Brazilians are becoming increasingly connected to the internet – and more familiarized with smartphones and tablets. Just five years ago, only 15 percent of Brazilian adults had a smartphone, a rate that has since jumped to 54 percent, according to a recent study published by the Pew Research Center.

This percentage has nearly doubled each year since 2013. In 2014, 24 percent of Brazilians were equipped with mobile phones connected to the internet. One year later, they amounted to 41 percent.

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And, as these products become increasingly more popular, they also bring about a change of behavior among Brazilians. According to the same Pew study, 90 percent of Brazilians between 18 and 36 years old “occasionally” access the internet. For people over 37, that rate is at 57 percent. Social media use among adults has increased as well, from 36 percent in 2013 to 53 percent last year.

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Mobile phones lead the market

Mobile telephony services have become Brazil’s largest information and communications technology (ICT) segment, accounting for 43.5 percent of the total gross revenue for the country – and 73 percent of Brazilian subscribers.

The market is undergoing a deep transformation process due to the transition from voice to data. Traditional voice calling services are increasingly being replaced by social media messaging apps, such as WhatsApp (the most popular app among Brazilians) or Snapchat. 

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The growth of access to mobile telephony services and equipment is fueled by fierce competition between market players (albeit the fact that the market remains highly concentrated) in a scenario of economic hardship. To avoid losing customers, operators have slashed – or even eliminated – many of the fees still present in Brazil.

For instance, until very recently, there was no such thing in Brazil as plans with unlimited minutes for calls. Even text messages were paid for – that is, until WhatsApp Messenger eliminated that part of the market.

Internet speeds remain slow

The downside of the country’s rapid increase in demand for mobile broadband connections is the saturation in the 3G and 4G networks. Despite a hike in the pool of clients, telecommunications companies have slashed their investments. More demand and fewer investments have caused an inevitable loss to the quality of the internet in Brazil.

According to Akemai, a company that ranks countries according to the speed of their internet connections, Brazil now has only the 79th fastest internet in the world – with 7.2 Mbps. For the sake of comparison, South Korea has an average speed of 28.6 Mbps. In the region, Brazil fares worse than Uruguay, which has a 9.6 Mbps average connection speed.

But while Brazil’s results are subpar for one of the world’s top 10 economies, it was also a 15-percent improvement from 2016.

(If you are in Brazil, you can test the speed of your internet connection by clicking this link.)

The government has tried to stimulate investments by converting fines for companies which disrespect regulations into mandatory investments. The strategy, though, has had limited success.

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BY The Brazilian Report

We are an in-depth content platform about Brazil, made by Brazilians and destined to foreign audiences.