In this article we’ll cover the history and current activities of Telebras, the former telecommunications monopoly of Brazil and the company responsible for expanding the country’s optical fiber network and offering accessible, quality internet to the Brazilian population.
Creation, Monopoly and Privatization
Telebras was founded in 1972 as an effort of the Brazilian Federal Government to manage the telecommunications sector in the country which was about to experience drastic expansion on the following years. Telebras served as the parent organization for all the country’s state telephone monopolys, one long distance telephone operator, known as Embratel, and also of the Research and Development Center, or CPqD.
Telecommunications in Brazil remained a state monopoly for over two decades, a period when all of its services, even the most basic ones, were considered costly and inefficient. The installation of a landline phone in the 1980’s, for example, used to cost approximately USD 1000 and take two years to be completed.
During this period, Telebras was also responsible for the expansion of telecommunication services in Brazil, including the operation of the first satellites to transmit data to the country and the installation of the first optical fiber networks in the country. The coverage of these services to the population, however, was also considered insufficient. In 1998, 24 million telephone lines were active while Brazil’s population was 158 million.
A complete overhaul of Brazilian telecommunications was implemented in 1997, when a bill of laws called the General Telecommunications Law, or LGT, introduced a privatized model to the sector and delegated all regulation services to a new organization, called the Brazilian Telecommunications Agency, or Anatel.
The law essentially extinguished Telebras, by instituting that it would no longer have monopoly over all the telecommunication services in Brazil, and directed all of its subsidiary companies to be privatized in 1998. This model, and its regulation, remains active in Brazil to this day.
Reactivation and PNBL
In 2010, The Brazilian Federal Government put to action a plan to expand the country's state-own optical fiber network and offer internet services for affordable prices to all population in the following years.
The National Broadband Program, or PNBL, required a governmental organization to be handled, so it was decided that Telebras should return to activity to manage the program and its optical fiber network backbone in the following years.
Since its reactivation, Telebras worked mostly in association with other companies and organizations to improve the speed and reliability of the Brazilian data network. The optical fiber network, some of which are traded or shared with state and private companies like Eletrobras and TIM, reached 21.7 thousand km extension in 2014 and is expected to reach 28 thousand km in 2015.
This network, which covers most of the country’s states and connects both the large city areas and difficult to reach regions, is open to data traffic by telephone operators and internet providers, constituting an important role to the speed and reliability of data communications in Brazil.
Telebras backbone structure proved its capabilities, for example, when it was used for the transmission of 166 terabytes of content from the stadiums during the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and the 2014 FIFA World Cup to TV network centers without failures. Telebras is also responsible for managing the Brazilian government’s network systems.
Their strategy to cover the entire Brazilian population with quality broadband connections includes partnerships with operators who provide low-price data plans and handle last-mile infrastructure in return to the use of Telebras network. Remote and areas that are difficult to reach, like rural regions, are covered by Telebras through radio-transmitted backhaul arrays.
An additional goal of the expansion of Telebras infrastructure was the connectivity with global network, which currently refers to linking its backbone to neighboring countries in South America. This project, developed in conjunction with UNASUL, or the South-American Nations Union, creates a circular, resilient, network in the continent. The first installations started in 2013 and are expected to last three years.
Telebras has a variety of announced projects intended to aid in its goal to expand the country’s network and improve its quality. One of them is the installation of a submarine cable to link the Brazilian Northeast to the European network in Spain.
The cable, installed in partnership with the Spanish subsea cable company IslaLink, will have the capacity to handle 30Tbps and is set to be activated in early 2016.
Another announced project is the launch of a satellite with the Brazilian ministry of Defense. Its data transmission should cover the whole country’s territory and serve as an alternative method to provide internet connections to difficult to reach areas. The launch is also expected to take place in 2016.