Cheap handsets mean more phones than people in Brazil

Cheap mobile phones and tariffs in Brazil are booming, creating revenues for telecoms companies, however, recycling initiatives in the country still have a lot to answer for.

In a recent review of the Brazilian mobile phone market, the country’s telecom regulator Anatel found that there are now more mobile phones in the country in use than there are people.

Analysts have said this is down to technology and telecoms being the primary markets in the country. Despite the surge Greenpeace warns that it doesn’t look at local supplier recycling schemes.

Anatel found that the 100 percent penetration mark was reached in October when just under three million new subscriptions were recorded, bringing the total to 194,439,250 and a teledensity of 100.44 lines per 100 inhabitants.

These figures represented a 11.77 percent growth from last year, when the service recorded 20,479,882 and an increase of 10.92 percent in teledensity.

In October, 12 Brazilian states already had more than one mobile per capita: Distrito Federal, Sao Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio de Janeiro, Rio Grande do Sul, Goias, Mato Grosso, Santa Catarina, Rondonia, Espírito Santo, Paraná and Pernambuco.

Analysts said the growth could be attributed to a few factors. Anthony Cox, an analyst at Juniper Research, told TechEye: “Firstly prepaid tariffs and secondly low cost handsets mean that the cost of ownership of the mobile device has reached a point where mass market take-up is possible.”

However he pointed out that average revenue per user is lower than developed economies.  

Patrik Pfandler, an analyst at Futuresource Consulting, told us: “Mobile phone take up is so high because it’s the primary technology in Brazil. In 2009 broadband penetration was 22 percent, basic internet was 25 percent and PC penetration is 30 percent per household.”

Pfandler told us that the market is driven by cheap handsets. The regulator’s review listed that of the total number of phones, 159.82 million (82.19 percent) were pre-paid, while the remaining 34.63 million (17.81 percent) were post-paid contract customers.

Mr Pfandler also pointed out that the large number of pay as you go handsets suggests smartphone use is not through the roof yet. Phones are used for text messaging, basic web access and phones calls.

With so many phones, where’s the mobile graveyard?

Greenpeace has said mobile phone companies haven’t quite conquered recycling in Brazil.

Tom Dowdall, Greener electronics campaign co-ordinator, told TechEye: “We don’t focus on country by country but what we do look at is the global mobile phone take-back of the top manufacturers. Nokia is the one company that has achieved nearly 100 percent take backs in all countries.

“When it comes to developing countries we consider some local providers,” Mr Dowdall said.

“Our Indian office is looking at the take back and recycling methods these companies offer but currently the Brazilian office is not.

“When it comes to bigger companies the likes of Apple and Samsung have good take-back and recycling schemes in developed countries but not so much in developing countries such as Brazil. It’s in these countries you see a lack of provisions when it comes to mobile phone recycling. 

“We’re not 100 percent clear where all these phones go when they aren’t in use.”