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Ericsson, Qualcomm blocking WiMAX in Brazil, says Neotec

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The long-running dispute between Brazil’s MMDS (multichannel multipoint distribution service) operators and 3G operators over mobile WiMAX deployment shows little sign of resolution.

“The lobbying of Ericsson and Qualcomm is strong and they are doing everything they can in order to postpone any WiMAX deployment at 2.5GHz,” says José Luiz Frauendorf, executive director at Neotec, an organisation representing the country’s licensed MMDS operators.

In an email exchange with telecoms.com, Frauendorf adds: “We’re still fighting with Anatel [Brazil’s telecoms regulator] and now the Brazilian Congress is getting involved.”

Brazil’s 3G operators are apparently fearful that since they paid heavily for their licences in December 2007-a total of $3.4bn-it would be unfair if the country’s MMDS operators, using their 2.5GHz spectrum assets, were allowed to offer high-speed mobility services courtesy of 802.16e equipment. 3GPP lobby groups also no doubt feel that if Mobile WiMAX were to get a foothold in Brazil, it would leave little room for LTE. And Brazil is a big market to play for. It has a population of 190 million, is one of the strongest economies in Latin America, but still has fewer then ten million broadband connections.

The big stumbling for Neotec is that Anatel has to certify telecoms equipment before it can be commercially deployed in Brazil. So far, Anatel has yet to give its blessing to 802.16e kit. “[The results] of a new consultation about 2.5GHz have not been released yet, but the terms are still under discussions at boardroom level at Anatel,” adds Frauendorf.

Frauendorf believes that Anatel has been overly influenced by the likes of Ericsson and Qualcomm, and that the regulator has failed to acknowledge the rights of the MMDS players. “According to law in Brazil, MMDS is classed as a telecommunications service and the licensees are allowed to provide all services the technology permits in that spectrum, which includes pay-TV and broadband access on a fixed and portable basis,” said Frauendorf in a previous interview with WiMAX Vision magazine. “There is a lot of people at Anatel, however, that like to think that MMDS is a pay-TV system only, but that is not correct. We are backed up by the constitution.”

And Frauendorf argues that any fears that Anatel might have that MMDS operators will start offering mobility services anytime soon are unfounded, not least because it wouldn’t make any economic sense for the MMDS operators to do so at this stage. “We’ve always said, and we keep on saying, that mobility is not what we need now,” says Frauendorf. “Not only because we think 3G can provide all the mobility that is required at this stage, but adding mobility services to the Mobile WiMAX network would raise the cost of the spectrum as well as increase the cost of the infrastructure by perhaps as much as three or four time times than if [802.16e] were used for only fixed and portable services. We have been working since 2003 on business models and we know what is feasible in Brazil and what is not. We’re not crazy.”

Despite repeated attempts, telecoms.com was not able to get any comment from Anatel on its current 2.5GHz plans.


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