Internet speed in Brazil is below average and exposes inequality

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Brazilian mobile internet speed is below the global average of 63.15Mbps for download. A recent index shows that the country ranks 76th out of 138 nations. Although the connection advances year after year, the low performance is a reflection of inequality of access, according to analysts.

Average speed mainly derives from the distribution of antennas per population — high data demand tends to congest traffic.

Brazil (with 33.92 Mbps) is the fourth in Latin America and the Caribbean, behind Suriname, Jamaica and Uruguay, according to a quarterly report by the Speedest Global Index, from Ookla, a company that makes internet measurements.

The UAE, with speeds almost four times faster than the global average, are in first place, not only for investment, but because the most populated cities are concentrated in the middle of the desert. Dubai, with the largest number of inhabitants, has around 3.4 million people.

In fixed internet, Brazil does better, with 113.09 Mbps, close to the global average of 113.25 Mbps.

São Paulo has one of the fastest rates (25.08 Mbps) among Brazilian capitals, but the contrasts in the city and in the metropolitan region show part of the problem faced in the country.

While the Itaim Bibi neighborhood, on the west side, has nearly 50 antennas for 10,000 inhabitants, in poorer places like Cidade Tiradentes, José Bonifácio and Jardim Helena, the proportion drops to one antenna for every 10,000 people, according to the Map of Inequality, released in September.

The average for the city, which is among the most connected, is 2,500 inhabitants per antenna. An acceptable number, according to ITU (International Telecommunications Union) standards, ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 inhabitants per antenna.

Considering the people who travel around the city every day, it exceeds 3,500. In the case of Cidade Tiradentes, there are almost 17 thousand per antenna.

In addition to speed, other aspects influence the quality of access. The country has 87% of internet users, according to Cetic.br, but many have connections only to social networks included as bonuses in prepaid plans sold by operators. For the ITU, it is considered a user who has connected at least once in the last three months.

“We can’t call this connected. Almost 75% of mobile users use prepaid, with applications to access freely, of course, paying with their personal data. If the person accesses Facebook and WhatsApp, they are already considered a user, but they are not connected. comprehensive way”, says Luca Belli, professor at FGV Direito Rio and coordinator of the Technology and Society Center at FGV.

He also points to the connection cost, which reaches 15% or 20% of the minimum wage in many cases. In addition to low speed in poorer regions, those who cannot afford a plan with full internet access get what Beli calls “subsidized fake news”.

For Flavia Lefèvre, a lawyer in the telecommunications area, the country’s performance in fixed broadband internet is superior when compared to mobile internet because it resulted from public policy.

Much of the traffic is still associated with concession contracts that are in the public regime, therefore meeting investment targets. The mobile sector is exclusively served by the private sector, which prioritizes investment where there is a financial return.

“It is a public policy of investment in insufficient infrastructure, which has not been able to stimulate the investments needed to meet the demand for access, and this was very clear in the pandemic,” he says. She refers to the carriers’ agreements with Anatel to degrade traffic a little and allow everyone to have access.

In his assessment, the direct benefits of the 5G technology, whose auction is scheduled for November 4, may take around eight years to reach the poorest population.

“It is necessary to install many antennas and also implement a fiber optic network, because 5G does not only work with an antenna, fiber is needed to anchor the functioning of the stations. Are companies going to invest in fiber in the peripheries?”

Ookla’s study concluded that Claro has, on average, the fastest mobile internet speed, considering the third quarter of 2021. In second place come Vivo, Tim and Oi.

The smartphones considered the fastest were the iPhone 12 5G, with the highest performance for downloading. Apple occupied the top three positions. In fourth place is the Galaxy Note20 Ultra 5G, with an average speed of 37.73 Mbps.

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