Last updated: 9 December 2014
This article will give you a better understanding of the mobile operators in the Brazilian market and how they are positioned.
Today Brazil is one of the largest markets in the world for mobile communication with nearly 100% coverage in most parts of Brazil. Recent data estimate that 91,5% of the Brazilian population is covered by 3G mobile connections. 4G LTE connections started rollout on september 2012 and are now available in most of the countries’ major city centers and capitals, reaching around 30% of the population.
Mobile adoptions are heavily fueled by a poor copper infrastructure in major cities like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. Even in central parts of the cities it's often difficult to get a good quality “last-mile” connection for regular landlines; although you manage to get a landline, it might be difficult to utilize the line for broadband technology due to interference with other landlines.
Looking at the Brazilian market, it's easy to spot the four largest operators and together they are responsible for more than 99% of the market. Although the four largest mobile operators appear to be large organizations, they are all the result of various acquisitions of smaller companies.
The Brazilian market was only recently opened for MVNO’s, or virtual operators. Even the major MVNO currently in activity has minimal share and is only present in select cities in the country.
The largest mobile operator in Brazil that is owned by Telefonica and has 28,78% of the Brazilian market share (Q2 2014). From their total of 79,35 million subscribers, 67,02% are using their pre-paid plans (Q2 2014).
Vivo's network has national coverage and their services are mainly sold through a national network of Vivo resellers and the operator website. Vivo recently became the brand for all consumer services provided by Telefonica in Brazil, which include broadband internet, TV subscription and fixed telephone lines.
Traditionally, Vivo operated a CDMA network but in 2007, the transition to a GSM network started. In 2008, GSM was already the dominating technology. Their data network is based mostly on HSDPA, GPRS and EDGE coverage. HSPA+ and LTE are also available on select regions in the country.
Vivo has the widest LTE coverage of the country’s operators and currently serves around 100 of the major city centers and capitals and 36% of the population. Vivo recently started investing on the M2M market niche, focused mostly on automotive devices. It is currently the second largest operator in terms of number of M2M subscriptions.
The second largest mobile operator in Brazil that is owned by Telecom Italia and has 26,91%of the Brazilian market share (Q2 2014).From their total of 74,20 million subscribers, 83,5% are using their pre-paid plan (Q2 2014).
TIM's network has national coverage and their services are mainly sold through a national network of TIM resellers and company website. TIM also offers services for landline telephones and broadband connections. TIM operates a GSM network in the A and B band. Their data network is based on GPRS/EDGE for GSM and HDSPA and HSPA+ for UMTS. They also currently operate the 2,5GHz spectrum of LTE communications.
The third largest mobile operator in Brazil that is owned by América Móvil and has 24,95% of the Brazilian market share (Q2 2014). From their total of 68,77 million subscribers, 78,4% are using their pre-paid plan (Q4 2014).
Claro's network has national coverage and their services are mainly sold through a national network of Claro resellers and the operator’s website. Similar to Vivo, Claro offers additional services, like fixed broadband connection, telephone line and TV subscription.
Claro operates a GSM network in the 850 MHz and 1800 MHz frequency. Their data network is based on GPRS/EDGE for GSM, HSDPA and HSPA+ for 3G and LTE for their 4G network.
The operator is the current leader for M2M subscriptions. Their services focus on automotive devices and remote data collection for companies.
The fourth largest mobile operator in Brazil that is currently owned by CorpCo, a joint venture with Portugal Telecom, and has 18,53% of the Brazilian market share (Q2 2014).From their total of 51,08 million subscribers, 82,86% are using their pre-paid plan (Q2 2014). Oi is currently the leader on the pre-paid telephone market.
Oi's network has national coverage and their services are mainly sold through a national network of Oi resellers and the operator’s website. Oi also offers additional services similar to other major operators, like fixed broadband connection, telephone line and TV subscription.
It was first in 2008 that Oi got national coverage when they entered São Paulo with their services. Oi has an especially strong position in the North East area of Brazil where they hold 32,1% of the market (Q3 2010).
CTBC belongs to the Algar Group and operates a mobile network in the central inland of Brazil. The company is based out of Uberlândia, Minas Gerais and has 0,4% of the Brazilian market share (Q2 2014).
From their total of 1,10 million subscribers, 71,52% are using their pre-paid plan (Q2 2014).
Sercomtel is a super local mobile operator based in Londrina, Paraná and only provides network coverage in the Londrina area; however, in 2009 Anatel gave Sercomtel license to expand services throughout the entire Paraná state.
At the moment, Sercomtel has 0,02% of the Brazilian market share with only 52 thousand subscribers (Q2 2014).
Nextel Brasil is a subsidiary of US based NII Holdings that has a license to use the Nextel brand in Latin America. Unlike in the US where Nextel now only exists as the brand name for Sprint's line of walkie-talkie enabled phones, Nextel in Brazil is a full service provider.
Nextel has recently switched from a network based on Motorola’s IDEN radio technology to traditional 3G networks, acquiring frequencies for these services in an attempt to broaden its presence on the Brazilian market. Because Nextel use a different technology and have a large corporate focus, they are normally not considered as a mobile operator but rather a network operator, although they have 1,02 million subscribers (Q2 2014).
Porto Seguro S. A.
The only major MVNO currently operating in the Brazilian mobile market is a subsidiary of the biggest insurance company in Brazil and has 0,02% (Q2 2014) market share. Porto Seguro Conecta, the name for the operating service for the insurance giant, was born out of a partnership between Porto Seguro S. A. and Datora Telecom and uses leased infrastructure from TIM.
The focus of the operator is to offer value added services, such as locating a lost cell phone or even bringing a forgotten one from the client’s home to their workspace to an already established base of insurance customers.Before launching its own mobile operator, Porto Seguro S.A. was already making use of M2M communication technology as a part of their services to offer car insurance services. This technology will also integrate in the special services offered to its mobile consumers.
Porto Seguro Conecta subscriptions are currently only available in four city regions but their coverage extends to most of the countries’ territory by the use of TIM infrastructure. Porto Seguro Conecta serves 112 thousand subscribers (Q2 2014).
On Telecom and Sky
Currently two companies in Brazil offer 4G LTE subscription only to fixed connections through modems: On Telecom and Sky. Both companies operate on the 2.585-2.620 Ghz spectrum that was used by MMDS TV broadcasting and don’t show intention of extending their services to mobile devices.
Their recently launched services are available only to select regions in the country. On Telecom currently only serves municipalities of the São Paulo state, while SKY is available on Distrito Federal, where the country’s capital Brasilia is located, and certain states of the North, Northeast and South East regions.