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Brazilian operators lay down the LTE gauntlet

Two of the largest operators in Brazil have laid out their plans for LTE launches.

Vivo, the Brazilian unit of Telefonica, is lining up services for April 2013, while America Movil’s Claro is aiming to have services live in six cities by June of the same year.

Vivo CEO Paulo Cesar Teixeira stated that the firm’s network upgrade would cover “4 cities in April next year and then another 6 nearby cities”, adding that the cities in question are the host cities for 2014’s football World Cup. The service will be branded as ‘4G Plus’ – the logical step up from the current ‘3G Plus’.

Meanwhile, Claro’s director of VAS and roaming, Fiamma Zarife, acknowledged that “next year the challenge will be huge”, but highlighted the operator’s past successes as proof that it could overcome any hurdles.  “We were the first to launch 3G in Brazil and the first to launch a 4G test network in partnership with Ericsson in Brazil in three tourist cities”, she said.

Brazil’s LTE spectrum auctions were held in June this year. Vivo acquired two 20MHz blocks of 2.6GHz, LTE-ready spectrum, for which it bid BRL1.05 billion (US$500 million). Altogether the auctions raised BRL2.72 billion, with Vivo, Claro, Tim Brasil and Oi all winning spectrum.

Operators that won LTE-ready spectrum are obliged by the regulator Anatel to provide commercially available 4G services to the host cities for the 2013 Confederation Cup tournament by the time it begins in June. The six cities are in Brasilia, Belo Horizonte, Fortaleza, Rio de Janeiro, Recife, and Salvador.

Vivo is the largest operator in Brazil and Claro the number three; however, both may be beaten to the punch with LTE by the fourth-place Oi. The operator has already declared its goal of providing at least 50% LTE coverage in seven cities by April 2013.

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