Antenna Law approved in Brazil, 60-day shot clock in place

Last week, the President of Brazil Dilma Rousseff signed the new Antenna Law (Law 13,116/2015) which establishes new general rules for the deployment and sharing of telecom infrastructure and amends the previous laws of 1997, 2001 and 2009.

November 2013, TowerXchange interviewed Guilherme Ieno, respected telecom expert and Partner at the Brazilian law firm Koury Lopes Advogados. Back then, when commenting on the Antenna Law, Guilherme was hopeful that it would be approved ahead of the 2014 World Cup, especially in light of the much needed infrastructure investments to support growing data traffic during the sport event.

Almost one year later, the bill was eventually signed but not without crucial amends to its original version. The reasons for the delay in approving the law were mainly related to the volume of municipal laws which had to be taken into account.

The Antenna Law is now expected to speed up the deployment of greenfield projects and even eliminates the need for licenses in the case of small antennas in urban areas – a much needed development in order to ensure a faster expansion of coverage in crowded cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

Further provisions will push operators to share infrastructure by forbidding the duplication of antennas in urban areas as well as to share the excess capacity on existing mobile networks. However, the approved text included six vetoes, one of which considerably reduced the revolutionary power of the new law.

In fact, the original text gave telecom regulator Anatel the power to approve a new antenna installation in case the local authority failed to provide a decision within 60 days from the request. This provision still forces municipalities to speed up local licensing processes which, to date, could take up to twelve months, thanks to what effectively amounts to a 60-day shot clock rule. However, after a Presidential veto, Anatel won’t have the power to step in should a municipality fail to reach a decision within the 60-day timeframe.

In the actual explanation of the veto, it is stated that “the norm, while establishing the transfer of competency from one entity to the regulatory body, after a timeframe of sixty days without the emission of the installation license, would empower a federal body of a local administrative decision, hence in violation of the federal pact stated by the Constitution.”

Although the legal reasoning behind the veto is clear and apparently inarguable, it is left to see whether municipalities will be able to swiftly adopt the new law and embrace the change to speed up the much needed deployment of new infrastructure in both urban and rural Brazil.

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