Brazilian government blames telcos for World Cup infrastructure delays

Communications minister describes current situation as "tense" and criticizes telecommunications firms for focusing on project cost

The Brazilian government has expressed concern over the delays and the "tense" atmosphere around the roll-out of communication systems at World Cup stadiums.

During a public audience last week, communications minister Paulo Bernardo has strongly criticized SindTelebrasil, the union representing the telecommunications firms and said the current situation is just as stressful as the Confederations Cup last year, when the telecommunications work commenced two months before the events began.

SindTelebrasil has been issuing warnings about the difficulties in installing the communications systems at the venues and attributes that to the complexities in dealing with the administration of the stadiums, who need to authorize the execution of the work.

When explaining the cause of the delays, the minister said the telcos should "make more of an effort" and that the companies are unwilling to invest in the new communications infrastructure needed for the events and that this turned the World Cup telecom preparations into a "commercial issue." 

According to SindTelebrasil, the indoor communications infrastructure in place at the stadia will be the same that was in place at the London Olympics in 2012 and will cater for voice and 2G, 3G and 4G data. Operators Claro, Oi, Nextel, Tim and Vivo have partnered to deploy a single project with shared infrastructure and investment - the companies' equipment will live in a room with a fiber optic network linking towers distributed throughout the stadium to ensure coverage across the entire venue.

The total investment planned for for the indoor stadium coverage at all the 12 World Cup venues is R$200m ($88.3m), according to SindTelebrasil. The association points out that this body of work was not part of the FIFA requirements or the obligations set out by Anatel, the Brazilian telecommunications agency. 

The union adds that telcos also proposed the roll-out of free Wi-fi so that fans could rely less on the mobile network, but claims that of the 12 stadiums, only half have authorized the work so far.

Paulo Bernardo, the communications minister, was keen to stress last week that the mobile and Wi-fi infrastructure is different to the set-up needed for the broadcasting of the events. The latter is a project led by government-owned telecommunications company Telebrás, which includes the roll-out of fiber optic networks at all the venues.

Despite ruling out the risk of a breakdown in the Telebrás systems, Bernardo said that the public sector-led part of the project will be completed in a rush: venues such as the Arena da Baixada in Curitiba will only be completed by May 15 and only then the infrastructure will be rolled out. The World Cup will commence on June 12.