Free Net Service in Brazil from Telefónica's Terra

Here's another reason for Brazilians to

party with abandon at Rio de Janeiro's next carnival: one of the region's

largest ISPs (Internet service providers) will offer free Internet access in

Brazil.

Terra Networks SA, a subsidiary of Spain's Telefónica SA, announced on Thursday that it plans to offer free Internet access in Latin America's largest country and economy beginning next month.

Terra Livre, as the free service is called, will be launched first in Sao Paulo on Feb. 5 and rolled out to other cities later this year, the company announced. The service includes unlimited Internet access, one e-mail account and 10M bytes of Web site space.

The company hopes the free service will significantly increase the number of Internet users in Brazil and, as a result, the number of visitors to its Brazilian portal, located at http://www.terra.com.br/. More users will generate more advertising revenue and more e-commerce activity at the portal, the company said.

Along with the new free service, Terra also announced it is reducing by almost 50 percent the monthly fee for its paid Internet access service, from 35.00 Brazilian real (US$19.64) to 19.90 Brazilian real.

The paid access service has more features than the free service, such as unlimited e-mail addresses, roaming services in over 2,000 cities inside and outside Brazil, 50M bytes of Web site space and messaging, agenda and chat services, the company said.

Terra is not alone in offering free Internet access in Latin America. Earlier this month, IFX Corp. announced free Internet access for several countries in the region. [See "IFX to Offer Free 'Net Access in LatAm" Jan. 6.] Other companies are already offering free Internet access, such as Libertis.net, which launched its service in December in Mexico City and already has about 10,000 users, a company official recently told the IDG News Service.

Libertis plans to expand to two other Mexican cities in February and abroad to Brazil, Argentina and Chile before mid-year, according to Adrián De Lope Friedeberg, the company's president and chief executive officer.

It is estimated that about half of all Internet users in Latin America are in Brazil. Although online population estimates for Latin America vary, a study released in November by Jupiter Communications Inc. puts the total at about 9 million users. Still, high costs are keeping many from getting on the information superhighway -- only two percent of the region's population is online, according to Jupiter.

A study issued in July 1999 by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) states that the monthly cost of accessing the Internet in Latin America for a user who logs on for 20 hours per week is $54 in México, $83 in Brazil and $112 Argentina.

That estimate factors in Internet access subscription costs, PC ownership costs and phone charges. BCG put the cost in the U.S. at $42 per month.

"There is no doubt. Free access is the upcoming trend," said Marcelo Lacerda, director of Terra's Brazilian subsidiary, in a statement.

Terra offers Internet access service in Spain, Brazil, México, Chile, Perú, Guatemala and the U.S. to 1.14 million customers, according to the company. Its various portals draw a total of 33 million users per month, according to Terra.

Terra's Brazil operations can be reached at http://www.terra.com.br/.

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