Big three cellcos expected to win 3G licences today

20 Apr 2007

Operators and analysts expect the three largest Russian cellcos to receive 3G mobile licences when the country’s Ministry of IT and Communications announces the results of a tender today. Last week, the Federal Communications Agency (Rossvyaz) narrowed the bidding field to a shortlist of six companies, including market leader MTS, second-placed Vimpelcom and third-placed MegaFon, as well as Chelyabinsk Cellular Communication (a subsidiary of Tele2), New Telephone Company (an operator in Vladivostok) and Avrora-Telekom. Three concessions are expected to be awarded. Vimpelcom has said it is confident of winning a 3G concession, and it has revealed plans to invest up to USD350 Million in a W-CDMA network by the end of 2008. The company’s CEO Alexander Izosimov said last week that ‘virtually any’ bidder could satisfy the licence conditions of rolling out 2,000 base stations in three years, and that consequently the awards will become ‘a beauty contest based on historical profile’. Commenting on the shortlist, Izosimov says: ‘Two of the three smaller players are familiar to us, but one is truly obscure. No one understands how it got there.’ He is assumed to have been referring to Avrora-Telekom.