Are Brazilians adopting the mobile internet?

by Caetano Notari · 0 comments

in Digital Inclusion

Map Metro SP

The year 2000 was a fascinating one for me: I joined the Telecom world and moved to Rio de Janeiro. After almost five years, I moved back to São Paulo, and I have been a heavy user of the Metro since then. I always say that if you have the consultant DNA, you will find yourself often looking at people’s behavior, trying to understand what drives them and how the use tools and technologies. So, I was always looking for trends on consumer behavior on ICT adoption.

Back in 2005, the subway in São Paulo did not have any wireless coverage, and almost no one used MP3 players nor mobile phones. Devices were expensive and did not address the needs of users when they had no coverage; a killer feature for a phone was FM radio (the majority of the population commute by bus). It was an amusing time, governmental officials went on the press explaining that the country would never need 3G, it would be only for very rich people. First lesson on technology – never say that people already have enough, you will be proven wrong. I was always the optimist, and the research that we did on ICT usage proved that there was a demand for wireless broadband in Brazil.

As I mentioned before, Internet usage is growing fast globally. Countries with poor telephony coverage like Brazil benefit from technologies that allow quick expansion without extensive work on physical infrastructure; here, copper is not only expensive, but also stolen and sold in the black market. Working in Favelas is not easy, many of the streets have no name, and the numbering system is not correct. Adding to this, a respected ICT usage survey done by CETIC (*) – TIC Brasil 2011 – showed us a few interesting facts:

  • Price remains the main barrier, but reductions are seen year-over-year. Currently, less than 50% of the users say that they do not have Internet access at home because it is too expensive.
  • The second main reason is the lack of availability: 21% for urban people and 54% for rural residents.

Moving forward a few years, now we have a decent mobile coverage in the Metro, with 3G access. A few weeks ago, I decided to pay attention again to the usage of ICT and got impressed with the results. People were not only sending and receiving text messages, but also connecting to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks; smartphones, once the realm of the rich, were widely used. Actually, as I have a smartphone with Android 2.1, I felt like an old user.

The adoption of smartphones by the lower income classes is increasing fast, proving that we were correct in our forecasts. Phones are subsidized and sold in many installments. Operators like TIM have launched aggressive mobile broadband plans, charging per day. All these factors have influenced the current usage patterns: according to TIC Brasil 2011, 19% of the urban users have used their mobile phones to access the Internet in the last 3 months.

The Brazilian behavior towards technology is clearly positive. This is based on a few behavioral surveys that I have seen: emerging countries have the highest positive attitude towards the acceptance of a new technology – to be discussed in a later post. The numbers that support this fact are impressive: in February 2012, we had over 47,2 million mobile broadband devices (data by Brazilian’s Huawei Whitepaper of Broadband – Huawei and Teleco), and over 8 million 3G modems. That is more than 25% of the total population using it monthly. Year-over-year growth is a staggering 99.3%.

The World Cup and Olympic Games are driving a new push in technology in the country; 4G auctions have been completed, with existing operators buying the available spectrum. By 2014, we will have even faster connections, so the remaining question is: what will users do with the increased speeds and bandwidth?


Caetano Notari

(*) CETIC – Centro de Estudos sobre as Tecnologias da Informação e da Comunicação – is part of the Brazilian Network Information Center (, created to implement the decisions and projects designed by the Brazilian Internet Steering Committee (

Recommended Reading:

What is the status of global digital inclusion – global data showing the current numbers on digital inclusion

Why is digital inclusion essential? – quick analysis in the importance of digital inclusion

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