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Brazil's mobile telephony -- boom is over
30/7/2006 11:40

Thirty-one-year-old Renata Rangel, a Rio resident, recently had her mobile stolen. Bad news? Apparently not.
When she called the mobile operator's call center to register the loss of the handset and cancel the line, she was immediately offered another mobile, or better still, two mobiles, which were granted due to the amount of credits she had accumulated in the operator's membership program.
In exchange, she had to assure she would remain a customer of the operator for another year. Brazil's mobile telephony market is worldly known for its peculiar and stratospheric growth.
The total number of mobile users in the country grew sharply in the second half of the 1990s and the first half of the 2000s. In the 2003-2005 period, for instance, the number of users rose 147 percent from 34.88 million to 86.21 million.
However, the paradise for mobile operators seems to show its first signs of decay. The monthly report of regulatory telecom agency Anatel showed the first fall in the total number of users, since the agency started to monitor the market in 1999.
In June 2006, the total number of mobile service users fell to 91,760,171, down 0.67 percent in relation to May, when 92,377,336 had the service.
A decision of Vivo, Brazil's largest mobile telephony operator, to exclude 1.8 million inactive customers from its base had contributed to the fall.
But it is now clear to everybody that the boom is over and operators' bases will most likely no longer present the astonishing growth rates of the past.
Now the struggle is not only to conquer clients who do not own a mobile, but especially to steal clients from the other operators.
Meanwhile, the operators are eagerly fighting to keep their own clients, and it is a struggle among world heavy-weights. Deep-pocketed world players are in the Brazilian mobile telephony market.
Vivo, a joint venture, has a share of 31.09 percent of Brazil's telephony users.
It is followed by TIM Telecom Italia Mobile, with a market share of 24.36 percent. Telecom tycoon Carlos Slims Telemex controls Claro, which ranks third, with a 22.83-percent share. Oi, which is controlled by Telemar, a Brazilian group, has a-13.12 percent share.
Four smaller companies, Telemig Celular/ Amazonia Celular, 14Brasil Telecom GSM, CBTC Telecom Celular and Sercomtel Celular, with a market share of 5.07 percent, 3.02 percent, 0.44 percent and 0.09 percent respectively, share the remaining users.
The user base is large. If we consider that the country has 180,780,671 inhabitants, it means about half of its population owns a mobile.
Many Brazilian homes had access to mobiles prior to fix telephone lines, as the mobile telephony arrived in the country at the same time as fix telephony was starting to be universalized in the mid 1990s, following a privatization of state-owned monopoly Telebras on a huge public bidding process.
But as the boom is over, the operators' number one priority now is to hold onto their clients.

Xinhua News