Nextel Brasil, the Brazilian unit of US-based NII Holdings, launched its 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) service in Rio de Janeiro on Monday. BNAmericas reports that the company has deployed a total of 300 antennas in the city, covering some 19 districts, using equipment provided by Huawei Technologies. In May this year, Nextel COO and president confirmed the carrier’s plan to switch on its 4G network by mid-year, sparking media speculation that it would rush to get the service live in time for the FIFA World Cup, currently underway in the country. Going forward, the carrier intends to expand coverage to outer metro areas of Rio de Janeiro before extending its footprint to other regions of Brazil. Unlike its main mobile rivals which have opted to launch LTE in the 2500MHz band, Nextel Brasil is using the 1800MHz band which critics point out could hamper matters where it comes to number portability. On the other hand, the online portal notes that Brazilians who purchased their 4G devices in the US, for example, will be able to use them on Nextel’s network.
In May this year Nextel Brasil agreed a deal with Telefonica Brasil, which operates the country’s largest cellular operator Vivo, to lease network capacity on its network for five years in a deal worth at least BRL1.038 billion (USD473 million). In a securities filing Telefonica’s Brazilian unit confirmed that a contract had indeed been signed with Nextel Brasil, with NII Holdings reportedly hopeful of beginning mobile operations in more than 3,000 cities under the plan, on or by 31 July. In a statement at the time Telefonica Brasil said: ‘The contract is part of the company’s initiatives to improve the efficiency and the development of 3G network.’ The company’s filing was in response to a press article in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper that claimed that the contract value was at least BRL1.270 billion and would cover the provision of 2G and 3G services in 3,259 cities in the country for five years. Telefonica declined to comment on the exact number of cities served under the deal. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that Nextel Brasil launched its own 3G service in Rio and Sao Paulo in September 2013, and to date has signed up more than 850,000 subscribers.