The nationwide 3G network rollout programmes of Russia’s three largest mobile operators, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Vimpelcom and MegaFon, are all now under way, with several major contracts awarded to international equipment providers since the GSM trio won their W-CDMA licences in April 2007.
In early December MTS selected Sweden’s Ericsson as its main nationwide supplier of 3G and 3.5G network equipment, under a turnkey arrangement to deliver UMTS/HSPA core and radio access network equipment, network management hardware and software plus a range of integration and support services. Previously, in May, MTS awarded a contract to Finnish-German venture Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) for its initial 3G deployments in the Moscow region, and in September the cellco announced it was giving additional W-CDMA contracts to both NSN and Ericsson.
Vimpelcom announced in late December that it had completed a closed tender and had selected Ericsson and China’s Huawei Technologies to supply it with 3G network equipment and services, without specifying regions where each of the winners would deploy equipment. Huawei has since confirmed that it won a 3G supply contract from Vimpelcom, including coverage of the Far East and Siberian regions.
Also in late December, MegaFon selected Huawei and NSN to build a nationwide 3G network. Under the agreement, the vendors will deliver base station controllers and subsystems, install and maintain the equipment, and train personnel, with Huawei covering the Siberian and Far East regions, and NSN focusing on the European and Volga-Urals parts of Russia. Regarding coverage, MegaFon deputy general director Alexei Nichiporenko said, ‘New generation networks will be built where there are spare frequencies, where it is economically rational and where there is effective demand for services.’ MegaFon, the first of the country’s GSM operators to deploy networks in all 86 regions, is planning to launch 3G in 16 regions by 2009. It plans to invest around USD1 billion on its 3G rollout by the end of that year, with initial deployments expected to focus on major regional population centres. MegaFon switched on its first limited UMTS services in parts of St Petersburg in October.