LIVE FROM MOBILE 360 LATIN AMERICA: Roberto Guenzburger, director for mobile product at number four Brazilian operator Oi, said the company had “no alternative” but to move to 4G, but that it now faces challenges in driving uptake of the technology.
“There is clearly demand for more data, and so there is no way that we could postpone – particularly with the regulatory pressure that we faced. We didn’t have an alternative. There is regulation on one side, and customer demand for data on the other,” he said.
Observing that as yet 4G penetration in the country is low, he said that “when we compare with countries in the northern hemisphere, we are lagging a lot. However, compared with other Latin American countries, we are in the same bunch”.
With Brazil adopting a model where 4G services are not priced at a premium over 3G, Guenzburger said that one of the key criteria for profitable services comes through mass-market adoption of the technology. But this does not come without its problems.
“One of the challenges that we face here in Brazil is that income distribution is so skewed. There are segments that are demanding 4G, there are segments that are still using 2G and are satisfied with the performance,” he said.
And there are also a number of important issues impacting the business, such as entry level 4G smartphone pricing, the fact that operators are using 2.6GHz spectrum which impacts coverage capabilities, and administrative and legal processes which hinder network build.
But the executive also noted that there is a lot to be optimistic about. “In Brazil data is happening. Mobile data usage per customer has increased by 75 per cent in two years – it’s just amazing. Customers are demanding more data, and operators are investing a lot more to meet that need,” he said.