The Brazilian National Electric Energy Agency (ANEEL) and the Brazilian National Telecommunications Agency (ANATEL) have launched a joint effort to improve the regulatory environment for infrastructure sharing between the electricity and telecommunications industries. The initiative aims to provide greater legal certainty for negotiation between players in the two industries and incentives for the use of regular, standardized electricity distribution poles for housing antennas, cables, and other telecommunications equipment.

Currently, infrastructure sharing between telecommunications and energy companies in Brazil is regulated by the Joint Resolution ANEEL/ANATEL/ANP No. 01/1999 and the Joint Resolution ANEEL/ANATEL No. 04/2014. However, these regulations have not been enough to put an end to informal and disorderly use of energy distribution poles by telecommunications operators. To address this issue, ANEEL has proposed a new model that allows assigning the right to commercially use the shareable space on the poles of the energy distributors’ networks, with the creation of a new market to intermediate infrastructure sharing agreements.

According to a 2019 survey by ANEEL, only 42 percent of telecommunications operators had a contract with the electricity distributor responsible for the infrastructure they used. In addition to the problems arising from the informality of such relationships, the irregular use of poles can generate serious risks as a result of non-compliance with safety standards.4

Given this scenario, a substantial innovation in the draft presented by ANEEL is the possibility of assigning the right to commercially use the shareable space on the poles of the energy distributors’ networks, with the creation of a new market to intermediate infrastructure sharing agreements: business use of poles by third parties (“polecos,” similar to “towercos”). The main aim of the new model is to get energy distributors rid of the burden of inspecting poles, allowing them to concentrate their efforts on their main activity. Although, it is worth mentioning that the proposed regulation would have them remain responsible for the management of distribution assets and for the fulfilment of the obligations of concession and permission contracts.

The draft also proposes that infrastructure operators be required to prepare annually a Priority Poles Regularization Plan (PRPP), which should indicate the priority poles (those outside of the parameters of the proposed standards) to be regulated in their areas of operation. Another relevant modification is the definition of the price for the use of poles spaces, which shall be determined by a specific calculation and issued by ANEEL to each electricity distributor, as part of its Periodic Tariff Review process, considering the specificities of costs associated with the distributor’s own network.

In this sense, the main subjects of the public hearing are (i) the regularization of the use of electricity poles, (ii) the general conditions for the infrastructure sharing between electricity and telecommunications companies and (iii) the price for the use of pole spaces.5

The regularization of the use of poles consists of optimizing the use of their operational capacity by removing idle cabling, organizing infrastructure sharing and adapting it to ANEEL’s technical and safety standards. In addition, the updating of the general price conditions aims to encourage the regularized practice of poles sharing, reducing costs and mitigating the problem of disorderly and irregular use. We should also note that ANEEL and ANATEL have been highlighting the importance of setting standard conditions for commercial relations between energy and telecommunications players as a way to improve contractual predictability, based on practices from the electricity sector.6

According to these regulatory agencies: “Energy distribution and the provision of telecommunications services have several similarities, since both are network industries, dependent on infrastructure and extensive capital. In the most capillary part of the networks, synergies are quite evident, with the use of poles from distributors to support cables and telecommunications operators’ equipment.”7 Cross-sector infrastructure sharing aims to reduce the costs related to implementing the support network for telecommunications services, enabling the entry or maintenance of these providers in this market. In this way, energy distributors can lease part of the infrastructure they manage to telecommunications operators in exchange for payment.

Finally, it should be noted that the review of the regulation over infrastructure sharing is also under discussion at ANATEL and is part of its agenda for 2021-2022. Currently, the draft is in the office of Councillor Moisés Moreira, the reporting councillor for the process, who must submit it to the agency’s board so that they can decide on the opening of a public hearing conducted by ANATEL. As stated in the record of the Board of Directors’ Meeting No. 907, of November, 25 2021, the submission of the matter for deliberation was extended for 120 days and should therefore only take place in the first part of 2022.