UHT expanding WiMAX via new owner’s deal with ZTE; brand may change from Alternet to Freshtel

26 Aug 2009

Ukrainian High Technologies (UHT), which offers wireless broadband services under the Alternet banner, has awarded a new contract to Chinese equipment provider ZTE Corporation to expand its WiMAX network. ZTE announced that it is rolling out WiMAX infrastructure in cities across Ukraine under a deal with UHT’s controlling owner Icon Private Equity, and intends to finish the project in the fourth quarter of this year. Under the first phase of the exclusive contract agreement with UHT, ZTE is providing technical expertise and solutions to expand WiMAX coverage in the capital Kyiv and surrounding areas, and has agreed to provide more than 250 WiMAX base stations, 6,000 WiMAX terminals and core network equipment to support the rollout. In June 2009 Icon announced a plan to invest USD200 million in constructing a new mobile WiMAX network in Russia and Ukraine, to operate under the brand ‘Freshtel’, claiming that ‘it had already invested over USD100 million in the development of WiMAX networks in Ukraine’. Huawei Technologies was contracted to supply equipment for the initial network deployment. UHT launched the Alternet 3.5GHz WiMAX broadband service in Ukraine in 2005, and under a four-year plan announced in February 2006 it said it would invest up to USD80 million in the technology, with the aim of signing up 300,000 subscribers by the end of 2010. Its WiMAX network covered seven Ukrainian cities by April 2009, TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database says.

Icon Private Equity, a fund with a presence in Russia and CIS countries, obtained ownership of UHT as a result of a decision issued by an arbitration court in New York in July 2007 which ordered its previous 80% owner, Russian conglomerate Alfa Group, to sell the stake, as part of a solution to a wider dispute between Alpha and Norway’s Telenor, the Russian group’s fellow shareholder in Ukraine’s leading mobile operator Kyivstar. According to Russian newspaper Kommersant, Alpha’s stake in UHT was offloaded to a former managing partner of venture fund Russian Technologies, Michael Gamzin, but following an additional share issue in August 2008 the ownership structure changed, with Icon now owning around 72%, Gamzin holding about 23% and Intel Capital, which formerly owned a 20% stake, retaining a 5% interest.