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Brazil opens way for broadband through power lines

10 апреля 2009

Brazilian Internet providers can expect more competition after telecom watchdog Anatel approved the use of power lines for broadband services.

A number of the major electric companies have already set up telecom subsidiaries to look into this promising new market, although nobody is certain of the true potential.

"The great advantage that the electric companies have is the infrastructure... This could be used to spread broadband into uncovered areas," said Pedro Jatoba, president of the Brazilian Infrastructure and Telecom Systems Companies Association, or Aptel.

Power line communication, or PLC, is employed in around 40 countries, although it isn't yet widely used anywhere.

However, the lack of telephone and cable TV infrastructure across parts of Brazil's major cities and rural regions means this technology could be profitably applied locally.

"The cable TV network covers just 15% of the population, while the electric grid covers 98% of homes. There's an obvious opportunity there," said Jatoba.

It is this access to Brazilian homes through an existing structure that makes the technology attractive.

"The backhall and last mile are the expensive part of Internet infrastructure and, in this case, they are already in place," said Julio Puschel, telecom and IT analyst at the Yankee Group in Sao Paulo.

It is still unclear what kind of threat the new service will be to incumbent broadband Internet operators, such as Net Servicos de Comunicacao and Telesp, which is owned by Spain's Telefonica.

"We don't have numbers on the use of power lines for Internet in Brazil. Without that, we don't know the threat to the telecoms... For example, we don't know if the telecom branches of the electric companies will have to pay royalties for using the lines," said Alex Pardellas, telecom analyst at BanifInvest in Sao Paulo.

Indeed, the use of power lines for broadband still must be approved by electric energy industry watchdog Aneel. This may take some time as electricity concessions don't contemplate the use of the grid for other means.

But electricity companies will forge ahead regardless, said Aptel's Jatoba.

AES Eletropaulo has set up Eletropaulo Telecom in Sao Paulo, while Copel has set up Copel Telecom in Parana state and Cemig has set up Infovias in Goias.

Copel Telecom claims to be ready to provide Internet access with real speeds of 10 Mbps per user.

Meanwhile, Infovias is already in a position to serve Cemig's client base of 6.5 million, according to Infovias Director Ivan Ferreira. It claims to be able to undercut the competition because the infrastructure is already in place.

AES Eletropaulo has also been testing systems in Sao Paulo. However, its plan is less audacious, and is looking to provide services for other operators.

Источник: Total Telecom

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