Activating a mobile line is always a bit of a hassle. In 2012 I had to activate using my mother-in-law’s documents because at that time only Brazilians and legal residents could acquire mobile lines in their name. Earlier this year I could have activated using my passport number, as the legislation has changed in anticipation of the World Cup and Olympics, but did not because my wife planned to continue using the line after my vacation ended. This past Friday I arrived in Brazil on a permanent visa, and since I won’t have Brazilian documents for at least another few weeks, opted to activate a line with the mobile carrier TIM using my passport. It wasn’t as easy as it should have been.
A sim card in Brazil can be activated by simply putting the card into the device, turning it on and either completing the steps in an automated pop-up or else by dialing a certain code and going through the steps. I tried the latter (the first did not come up as an option this time around) but it offered only to take the Brazilian document number (CPF, similar to a social security number in the United States). I then tried making a phone call in order to go through the steps via phone call, but every time I chose “English” and “passport” the call disconnected. I suspect that the customer service reps were seeing what type of call was incoming and disconnecting.
Giving up on it Friday night, I tried again at a TIM retail store in a local mall Saturday evening. They said they couldn’t do anything with the sim card I had with me since we didn’t know the phone number associated with it, so I offered to buy another new one from them. They tried activating two sim cards and both times it failed. Finally they asked if I couldn’t just get someone to loan me a CPF to activate the card. That’s ridiculous. It’s my legal right under existing legislation to activate on a passport, so I told them that wouldn’t do. I left the store still without service.
Returning home, I tried making a call again to get customer service. After my third attempt some brave soul took my call. It took the poor guy 10 minutes, but he finally got the card active. He told me the problem with my card had something to do with the associated phone number not being fully expired for the previous client, but I don’t know. Whatever he did got the line working, and I’m grateful. I hope the call gets reviewed and that anonymous rep receives some benefit for his extra effort, but that’s probably just wishful thinking.
Why did I want service with TIM? The main reason is that most friends and relatives are on TIM, and that provides certain price advantages. There is also the fact that on the Infinity Pré plan, Internet is 50 centavos per day, SMS is 50 centavos per day, and if both are used in the same day the price drops to 75 centavos total. Given that I have a MyTouch Slide 4G and plan to use mostly text and data, this makes the most sense to me.
In any event, I’m glad I have a fully functional mobile line in Brazil. I really do think that the experience could be better for foreigners though. I had a small advantage in already being familiar with mobile service in Brazil as well as current legislation, and due to the fact that I speak fluent Portuguese. Someone arriving for one of the upcoming international events won’t have a very easy time getting their phones active locally, if what happened with me is any indication.