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Eight bid for Brazil's 3G licenses

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Eight operators presented bids on Tuesday to Brazil's telecoms regulator Anatel for 3G licenses due to be auctioned on December 18, local press reported.

The bidders are TIM, Vivo, Claro, Oi, Brasil Telecom (BrT), CTBC, Telemig Celular and Nextel.

Details of the regions for which each of the companies are bidding for were not revealed, press said. Each of the country's 11 mobile operating areas will have four licenses, one of 30Mhz and three of 20MHz, in the 1.9-2.1GHz range. Anatel has said it expects to reap at least 2.8bn reais (US$1.57bn) from the auctions.

According to Luis Minoru, managing director of Yankee Group Latin America, there were no surprises with the companies that placed bids.

Minoru told BNamericas he expects Vivo, TIM, Claro, BrT and Oi to bid for licenses in the areas where they currently operate. However, he said Oi may try to go for licenses in areas where it does not already operate in order to strengthen its position nationwide.

Licenses for areas of low demand are not being sold in their own right, but are included as coverage obligations that go with the more popular licenses. For example, winners of the So Paulo metropolitan licenses are obligated to provide coverage in the states of Amazonas, Amap, Par, Maranho and Roraima.

"We believe that Oi is interested in obtaining a license in So Paulo because the company which gets a license to operate in So Paulo will also receive one to operate in the north of Brazil. Both these regions are of interest for Oi," Minoru said.

However, Minoru thinks it more likely that Vivo, TIM, Claro, Oi and Nextel will be the main competitors for the four licenses available for the So Paulo metropolitan area.

Bruno de Carvalho Ramos, VP for Anatel's tender commission, was reported as saying that in license areas that are oversubscribed, namely the big urban centers, bidders are likely to have to pay a surcharge above the established bidding price.

Anatel will study bidding documents this week to determine whether all the bidders prequalify for the final stage of the process.

In related news, Ricardo Knoepfelmacher, president of BrT, was quoted by newspaper Valor Econmico as saying that he expects the introduction of 3G services to put pressure on broadband services nationwide.

According to the executive, broadband rates could fall as much as 20% in the short term as ISPs seek to compete with 3G operators.

Knoepfelmacher added that the market is currently seeing an annual average cut in broadband rates of 17% resulting from competition between fixed line and cable TV operators. The expansion of 3G can only pressure rates to drop further, he said.

In other news, Anatel's president Ronaldo Sardenberg told local press that he expects the postponed auction for WiMax licenses to be resumed in the first quarter of 2008.

The auction was shelved in 2006 due to a dispute between Anatel and the communications ministry over certain clauses of the bidding rules. While Anatel insisted that operators should not be allowed to bid for WiMax licenses in their existing concession areas, the ministry took the side of the operators and said that they should.

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