(Adds details of plan approved by Brazilian regulator, industry background)
SAO PAULO, June 13 (Reuters) - Brazilian telecoms regulator Anatel on Thursday approved a plan to coordinate investments among public and private players aimed at increasing access to broadband in Latin America’s largest economy.
Brazilian units of Telefonica SA, Telecom Italia SpA and Oi SA have been rushing to expand their fiber-to-home (FTTH) broadband service in Brazil.
According to Anatel, the plan, named PERT, coordinates both public and private initiatives, in order to widen the access to fiber and, in cities where this is not possible, allows connections via satellite or other technologies.
The regulator estimates that only 3,542 out of a total of 5,570 cities in Brazil had access to fiber networks in 2018.
In terms of mobile networks, the measure is expected to enlarge 3G and 4G coverage in Brazil, benefiting 3.8 million people in isolated areas and 11 million city inhabitants, Anatel added.
The agency designated six sources of funding for PERT, as well as proposed changes in a telecoms services fund called Fust, which it considers the best option to meet the shortage of resources for investment in the industry.
According to Anatel, Fust has about 20 billion reais ($5.20 billion), but only 200 million reais were “effectively invested in projects related to telecommunications.” The agency defended the use of Fust to finance broadband projects, with development bank BNDES acting as financial agent, it said in a statement.
Companies have been closely watching Anatel’s moves, as the agency prepares itself to launch an auction for 5G frequencies as early as next year. ($1 = 3.8488 reais) (Reporting by Gabriela Mello in Sao Paulo Editing by Grant McCool and Matthew Lewis)