Oi promises LTE in Rio by year-end; plans to extend coverage beyond license commitment

Oi SA says that it will launch 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) services in Rio de Janeiro before the end of this year, and that in the first quarter of 2013 it intends to begin offering LTE in Sao Paulo state – even though the region is not included in Anatel’s list of states that must be covered under the rollout obligations attached to its license award.

Oi SA president Francisco Valim said that with trials already underway in Rio, his firm will launch commercial services as soon as it has ‘a critical mass’. In the initial stage, the cellco is targeting 4G at niche customers with high bandwidth requirements, having picked Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) as its LTE vendors.

Oi is on record as saying that it is focusing more on LTE than on developing HSPA+, with its chief operating officer James Meaney previously quoted as saying ‘We are betting on skipping HSPA+ to go direct to LTE’. However, Valim adds that his company will continue to invest in 3G/3.5G as uptake of 4G will be dependent on the price and availability of LTE devices/handsets. The official confirmed that Oi’s 3G infrastructure currently covers 70%-80% of the population and is used by six million subscribers. ‘We are focusing on the ‘ABC concept’: always the best connection — to give customers the best connection that they can use,’ he said.In Sao Paulo state, Oi SA owns 3,216 cell sites in the state (and about four or five times the number of radio base stations), which cover 99% of its population. Approximately 80% of people living there are covered by 3G.

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