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Brazil Sees Intense Growth for Faster Mobile Networks

2G still the majority, but 4G leads growth

In its December 2013 roundup of Brazil’s mobile space, the Agência Nacional de Telecomunicações (Anatel) recorded 271.10 million mobile connections in the country, up from 261.81 million in December 2012 and a five-year increase of nearly 80%. This brought penetration rates to an all-time high of 136.5% across all types of mobile connectivity, from cellphones to mobile broadband modems to credit card machines.

Overall growth in the number of mobile connections was accompanied by a slight shift from prepaid to postpaid service. By December 2013, nearly 22% of all mobile connections in Brazil were postpaid contracts, up from around 19.5% in December 2012—a sign of the market’s continuing maturation as consumers opt for more robust service plans and data packages.

Additional evidence of advancements in Brazil’s mobile space came in the growing number of faster, newer-generation mobile connections. Brazil closed 2013 with 18.0% fewer 2G connections, while 3G connections had increased by 75.9% since January 2013. Still, at 159.7 million 2G connections, the slower technology claimed the majority of mobile connections in Brazil, compared with 94.8 million 3G connections. This is likely a reflection of the still-preponderant feature phones, which invariably rely on the second-generation connectivity for web access.

The most marked change, however, was in the advent of 4G connectivity. While virtually nonexistent at the beginning of 2013, there were 1.3 million active 4G mobile connections in Brazil by year-end, a substantial 8,808.8% hike. Despite such tremendous growth, the much smaller 4G base suggests that most of the mobile growth in Brazil over the next year still hinges on the phasing out of the older 2G standard in favor of the already widespread 3G.

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