Business

Mobile revolution brings mixed benefits to Brazil

Published 7:49 AM ET, Tue October 9, 2012
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According to telecoms regulator Anatel, Brazil's mobile phone market is the sixth largest in the world. The country accounts for a third of all mobile users in Latin America, with more than 250 million active SIMs. AFP/Getty Images
Brazil boasts a rate of more than one mobile subscription per person -- yet many living in the poorest areas, such as the favela (shanty town) complexes of Rio de Janeiro, are without mobile phones. AFP/Getty Images
Mobile devices have acted as a fuel for violence and crime in the favelas, where the market for handsets draws on a large supply of stolen phones. Here, special "diretão" SIM cards allow drug dealers to communicate without fear of being traced and make international calls for free. AFP/Getty Images
But initiatives such as Viva Favela use mobile devices to directly benefit the residents of the settlements. Images collected on smartphones by citizen journalists create an online documentary of favela life and teach "favelados" valuable media and tech skills. Courtesy Viva Favela (Walter Mesquita / Curta Favela)
Imitations of well known smartphones are commonly traded on the favelas' "grey market", with brands such as "HiPhone" offering music, touch screens, GPS and digital TV, just like their highly priced rivals. Getty Images
The growth in availability of mobile internet-equipped devices has spread access to the web in parts of the country where 90% of residents are without access to fixed high-speed internet lines. Chinese telecoms company Huawei has signed a deal with the government to bring 4G mobile broadband access to 70% homes by 2014. Getty Images
Across Latin America 98% of people have mobile phone signal. More than 80% of households in the region subscribe to a mobile service. AFP/Getty Images
For people living in sparsely populated areas outside the region's major cities, mobile devices are opening up new ways to access banking services, health information and education. AFP/Getty Images
Farmers in across the region can receive daily weather forecasts and crop price information via SMS schemes, such as Chile's government-sponsored subscription service . AFP/Getty Images
A boom in ecommerce -- exploiting mobile internet connections to make purchases -- is imminent, say industry analysts including Forbes' Ricardo Geromel. In Venezuela and Mexico more than 20% of mobile subscriptions already include mobile internet capabilities. Getty Images