São Paulo to have standalone 5G before expected

Faster advance in releasing network expected to allow launch as early as Tuesday


5G antenna in Rondonópolis, Mato Grosso — Foto: Divulgação

5G antenna in Rondonópolis, Mato Grosso — Foto: Divulgação

The faster advance in the release of the fifth-generation mobile phone (5G) network in the city of São Paulo is expected to allow the launch of the most sophisticated version of the new technology – known as standalone 5G – as early as next Thursday. The information was taken to the command of telecoms regulator Anatel last Saturday by EAF, formed after the auction of the new technology.

The Entidade Administradora da Faixa (EAF) is made up of representatives from the telcos, broadcasters, and satellite operators. Initially, the definition of the 5G start date in São Paulo was to be discussed on August 10. However, now the decision is expected to be confirmed on Tuesday, in an extraordinary meeting of the 3.5 GHz band monitoring group, known as Gaispi. The collegiate is led by Anatel.

“EAF accelerated work in São Paulo. On Friday, I was informed that the filter installations were practically ready,” said Anatel’s director Moisés Vieira, referring to the installation of equipment to inhibit interference in the 5G service, which will operate in the 3.5 gigahertz band, in satellite and free-to-air TV services that operate in the same frequency range. He chairs the Gaispi.

“On Saturday, they did tests until dawn. On Sunday, I met with my team and the coordinators and verified that it would be possible to start. There would be no point in holding up São Paulo, the largest city in Latin America, until August 10, when the ordinary meeting [of Gaispi] will take place. I decided, then, that it would be justified to schedule an extraordinary meeting for Wednesday at 9 AM, to release the signal on Thursday,” Mr. Moreira said. According to him, the decision surprised even the telcos.

The minimum requirement for São Paulo is the installation of 462 antennas by the three operators (TIM, Claro and Vivo) by the end of September. But last weekend, 892 stations were already ready to be connected.

The number has been increasing ever since. On Monday afternoon, a total of 1,200 antennas were expected to be put into operation in the São Paulo capital. By the end of the day, the number of requests had risen to 1,800. The detail: this amount already takes into account the goal of installing new antennas by July 2023, which 924 antennas (a ratio of one 5G station for every group of 50,000 inhabitants in the city).

“The new licensing requests are still being processed. The number of stations may reach 25% of the current base,” Mr. Moreira said.

Currently, the city of São Paulo has 4,592 active antennas of previous generations (2G, 3G and 4G). Mr. Moreira pointed out that the 3.5 GHz network has a smaller range and, for this reason, the coverage of the new service will not reach the proportion of 25% over the current technologies.

In the other capitals, standalone 5G signal is spread over a portion equivalent to only 15% of the existing structure. It is concentrated where there is a higher concentration of people. The new network was launched on July 6 in Brasília and has been operating in João Pessoa, Belo Horizonte, and Porto Alegre since Friday.

In addition to a faster internet connection, the implementation of the new technology is expected to increase productivity in the industrial and service sectors. 5G is expected to enhance the use of augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and the intensified use of the Internet of Things.

However, as published by Valor, Anatel’s management team has warned that less than 5% of cell phones are prepared for standalone 5G. The cost of the device is another obstacle: basic models cost around R$2,000 and the most sophisticated ones exceed R$5,000.

There is a lack of consensus among telcos about the need to change the chip to enjoy the full potential of 5G SA. None of them is yet replacing the so-called SIM card.

For Marcos Ferrari, head of Conexis Brasil Digital, which represents the large operators, the industry is prepared to “release 5G in any capital city the day after the release by Gaisp.” According to him, “the faster the schedule advances, the better.”

Alberto Boaventura, senior manager of Telecommunications, Media, and Technology Industry at Deloitte, says that the arrival of 5G in São Paulo is a way for telcos to guarantee a return on the investments already made in the new generation of mobile networks.

The installation of a new 5G signal propagation point can cost between R$600 and R$1 million, including antennas, a signal transmission center, and a transmission tower.

“São Paulo has the best ratio of high-value subscribers compared to other states, and providing better quality mobile services is a way to keep these subscribers,” says Mr. Boaventura. “In an important market, the operators’ coverage goes beyond Anatel’s obligation of one antenna for every 100,000 inhabitants,” he adds.

Mr. Boaventura notes, however, that the 5G leap does not stop at the consumer market. “The technology brings in tow a set of low-latency applications that is quite important for industries.”

Mr. Ferrari says the 5G debut schedule in other capitals depends on the reality of each one.

The cleaning of the 3.5 GHz band, also used to transmit the analogical open satellite TV signal, captured by old satellite dishes, is necessary for 5G transmission, says Euclides Lourenço Chuma, senior member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and researcher at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). He recalls that Gaisp will meet on August 10 to verify the reports of signal interference.

“The high density of accesses in commercial points in the capital of São Paulo can generate interference from technologies such as microwave internet access,” says Mr. Chuma. According to him, the 5G debut in the 3.5 GHz frequency “is an action to start the system, without having to wait for the state of the art.”

*By Rafael Bitencourt, Daniela Braun — Brasília, São Paulo

Source: Valor International