Technology

With a 51% share, 4G becomes the main technology in Latin America, according to the GSMA

As the number of 5G connections grows, GSMA estimates that the 4G network will be the dominant technology in the region, reaching a 67% share until 2025

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Postponed to the first half of 2021, the 5G auction in Brazil, which has been considered the largest in the world, will be decisive for the provision of the technology in Latin America. 

But according to data from GSMA Intelligence, even with the recent advances given the experimental launch of the 5G network by some commercial carriers and the performance of several trials in the region, who promises to pave the way for connectivity in Latin America for the next years, is still 4G.

“We expect that 4G will still be the dominant technology for many years, coexisting with the growing number of 5G connections,” estimates Alejandro Adamowicz, director of Technology and Strategic Engagement for Latin America at GSMA. “By 2025, the 4G share will rise to 67% of the total connections driven by the growing number of smartphones, whose adoption will rise to 79% in 2025 from 69% in 2019.”

According to the expert, Latin America is one of the top regions in terms of traffic growth, driven by video and social networking applications. “The mobile networks traffic is growing at an average 50% per year, and in some countries is doubling every 12 months,” he adds.

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With $90 billion estimated to be injected into the region’s GDP in 10 years through productivity gains, new products, and services, and technology-based exports, as GSMA Intelligence forecasts, the 5G network promises to update the Latin American digital landscape, either with more speed for the end-user or due to the greater adoption by the enterprise and government sectors, developing what is called “vertical applications” such as Digital Manufacturing, Oil & Gas, Smart Grid, Mining, Health, Transport, and Smart Cities. For GSMA, it will be in this type of application that 5G will play a major role during the first years.

Alejandro Adamowicz, Director of Technology and Strategic Engagement for Latin America at GSMA. Photo: GSMA/ Courtesy

“The real innovative and transformational impact of 5G on the lives of the end-users will come from a variety of applications that 5G will unlock and that will be delivered through a B2B2C business model: Operators selling services to companies that will transform them into tangible benefits for the people.” 

In Brazil, while the 5G frequency auction doesn’t take place, the main carriers in the country have already announced their commercial networks, using dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS), a technology that allows 5G connections in frequency bands already used by 4G networks, 3G and 2G, eliminating the need for more spectrum. 

TIM, which had already announced the service for three cities in September, postponed the launch to October, with no further details on activation dates. Oi, on the other hand, launched its first 5G mobile internet commercial operation in Brasília last week. Claro and Vivo started activating the technology in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other capitals in July. 

In addition to the carriers, who also intend to ride a wave of consumer excitement around 5G wireless data networks is Apple. Announced on Tuesday, all models of the new iPhone 12 in the United States will, according to the company, support millimeter-wave 5G, the fastest variant of the technology, as well as lower-frequency bands.

Outside the country, however, the new devices will not be compatible with millimeter waves; and in Brazil, as well as in other countries, iPhone 12 models will only support lower-frequency versions of 5G.

After successive postponements, the 5G auction still has no defined rules and it will be up to President Jair Bolsonaro to give the final say on whether or not Chinese Huawei will participate in the process. According to information from the news media agency Bloomberg, via Infomoney, Bolsonaro is considering banning the Chinese firm from providing components for the future network in Brazil because he sees China as a global threat to data privacy, according to a senior government official who is not authorized talking about it publicly.