All four Brazilian telecom operators that first signed up with the federal government have started to offer internet packages under national broadband plan PNBL, the communications ministry said in a statement.
The operators - Oi, Telefônica, Algar Telecom and Sercomtel, which all signed up for the PNBL on June 30 - confirmed they were launching broadband services at speeds of up to 1Mbps. Broadband packages will be available at 35 or 29 reais a month in states whose local governments agreed to lift the ICMS tax on interstate sales.
TIM and Claro, which signed up for the PNBL on July 13 and August 24, respectively, will begin offering packages under the plan later. TIM expects to reach 1,000 cities by 2012 with a popular broadband project it has developed under the PNBL.
In the plan's first phase, residents of 344 municipalities will be able to contract PNBL broadband services from one of the participating operators, depending on the companies' operating areas. The government's goal is to have the number of localities expanded to 544 by the end of this year.
Under the terms of PNBL, operators can offer 3G mobile broadband access when fixed connections are not feasible. But they cannot offer bundled sales - ie, forcing costumer to purchase products other than broadband.
According to the government, anyone can contact the companies and, without any charges, request migration to the PNBL service. However, it is necessary that the client's city be included in the program and that there be technical availability.
Operators participating in the program have committed themselves to offering broadband service to at least 15% of fixed telephony subscribers in the municipalities where they are operating the PNBL service.
Operators also committed to selling wholesale broadband at rates lower than those charged today. Clients will be smaller providers or city governments, which can buy access from operators and resell to consumers.
According to the government, this will be state-owned telecom Telebrás' business under PNBL - selling its licensed capacity to small providers, which may then resell to consumers.
The communications ministry is expected this week to provide the full list of cities covered by PNBL in the project's first phase.