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Anatel authorizes the experimental phase of the provision of mobile telephone services via satellite.

The Brazilian Telecommunications Agency (Anatel) used a mechanism called Regulatory Sandbox, an approach that makes regulations more flexible for telecommunications projects considered to be of great relevance to the country.

Anatel’s Board of Directors decided, during a virtual meeting held on Thursday (3/7), to approve the experimental provision of mobile telephony via satellite (Personal Mobile Service), known as Direct-to-Device – D2D.

To make this experimental provision of D2D feasible, the Agency chose to employ a tool called Regulatory Sandbox, which temporarily suspends regulatory rules that may present obstacles to certain projects. This is only possible when the studies have perspectives of relevance for technological advancement and for promoting access to telecommunications in Brazil.

According to advisor Alexandre Freire, reporter of the subject, “the sandbox is a mechanism aimed at fostering innovation and the development of new technologies, without conventional regulatory restrictions, and has the potential to enable and encourage innovations in the regulated market”. This means, ultimately, enabling the implementation of innovation, as described by Joseph Schumpeter as “creative destruction,” a process that continually revolutionizes the economic structure, destroying the old and creating new elements.

The first request for interest in D2D was presented by the operators Claro and TIM, in partnership with the satellite operator AST Space Mobile. According to the decision of the Anatel Board of Directors, other companies with authorization to use the mobile phone spectrum can use the Regulatory Sandbox for D2D.

The request to use the Sandbox must be made by the Personal Mobile Service (PMS) operators, which hold the bands. Advisor Alexandre Freire determined that Anatel’s inspection monitors the Sandbox, especially about its impact on consumers.

D2D allows mobile phone consumers to transmit voice and data from their devices over Personal Mobile Service frequencies to low-orbit satellites, which relay the signal to fixed telephone towers on the ground. Despite the technical challenges involved in using mobile phone frequencies with satellites, there are great prospects in Brazil, especially for agribusiness and for communities without mobile coverage.

For Freire, “the D2D solution has significant potential to expand personal mobile service coverage, reducing the digital divide when providing telecommunications services in remote and rural areas. By making telecommunications services more accessible to a larger portion of the national territory, this will contribute to boosting economic development and empowering individuals, expanding connectivity significantly.”

Anatel president, Carlos Baigorri, emphasized that the success of the D2D project would be a revolution in the face of the challenges of connectivity and universalization of services in the country. During the meeting of the Anatel Board of Directors, he referred to the proposal on the use of spectrum and interference from non-geostationary satellites presented by Brazil at the World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai.

The Regulatory Sandbox for D2D allows authorized studies to have a validity period of two years, longer than the period possible according to current regulations. This is not the first time that Anatel has used this instrument; it has previously been used for the use of PMS repeaters and signal boosters by city halls, to expand that service’s coverage, in a deliberation held last February.

Freire highlights that the use of Sandbox in this project is aligned with the objectives set out in Presidential Decree No. 11,738, which aims to strengthen institutional capacity for regulatory management. These goals are related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN Agenda 2030, especially those related to poverty eradication, promotion of health and well-being, quality education, sustainable economic development, industry, innovation and infrastructure, reduction of inequality and peace, justice, and effective institutions.

Finally, the advisor states that, through the Regulatory Sandbox, “Anatel seeks to modernize its regulatory policies towards an environment more aligned with the implementation of innovations, and aims to subsidize future actions to improve the regulatory framework, meeting the needs of consumers and suppliers in the regulated market.”