June 4, 2019 / 4:11 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 2-Brazil telecom Oi adds mobile customers as it expands 4.5G coverage

(Adds share price)

SAO PAULO, June 4 (Reuters) - Brazilian telecom Oi SA added more post-paid mobile clients in May than in April, commercial director Bernardo Winik said on Tuesday, as the company expanded its 4.5G coverage in Latin America’s largest economy.

“April was better than the first quarter and May was better than April,” he said at a press conference in Sao Paulo, adding that investments in 4.5G coverage prepare the network for the future generation 5G.

Oi’s preferred shares were up 0.6% in afternoon trading in Sao Paulo.

Oi’s 4.5G coverage is expected to double to 35 million customers by the end of 2019 from 17.7 million on March 31. The carrier mainly uses equipment from China’s Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Finland’s Nokia Oyj.

Winik dismissed concerns about Huawei, which the United States has accused in recent months of being a vehicle for Chinese espionage.

“We follow developments closely because there is a dispute, but our network architecture is built in a way that we do not depend on any specific supplier in any region,” Winik said.

Oi Marketing Director Roberto Guenzburger added that the company has been reassigning frequencies previously used for 2G that became idle as customers migrate to faster technologies.

Another major focus, according to the executives, is widening its fiber-to-home (FTTH) broadband service in Brazil, which should reach 60 cities by end of June compared to 27 in December 2018.

“We also doubled the number of homes connected in FTTH to 200,000 in January-May,” Winik added.

Oi ended the first quarter with 1.7 million homes passed in FTTH and expects to reach 3.6 million by the end of 2019, he said.

Oi, which is Brazil’s largest fixed-lined carrier, is also launching a Streaming Box, a device similar to an Apple TV, to integrate its online video platform Oi Play to Netflix, YouTube, Google Assistant and other applications.

“It is a wireless, Android device, totally approved by (telecommunications regulator) Anatel and it will cost less than half the price of an Apple TV,” said Guenzburger. (Reporting by Gabriela Mello Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Richard Chang)

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