrounding the conflict between the Brazilian government and China, the tender does not prohibit Huawei, the main supplier of 5G technology, from supplying equipment to the companies that will participate in the auction. A possible ban can only be determined through a decree signed by President Jair Bolsonaro.
What is 5G?
5G is the fifth generation of mobile networks and promises faster connection and data download speeds, from 600 Mb/s up to 2 Gb/s. It is important to note, however, that 4G is still being improved and could reach speeds higher than those presented today.
An important evolution allowed by 5G technology concerns “latency“, or the time that elapses between a command executed on a device, its transmission on the network and its subsequent execution. Lower latency, for example, will allow the management of autonomous vehicles or to operate IoT (Internet of Things) and robots remotely in complex activities such as surgery. 4G today has an average latency of 50 milliseconds, while 5G promises around 5 ms.
Another important aspect concerns coverage. Taking Brazil for example, 4G is present in over 90% of municipalities and the signal is strong enough for mobile phones. Conversely, 5G has a smaller coverage area: today an antenna covers less than a neighborhood. The signal normally operates on low penetration millimeter waves, which can be easily blocked by a simple glass door. The winning companies will have to invest, installing more antennas and studying ways to increase signal efficiency.
What is 5G really good for?
Many people think that 5G’s goal is to offer higher data connection speeds for cell phones. But, at least initially, the vast majority of consumers will not make great use of it and will not be able to pay for 5G 2 Gb/s plans, which will also be quite expensive at first. The speed is far too high for the average user and networks would end up being underused.
The truth is that 5G was designed for the reality of the Internet of Things. Today we have more and more smart devices connected to the Internet, from refrigerators and microwaves, from smartwatches to wearables. But what is the Internet of Things?
While most of these devices today use the home power grid, over the years, new devices will benefit from always being connected to the internet. Cars, traffic lights, public administration servers, specialized sensors, medical equipment, drones, equipment for specialized functions, security systems and even entire homes and buildings, will be able to rely on sensors capable of analyzing the external environment and interacting with it.
4G was not designed for the growing number of Internet of Things compatible devices, which according to estimates, could become billions, trillions in the coming years. Therefore, 5G can become the transition network to support such devices, which will send and receive data all the time.
And why the transition? Because the natural evolution of this scenario leads to smart cities: we think of cities that are totally connected, in all aspects of our life. And then let’s extend it to provinces, states, entire continents.
5G will be the first step towards the integration and growth of the IoT, laying the foundations for 6G, which is expected to arrive around 2030 and will provide connection speeds around 1 Tb/s.