Anatel predicted that the first 5G auction in Brazil would be held in March 2020, but believes that it will no longer be able to meet this deadline: the 3.5 GHz frequency that would be used in fifth generation networks causes interference in the open TV signal. transmitted by satellite dishes, very common in rural areas. The agency is still evaluating how it will resolve this with operators, broadcasters and equipment manufacturers.
Anatel president Leonardo Euler de Morais acknowledges to the Value that 5G’s interference with satellite dishes brought “great uncertainty” about the March 2020 deadline. “We don’t know how long this discussion will end,” he says. Counselor Vicente Aquino believes that it will take at least a month to include this issue on the agency’s agenda.
Initially, Morais was optimistic that 5G would not interfere much with satellite dishes, telling the TeleSynthesis that the effects would be one-off and could be resolved by installing filters or other technical alternatives.
He also recalled that 5G will start to be offered in large urban centers, which depend less on satellite dishes – they are, in the majority, cities that have already migrated to digital open TV.
Now, the president of Anatel tells the Value that any delay in the auction would be “very bad” for the sector, but that “we cannot impose a high cost on the sector when trying to mitigate interference, because this will certainly reduce the auction’s revenue potential”. That is, if operators have a lot of work to avoid TV interference via satellite, they will be willing to pay less for 5G frequencies.
5G may affect TV stations and antenna manufacturers
In a meeting with Anatel, a representative from Abert (Brazilian Association of Radio and Television Broadcasters) explained that broadcasters can make technical adjustments to avoid interference with their own broadcast antennas. However, there are no alternatives to do the same for domestic dishes.
In turn, satellite dish manufacturers fear that antennas will become more expensive when they are forced to adopt filters to avoid 5G interference. The companies claim that this would make it difficult for low-income consumers to access open TV.
According to the IBGE, there were about 22.8 million households with satellite dishes in Brazil in 2017. The proportion of households with satellite TV was 26.9% in urban areas and 70.5% in rural areas.
Anatel plans to auction three frequencies for 5G: 3.5 GHz, with 200 MHz capacity; 2.3 GHz, with 100 MHz capacity; and the remnants of the 700 MHz band, with a 10 MHz capacity. These bands below 6 GHz (sub-6 GHz) allow speeds higher than 4G and guarantee greater coverage than millimeter waves (mmWave), so they are designed for rural areas and other less populated areas.