Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


Getting a Mobile Phone in Brazil

Andréa Novais

Andréa Novais

The Brazil Business


According to Anatel, there are 242,2 million mobile phones in Brazil and the country occupies the 5th position in the ranking for the most profitable markets for mobiles in the world. But is such a strong market foreigner-friendly?

Major mobile operators and coverage

Brazil has got four major mobile operators competing for the market: Vivo, TIM, Claro and Oi:

Vivo: detains 29,81% of the market share and is present in all Brazilian states, covering 90,7% of the national territory.

TIM: with 26,80% of the market share, TIM is also present in all Brazilians states, covering 89,6% of the national territory.

Claro: covering 90,6% of the national territory, Claro detains 24,56% of the market share and is present in all Brazilian states.

Oi: with 18,53% of the market share, Oi currently covers 87,9% of the national territory and is present in all Brazilian states.

Even though mobile operators claim that they cover almost the entire national territory, complaints regarding bad coverage are one of the main reasons why customers are so unhappy with their services.

Where to buy and how to use it

Mobile devices are easily found in Brazil. From shopping malls to department stores, you can always find a device that suits your needs. Prices range from BRL 80,00 to BRL 2500,00.

Prepaid plans

According to Teleco, almost 82% of the mobile phone users in Brazil prefer prepaid plans. Most mobile operators offer recharges going from BRL 12,00 to BRL 100,00.The hot trend among Brazilians is to have a mobile phone that supports more than one SIM card.

This happens because calling to a mobile phone from the same mobile operator as your own can cost as low as BRL 0,21, while calling a mobile phone from a different operator costs around BRL 1,40.

If you choose to get a prepaid phone, the SIM card costs from BRL 10,00 to BRL 15,00. In some metropolitan areas, mobile operators make campaigns in order to promote their brand and you can find these SIM cards for BRL 5,00.

With the exception of Vivo, all SIM cards come with a telephone number. Along with it, you will find the instructions to enable your phone. The instructions will probably be in Portuguese, but if you have a TIM or Claro SIM card, you can access their website and find instructions in English, under “International Visitors in Brazil”.

When trying to register your number, you will be required to present a CPF number. Vivo and TIM allow the registration with a passport number and TIM offers services in English too. For that, you must call #144 and ask to be transferred to someone who speaks English. Vivo does not have this service, but they guarantee that if you go personally to one of their stores you will be assisted by someone who speaks English.

Postpaid plans

You can also hire a specific package of minutes, SMS and MMS and pay a monthly fee. These are the range prices for the four mobile operators approached in this article:

  • Oi – From BRL 60,00 (60 minutes, 30 SMS and 20 MMS) to BRL 299,00 (1250 minutes, 100 SMS and 100 MMS)

  • TIM – From BRL 49,00 (50 minutes for other telephony operators) to BRL 279,00 (800 minutes for other telephony operators). In any plan calls from TIM to TIM are free of charge.

  • Vivo – From BRL 59,00 (60 minutes for other mobile operators) to BRL 429,00 (1200 minutes for other telephony operators)

  • Claro allows you to customize your own plan. You can choose how many minutes, SMS and other services you want. Overall, prices range from BRL 54,00 for a 60-minute plan to BRL 264,00 for a 600-minute plan.

Considering all these points, I think I can say that a foreigner would probably be better off with TIM, as Claro and Oi do not allow the registration of a mobile phone without a CPF number and Vivo demands that the foreigner goes personally to one of its stores in order to register their mobile phone.

Discagem Direta a Distância – DDD

DDD is the system adopted for long-distance calls. It is determined regionally or according to the telephony operator. These are the DDD (or area code) for major metropolitan areas in Brazil:

These are the DDDs for long-distance calls for major mobile operators:

  • Oi – 31
  • Vivo – 15
  • TIM – 41
  • Claro – 21

So if you have a mobile phone from São Paulo and you want to call someone in Brasília, for example, you will dial 0 + the mobile operator DDD + the area code + the phone number. If you have a Vivo mobile, it would look like this: 015 61 XXXX-XXXX.

Will my phone work in Brazil?

If it is unlocked, yes. It is also important to check if it operates in the GSM frequency adopted in Brazil. You can check this information here.

Nextel devices operate very similarly across the countries, so your Nextel device will work in Brazil. On the other hand, have in mind that the CDMA technology is no longer operating in the country. So if you have a CDMA mobile device, it will not work in here.

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