Ericsson sold its first telephone station to Brazil in 1900. The company did not become established in Brazil until the 1920s, however. At that time, Companhia Telefónica Brasileira (CTB) dominated the country's telephone market. The company was the operator in the largest cities, such as São Paolo and Rio de Janeiro, and purchased all equipment from one of Ericsson's competitors. Ericsson was able to do business with other companies operating outside CTB's concession areas and therefore established a sales company, Sociedade Ericsson do Brasil (EDB), in Rio de Janeiro in 1923. By the end of the 1920s, Ericsson had also sold its first 500-switch station to the small town of Juiz de Fora.
In 1934, Wolf Kantif, an Englishman living in Brazil, was employed by Ericsson's local company. Kantif was a very talented salesman who traveled extensively in the northeastern parts of the country that were outside of CTB's concession area. With his charming manner, he was able to convince people in various locations to start telephone associations. These associations then ordered equipment from Ericsson in Sweden. By 1940, Ericsson had a firm foothold in Brazil.
In the mid-1940s, Ericsson also began to receive orders from CTB, and the Swedish company's sales figures increased even more.
In 1952, however, the Brazilian government reacted and demanded that the increasing imports of telecom equipment from Sweden should be reduced. Instead, the government felt that Ericsson should start a plant in Brazil.
Ericsson followed the government's recommendations and built a telephone production plant outside São Paolo. Soon Ericsson also began to manufacture crossbar switches in its Brazilian plant. Operations expanded rapidly. In 1960, for example, EDB supplied all telecom equipment in Brazil's new capital Brasilia.
In the mid-1960s, EDB received a large order for crossbar switches for São Paolo and other locations, and by the end of the decade, Ericsson had attained a market share of about 50 percent. In 1974, it was necessary to build a new production plant in San José dos Campos.
During the late 1970s, however, the Brazilian economy was suffering from a deep recession and orders for telecom equipment fell. The country was even forced to cancel previously placed orders. In 1979, however, Ericsson received its first AXE order for a telephone station in São Paolo.
The first order for a mobile system was received in 1992. From 1997 to 1998, ten mobile telephone licenses were put up for auction, making this the world's largest auction up until that time. To meet increased demand Ericsson's contracts included supplying equipment for cellular operator Tess D-AMPS system in Sao Paolo Ericsson began manufacturing both base stations and mobile phones at the plant in San José dos Campos.
By the beginning of 2000, Ericsson had 2,400 employees in Brazil. The company had a market share of 35 percent for fixed telephony, 40 percent for mobile systems and 34 percent for terminals (mobile telephones and handheld computers). Brazil was Ericsson's largest market by far in Latin America and one of the largest in the entire world.
Author: Mats Wickman