Communications for Expats in Brazil

Submitted: April 2014

Brazil is a large country and mobile phone coverage varies from place to place. Generally coverage is good in the cities (though still with some blank spots). For the rest of the country, coverage tends to be limited to towns and along lines on communication. There is a useful map here which shows coverage for the whole of Brazil. The map can be set to display the various mobile phone companies’ towers, which will give you a good idea of which company’s signal is the strongest where you are intending to live.

Brazil’s networks work on the GSM 1800 standards, so any phone you bring with you must conform to it. Mobile phones are expensive in Brazil so bringing your own may be a good idea (as long as it is unlocked). However keeping your home service provider is probably not a good idea, as roaming charges are high in Brazil. When you first arrive, your best choice may be to buy a prepaid SIM card and a recharge card. Theoretically you will need a CPF (Cadastro de Pessoa Física) number to be able to do this; but it has been reported that you can find a shop which will not require one, if you keep trying. You could also get round the problem by getting a free short term tourist CPF from your nearest post office. The application form has to be filled in online from here (try it in Google Translate, though beware as it is unreliable) and then printed out; this can be done in an internet café. It is the same form used for a longer term CPF application (for which a fee is payable). Once you are settled in Brazil you can investigate long term contracts.

There are four main network providers in Brazil:

Vivo (Telefonica) - website

TIM - website

Claro - website (you will need to enter your Brazilian Zip/Post Code to enter the site), and

Oi  - website (you will have to enter your state and then you city/town to enter the site).

Competition between providers means that there are a large number of different offers and prices available; so as always it pays to do some research. Also you will have to decide whether you want to use the internet on your phone. At present the mobile internet phone service is quite expensive and can be slow during periods of high usage.

Broadband internet based on a landline or cable is now pretty much standard in most cities. The main landline providers in Brazil are:

Oi - website (you will have to enter your state and then you city/town to enter the site)

Embratel - website, and

Telefonica (Vivo) - website.

There is a useful map here which shows which shows which operators are active in each state; it also shows the smaller companies that subcontract use of lines from the major operators, and can sometimes be the source of good deals. Some companies, (including Sky) offer combined landline, internet and cable services, and it may be possible to include a mobile contract in the package. Application for a service can be done online, by telephone or by finding a retail outlet in a major shopping centre. You will need to provide your CPF number, a Brazilian bank account number and also either your passport number, visa number or your RNE (Registro Nacional de Estrangeiro) number. The RNE number can be found on your CIE (Cedula de Identidade Estrangeiro) card (assuming you have one).