Brazil's Federal Court of Accounts (TCU) has given the final seal of approval to the country's much-delayed auction notice for the fifth generation spectrum.
Expected to be the country's largest telecommunications auction in history, Brazil's 5G auction is expected to raise 45 billion Brazilian reais ($8.6 billion). Companies will be bidding for the right to exploit spectrum in the 700MHz, 2.3GHz and 3.5GHz bands, alongside 26GHz millimetre wave (mmWave) frequencies over a 20-year period.
Announced on Wednesday (25) evening, the decision to hold the spectrum auction imminently was almost unanimous -- seven TCU ministers supported the move by rapporteur Raimundo Carreiro. In contrast, minister Aroldo Cedraz voted against the decision.
Cedraz had requested a 60-day postponement to analyze further the points raised by the Court's technical team, which included the implementation of a standalone, private communications network for the government and the roll-out of optic fiber in rivers in the Amazon region, both considered to be illegal, in addition to errors in the pricing methodology of frequency bands.
However, the timeframe to consider the concerns raised was reduced to one week due to a request from the Ministry of Communications, eager to make the auction happen in October.
When justifying his decision, Cedraz pointed out that allowing the auction to go ahead under the proposed terms would be a backwards step. "In this case, we would be condemning Brazil and its citizens to live for another 20 years with expensive and low-quality telecommunications services," the minister said in his vote, announced last week.
Moreover, Cedraz noted the modeling approved by Brazilian telecommunications agency Anatel led the Court's technical team to conclude the economic exploitation of 5G would be "unfeasible" in more than 5,500 Brazilian municipalities, including capitals such as Brasília, Salvador and Curitiba. "This bidding proposal is riddled with blunders, not to mention fraud," he added.
Celebrating the decision, communications minister Fábio Faria said the TCU had "understood 5G's importance to the country's competitiveness. Faria had intensively lobbied TCU ministers to ensure the public notice was cleared and took the Court's representatives on international visits to leading countries in 5G development in Asia and Europe in February and to the US in June, aimed to expedite the decision.
The Ministry of Communications noted that despite the delays in the 5G auction -- back when Anatel approved the notice in February, the expectation was that the auction would be held in June -- the timescales in terms of availability of 5G in Brazil will be maintained. The ministry reiterated that all Brazilian capitals would be covered by 2022, and all cities with more than 30 000 people will have 5G coverage by 2028.
Telecoms agency Anatel also celebrated the TCU approval. It noted the final adjustments requested by the Court's rapporteur are being dealt with and added the public notice should be published within the next few days.