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Brazil opens international tender to build world’s biggest 5G data network, seeks $9 billion in investment

President Jair Bolsonaro, calling it a "historic" occasion, launched the tender in Brasilia with a symbolic boom of the auctioneer's hammer, setting off bidding by 15 businesses that authorities predicted may go until Friday. 

Brazil opens international 5G data tender seeks 9 billion investment gcw
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Brazil, First Published Nov 7, 2021, 3:55 PM IST
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Brazil on Thursday launched an international tender to develop one of the world's largest 5G broadband networks, seeking $9 billion in investment for Latin America's largest economy. President Jair Bolsonaro, calling it a "historic" occasion, launched the tender in Brasilia with a symbolic boom of the auctioneer's hammer, setting off bidding by 15 businesses that authorities predicted may go until Friday. The vast South American country hopes to use so-called fifth-generation mobile technology to speed the growth of its industrial and agro sectors and offer super-fast internet to its 213 million people's cell phones.

The tender is for the right to create and operate several "blocks" of the frequency spectrum for 20 years, as well as a separate network for government communications. Bidding for the latter would ban any equipment from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which has been accused of spying by the US, putting Brazil in a dilemma and requiring it to negotiate the volatile tech conflict between China and the US. Brazil's two main trading partners are also the world's two largest powers. The country has been under pressure from both sides over the ground rules for its 5G network, prompting it to postpone the tender from early 2021, as originally planned.

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Brazil had received $1.1 billion in investments from successful bidders, including Telecom Italia's local affiliate, Tim; Telefonica's Brazilian business; and Claro, controlled by Mexican telecommunications mogul Carlos Slim's America Movil. Four of the 18 frequencies up for grabs did not get any bids. The government is requesting a total investment of 50 billion reais ($9 billion): 40 billion reais to construct the 5G network, one of Latin America's first, and 10 billion reais for frequency rights and increased connection for the public schools.

5G technology demands four to ten times the number of antennas as 4G. According to the bidding requirements, the successful bidders must provide service in Brasilia and the 26 state capitals by August 2022. Other cities with populations greater than 30,000 people can expect service between 2025 and 2028.

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