Brazil is typically a few years behind the U.S. and Asia when it comes to wireless technology upgrades. However, the country is trying to change that and has formed the 5G Brazil Project with the goal of improving the 5G ecosystem in the country. Members of the 5G Brazil Project include the country’s major operators such as Claro, Oi, TIM, and Vivo, as well as vendors like Ericsson, Nokia, Qualcomm, and Huawei.
According to Jose Marcos Brito, the secretary general of the 5G Brazil Project and also the research director of Inatel (a telecom research institute in Brazil), the 5G Brazil Project has formed five committees. Those committees are working on 5G spectrum; 5G standards (in coordination with the 3GPP); research and development; infrastructure like backhaul and fronthaul; and regulations.
Brito said the 5G Brazil Project is trying to increase the ecosystem of vendors in Brazil so that operators have more choices. In the past, operators typically purchased end-to-end platforms from one of the major equipment vendors. But with 5G, operators want alternatives. Inatel also hopes to find a way for Brazilian companies to be a part of the 5G ecosystem. “We want to offer Brazilian companies a way to go to market,” he said.
Brito will be speaking at the 5G New Horizons Symposium in Austin, Texas, May 16-17. The event, which is hosted by 5G Americas, will feature speakers from operators around the globe.
The 5G Brazil Project has not launched any 5G trials but Inatel recently conducted a trial that included a prototype of a modem that used new waveforms and channel coding. Brito described the modem as being 5G but noted that the modem is based on a GFDM modulation scheme that is a new type of modulation and not part of the 5G New Radio specification. He said that Inatel is trying to adapt the prototype so it meets 3GPP standards. “It’s a work in progress,” he said.
Brazilian operators are still very focused on improving their existing LTE networks, which still lack widespread coverage. The country didn’t launch LTE until 2012, which was about two years after the U.S. operators launched the technology. According to a January 2018 OpenSignal report on wireless coverage in Brazil, the country still struggles to offer a consistent 4G signal to consumers. OpenSignal found that 4G availability is better in 2018 than in the previous year but access to 4G signals is still pretty poor. Customers of operator TIM can usually get a signal about 70 percent of the time but subscribers to Claro or Vivo could only get signals about 50 percent of the time.
Brito noted that many parts of Brazil are remote making it difficult for operators to deploy LTE or 5G. That’s why satellite companies are an important part of the wireless ecosystem. Brito noted that operators could potentially use satellites for services like backhaul.
To hear more about the 5G Brazil Project’s plans and to attend the 5G New Horizons event in Austin, Texas, register here.
Update: This article has been updated to note that the Inatel 5G trial prototype is 5G but is based upon the GFDM modulation scheme.