Huawei leads contender ahead of frequency action in Brazil

World Today

5G is coming, and as countries around the world ramp up preparations to make it happen, there’s big money to be made. In Brazil, an auction is expected to take place next year, for various companies to place bids on the frequency space. Chinese telecom giant Huawei is a leading contender, but as CGTN’s Paulo Cabral reports — there are some delicate politics involved.

Over the last few months, Huawei has been investing in Brazil’s consumer market. The Chinese company has gained ground and brand recognition with its smartphones. But another major game is about to kick off – the establishment of Brazil’s 5G network, expected to be put to auction next year. One big question is whether Huawei gets a true shot at winning the contract.

Huawei has made clear its interest in Brazil’s 5G business. The problem is that Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro is a close ally of the U.S. President Donald Trump, who’s been openly campaigning against Huawei in the world’s 5G arena, citing concerns over national security.

During this month’s BRICS summit in Brazil, Bolsonaro met with the Chinese President Xi Jinping. Just a few weeks earlier, the two met in Beijing. These two meetings and the presidents’ positive statements gave most analysts the impression of warming relations.

Monday, President Bolsonaro met the CEO of Huawei in Brazil, Wei Yao…

…and later confirmed to the media they spoke about 5G. However, Bolsonaro was non-committal on details of the conversation but made clear there are more players out there in addition to China.

“I also heard there is a South Korean company in a position to operate 5G in Brazil. We’ll look into the best offer and the best connectivity. Huawei only showed me today what the company is doing in Brazil nowadays,” said the President of Brazil.

This professor of international relations says the looming decision on a 5G provider will force Bolsonaro to weigh his pro-Western leanings – against a more pragmatic position demanded by business.

Vinicius Vieira, International Relations Professor, University of São Paulo, told us,
“Whenever we are talking about non-economic matters, Bolsonaro certainly will prefer his alignment not only with Trump but with other nationalistic leaders like Victor Urban from Hungary or even the Saudis. However when it comes to economic issues, as the recent Brics meeting in Brasilia has shown, perhaps Bolsonaro is more willing to concede to immediate demands from Brazilian producers, from Brazilian investors. Particularly the need for foreign investment may push Bolsonaro to adopt a more pragmatic approach.”

Brazil’s 5G auction is expected to be among the largest spectrum sales ever, and telecom companies from all over the world are eager to compete for the contract. The question now is how much politics might influence Brazil’s choice – for which one ultimately comes away with the lucrative winning bid.