With new spectrum, 5G is set to improve in Brazil

Though 5G was first launched in Brazil in July 2020, the country is still in the early stages of 5G deployment. While operators closed 2021 with 1.2m 5G subscriptions, they had to rely on Dynamic Spectrum Sharing (DSS) technology that uses existing 4G spectrum for both 4G and 5G connections. This has limited the quality of the 5G experience to date — however, it is set to change as the Brazilian government recently concluded one of the biggest spectrum auctions in the country’s history which generated $8.5 billion.

To evaluate Brazil’s 5G mobile network experience, Opensignal analyzed eight metrics. We also compared Brazil’s results with the average 5G experience of users in 41 leading 5G markets to understand how 5G will likely improve once operators are able to use their newly acquired spectrum.

Despite not having access to new 5G spectrum, our Brazilian users saw considerable improvement in both 5G Download Speed and 5G Upload Speed when they upgraded from 4G to 5G. In Brazil, Opensignal’s 5G users’ average 5G download speeds of 51.7 Mbps were 2.4 times faster than 4G download speeds. At 188.4 Mbps, users’ 5G Peak Download Speed was 2.3 times faster than 4G Peak Download Speed. At the same time, the average upload speeds Brazilian users experienced were 2.1 times faster on 5G compared with 4G. 

In Brazil, the 4G to 5G uplift for users’ average download speeds was lower than the typical uplift when compared to 41 leading 5G markets, likely because Brazil’s operators had less access to new spectrum for 5G usage. While Brazil has a 2.4 times increase between the average 5G and 4G speeds seen by our users, in 41 leading 5G markets there is a 4.7 times increase. When comparing 5G Peak Download Speed, our Brazilian users see an uplift of 2.3 times while users in 41 leading 5G markets see an uplift of 3.3 times when upgrading from 4G to 5G.

Looking at the experiential metrics — 5G Video Experience, 5G Games Experience and 5G Voice App Experience, we found that Brazil’s scores are statistically on par with 41 leading 5G markets when it comes to playing multiplayer mobile gaming and using over-the-top (OTT) voice services — mobile voice apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Facebook Messenger. 

For Video Experience, users in Brazil are behind the users in 41 leading 5G markets by 6.5 points with an average score of 68.9 (on a 100 point scale). This places Brazil in the Very Good (65-75) category, meaning our users in Brazil had generally fast loading times and only occasional stalling but the experience might have been somewhat inconsistent across users and  video providers or resolutions. With statistically tied scores in the range of 75.1-75.6 points, our users both in Brazil and 41 leading 5G markets placed in the Good (75-85) category for Games Experience meaning it was deemed acceptable by the majority of users tested. Our users in Brazil and 41 leading 5G markets saw no statistical difference in 5G Voice App Experience — rating as Good (80-87) category, which means that most users had a satisfactory experience while some experienced call quality impairments.

However, the 4G to 5G uplift is higher for Brazil than it is in 41 leading 5G countries. For Video Experience, Brazil saw an increase of 19.4 points (39.1%) while the 41 leading 5G countries saw an increase of 16.5 points (28.0%). When it comes to Games Experience, while Brazil saw an increase of 13.9 points (22.7%), the 41 leading 5G countries saw an increase of only 4.7 points (6.6%). Similarly, for Voice App Experience, Brazil had a 4G to 5G uplift of 5.3 points (7.0%) while the 41 leading 5G countries only saw an improvement of 1.2 points (1.5%). This demonstrates that Brazilian users’ mobile experience will improve once Brazil’s operators are able to deploy newly acquired 5G-specific spectrum widely.

5G Availability measures the proportion of time our users with a 5G device and a 5G subscription had an active 5G connection. As 5G is still in its early stages in Brazil, users spent only 3.3% of time on average with an active 5G connection. By comparison users in 41 leading 5G markets — many of which have had 5G services for much longer than Brazil — spent 12.7% of the time with an active 5G connection.

Another metric we compared is 5G Reach which analyzes the average proportion of locations where users were connected to a 5G network out of all the locations those users have visited. Brazil had a score of 0.8 points out of 10 while 41 leading 5G markets scored 3.5 points meaning users in the 41 leading 5G markets saw 5G in more than 3 out of 10 locations they visited.

How 5G experience will change in Brazil

Although today our Brazilian users’ experience is close to users in 41 leading 5G markets when it comes to experiential metrics, they are still not able to enjoy faster download speeds that come with a 5G connection. This is because the country is still in its early stages of 5G deployment and has relied on DSS technology.

New 5G spectrum used for network deployments will help to improve the Brazilian 5G experience. Through the last spectrum auction, national operators Vivo, Claro and TIM, along with regional providers and new entrants, won spectrum in the 700 MHz, 2.3 GHz, 3.5 GHz and 26 GHz bands. Additionally, Anatel recently cleared the transfer of Oi’s spectrum licenses to TIM and Vivo under holding companies named Garliava and Cozani while Claro’s deal will include RAN sharing agreements and secondary spectrum rights, under its holding company Jonava. 

These new spectrum assets will help to improve mobile experience for Brazilian users. National operators Claro and TIM as well as regional operator Algar Telecom have recently deployed 5G services on the 2.3 GHz band — but it’s too early to see a major impact on the overall 5G scores in this analysis. In Opensignal’s recent analysis on the impact of the launch of C-Band (3.5 GHz) on the 5G experience in the U.S., we saw how the Download and Upload Speed experience improved with the launch of new spectrum.

Brazilian operators are now well-placed to take advantage of the spectrum assets they have acquired in the recent auction to boost the 5G experience. While most other Central and South American markets have also struggled to free spectrum for 5G usage, Brazil is now set to become one of the regional 5G leaders.