AT&T is mulling entry into Brazil’s crowded mobile sector using 700MHz spectrum which is set to be auctioned by the country’s regulator later this year, newspaper O Globo reported.
The US operator already has a significant presence in Latin America with mobile operations in Mexico, enterprise businesses across the continent and pay-TV units in Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay, Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil.
Its majority stake in Sky Brazil already gives AT&T access to a significant potential customer base. However, it would still face a stiff challenge as a new entrant in the competitive Brazilian mobile market where four rivals already have huge user bases.
Including cellular M2M, GSMA Intelligence figures for Q4 2017 show Telefonica’s Vivo as market leader with 75 million connections. America Movil’s Claro and Telecom Italia-owned TIM Brasil each have 60 million connections and troubled operator Oi – which lost 3 million connections in 2017 – was fourth with 39 million.
There are also a number of smaller players and MVNOs operating in Brazil.
O Globo’s sources claim rather than buying a stake in an existing provider or running an MVNO alongside its Sky Brazil business, AT&T is set for entry through the purchase of blocks of spectrum unsold by regulator Anatel in the country’s previous auctions.
The 700MHz blocks are set to be auctioned for 4G use in the second half of 2018, various media reports in Brazil stated.
This is not the first time AT&T has been linked with expansion in Brazil: in 2015 (and again in 2016) rumours emerged informal talks took place between AT&T and Oi as the latter struggled to restructure its debt pile.
The talks came to nothing and eventually Oi entered bankruptcy protection and finally agreed a deal with two of its major creditors in December 2017.