Uruguay and Brazil
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Brazil lacks FTTH technicians, says Telefónica

Bnamericas Published: Friday, March 20, 2015

Brazil is suffering from a severe lack of technicians specialized in the deployment and maintenance of fiber optic infrastructure, a senior executive from Telefónca's Brazil unit told BNamericas.

Telefónica Brasil network director Ari Perri said he needs 2,000 additional technicians starting in April but doesn't know where to find them.

The company has taken matters into its own hands and created a training center that can churn out 200 technicians per month. But turnover in this line of work hovers around 20%, which means constantly training new personnel.

Basic training in electricity and electronics takes 45-60 days, Perri said, and newly trained staff must be carefully monitored when working on the ground, as mistakes can be very costly.

"There is a lack of technicians not only in Brazil but all over Latin America because we're hearing that from our partners, suppliers and competitors," Perri said on the sidelines of the Fiber to the Home Council LatAm conference held this week in Santiago, Chile.

"Universities and technical colleges should be focusing on training fiber optics technicians. This is a requirement coming not only from the operators but the equipment suppliers, too. The cable and electronics equipment suppliers should also be creating training centers."

Telefónica Brasil is betting much of its future strategy on fiber to the home (FTTH), committing 4.66bn euros (US$5bn) to purchase local landline operator GVT from French group Vivendi, a deal still awaiting approval from antitrust body Cade.

"Fiber is important not only for residential broadband but as the base for all mobile connectivity for 4G and 5G, which need very high quality broadband," Perri said.

Telefónica Brasil general director Paulo Cesar Teixeira said in February that the company doubled the number of homes passed with FTTH in 2014 to 4.1mn, and currently has 375,000 customers for the the Vivo Fiber service, with 52,000 having been added in Q4.

Uruguayan telco Antel's general manager Horacio Tolosa said training fiber optics technicians was key to deploy FTTH. (SOURCE: BNamericas).

URUGUAY SUCCESS STORY

Uruguay has 57% of total fixed lines connected through FTTH, the highest in the region.

The key driver for growth was financing from the Uruguayan government and a push from former state operator Antel president Carolina Cosse.

Some 3,400 technicians underwent over 70,000 hours of training to implement the project, which included Universidad del Trabajo de Uruguay setting up a fiber optic training course as part of its college curriculum.

"The leadership of Carolina Cosse and the support from the Uruguayan government was very important," Antel's current president Horacio Tolosa told BNamericas on the sidelines of the conference. "And the benefit is that the investment in training is not lost because those technicians can be used for other projects."

According to French ICT consultancy IDATE Latin America will average only 18.8% of total homes passed with FTTH in 2019 whereas Uruguay and Barbados currently have home passes equivalent to 95% and 87% of total homes.

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