Telecoms regulator Anatel says technology will require certain amount of time
Moisés Moreira — Foto: Geraldo Magela/Agência Senado
Less than 5% of cell phones in operation in Brazil are ready to receive the standalone 5G signal, which was launched Friday in Porto Alegre, João Pessoa and Belo Horizonte. The warning has been repeated by Moisés Moreira, the director of the Brazilian Telecommunications Regulatory Agency (Anatel), in an attempt to lower expectations at this first moment.
In Mr. Moreira’s view, phone companies must make it clear to their clients if the devices in use are prepared for standalone 5G, the most sophisticated version of the new technology, and if it will be necessary to change the chip. “Don’t expect 5G technology to arrive in a big way right now. On the contrary, it demands a certain amount of time,” he told Valor.
Brasília has had standalone 5G since July 6. The signal is offered over the 3.5 gigahertz (GHz) band. Anatel has received reports of frustrated users who have had an experience not very different from that of 4G, in addition to encountering many “shadow” areas (without 5G signal).
“Operators are not changing the chip yet, nor are they marketing exclusive plans for 5G. So far, they only have the obligation to effectively turn on the signal by the end of September. So Anatel still can’t fine them for not meeting quality standards,” he said.
Days after the 5G debut in Brasília, Vinicius Caram, one of Anatel’s technicians involved in the implementation, told Valor that users would now only have a “tasting.” He said that the moment is for “fine tuning” or network “optimization.”
Mr. Moisés reinforced that, among the capital cities that are yet to receive standalone 5G, São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Goiânia and Salvador are the ones with “more advanced” work to prevent interference. However, he stated that there is still no defined date.
Regarding the monitoring of the quality, Gustavo Borges, Anatel’s head of control of regulatory obligations, told Valor that, besides checking the number of antennas, the “coverage map” of telecom companies will be evaluated.
“The number of antennas is an objective commitment in the call for bids. By observing the map, we will know if in fact there is signal where availability is declared,” said Mr. Borges. He said that after September 29, the agency will start measuring technical parameters to verify network performance: speed, latency, jitter and packet loss. This involves comparison with international standards.
Mr. Borges said that, even without the commercial launch of 5G plans, Anatel already monitors consumer complaints. The collection of indicators will result in the production of the quality seal A, B, C, D or E for each provider, in each municipality, to be unveiled in 2023.
Most 5G handsets available on the market already offer access to networks that simulate 5G by dynamic spectrum sharing (DSS). With the arrival of 5G networks in new capital cities, users will be able to automatically use the 5G NSA networks, without changing chips or plans, operators and manufacturers told Valor. This option uses the 3.5 GHz network with the pre-existing network structure already used by phone carriers, without the performance of the very low latency offered by 5G SA.
The pure 5G networks require the use of a specific chip and plan, according to information from América Móvil’s Claro, and compatible phones. Currently, this is the case for six Motorola and three Samsung models. The iPhones 12 and 13, launched in November 2020 and 2021, respectively, by Apple, are not prepared for standalone 5G networks in the country.
For the consumer, the difference in latency, or response time, between a device with 5G NSA and with 5G SA is not significant, says Thiago Masuchette, head of product at Motorola.
“You will have a latency difference of 10 milliseconds, on a 5G DSS or NSA, to 1 millisecond on 5G SA,” he explains. Tests done by the manufacturer indicate that the speed does not change between a standalone 5G and a 5G NSA, but the indicator will vary depending on the network quality of the carrier.
In practice, “the frequency and bandwidth that each carrier won in the bidding will interfere with the maximum speed that the consumer can have in the plan,” says Mr. Masuchette.
Today, 60% of Motorola’s portfolio is compatible with 5G networks, according to the executive. Among the six devices that are also compatible with SA networks, currently, the average price ranges from R$2,000 for the Moto G62 model, to R$5,000 for the Edge 30 model, top of the line of the brand.
*By Rafael Bitencourt, Daniela Braun — Brasília, São Paulo