What We're Watching: Brazil's 5G pursuit

Brazil's Communications Minister Fabio Faria arrives at a news conference after the opening ceremony to 5G auction in Brasilia, Brazil, November 4, 2021.

Is China shut out of Brazil's 5G comp? Earlier this year, Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro set an ambitious deadline to roll out 5G broadband – which provides much faster internet connections – by July 2022. In recent days, telecom firms have been vying to get a piece of the pie as the tender process heats up. Indeed, it's a lucrative prospect for telecom companies in a country where more than three-quarters of the population (or roughly 190 million people) are connected to the World Wide Web. But the process has not been smooth sailing because, well: China. Bolsonaro has been under a lot of pressure from China skeptics within his own government, and Washington, to exclude tech giant Huawei from the bidding wars. Bolsonaro ultimately caved, as Beijing has evidently been locked out of the process for now. Claro, a Mexican-Brazilian venture, and Spain's Telefonica seem to have walked away big winners from the 5G auction after putting up the most cash for spectrum rights. But this is all very awkward because Huawei has been a major tech provider in Brazil for decades, and local cell phone operators also rely on Huawei's tech. What's more, excluding Huawei, by far the most cost-effective supplier of 5G equipment in the country, will increase the project's overall cost, which is now expected to exceed $7 billion. Many remain skeptical that this massive task can be pulled off in just nine months. But whenever it does happen, it will be great news for Brazilians, many of whom live in remote areas with shoddy internet access.

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