Brazil launches 4G wireless service with few smartphone options

Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:45am EDT
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By Sérgio Spagnuolo

RIO DE JANEIRO, April 17 (Reuters) - As Brazil rushes to introduce a blazing-fast fourth-generation wireless network before the 2014 World Cup, fewer than a dozen compatible smartphones will be available in stores, compared with the hundreds of models on sale worldwide.

And the phones will be operational in a just few cities at first.

The launch of 4G services is crucial for Brazil to modernize its thinly stretched telecommunications infrastructure and ease the burden on 3G networks, which currently support over 68 million data users, according to regulator Anatel.

But Brazilians venturing onto the new networks have to chose among a few pricey devices from companies such as BlackBerry , Samsung Electronics Co Ltd, LG Electronics Inc and Sony Mobile.

So far, 11 4G-enabled smartphones, all of them high-end devices, were approved by Anatel to operate in the country. That compared with over 260 devices worldwide with the technology.

Apple Inc's iPhone, one of the most coveted cell phones in Brazil, is not compatible with the 2.5 gigahertz frequency used for the country's current 4G network.

An auction for the broadcast frequency compatible with the iPhone 5 is not expected in Brazil until next year. Apple declined to comment on whether it plans to launch a compatible device in Brazil before then.

"4G is still recent in Brazil, so an avalanche of 4G smartphones is not expected," said Bruno Freitas, an analyst at technology research firm IDC.   Continued...