Rostelecom to ask permission to defer LTE rollout? Will tender be 'cancelled entirely'?

5 Jan 2011

Russian long-distance carrier Rostelecom intends to ask the State Committee for Radio Frequency Allocations (SCRFA) to defer the projected launch of its Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in the 2.3GHz – 2.4GHz spectrum band, ComNews reports. In March 2010 Rostelecom won a permit to build a wireless broadband access network that will eventually cover a third of the Russian population. The licence gave the operator 30MHz of spectrum in the 2.3GHz – 2.4GHz band for each constituent region. Under the conditions of its licence, Rostelecom has 18 months to build and launch its 4G network, using Russian-made equipment. However, the frequencies themselves have still yet to be allocated, causing some concern for the operator. The ComNews article goes on to suggest that Naum Marder, deputy head of the Telecommunications Ministry, has indicated that the results of the tender may be ‘cancelled entirely’.

In December 2010 reports emerged suggesting that Osnova Telekom was going to be granted the LTE-suitable frequencies instead. The controversial start-up company is 25.1% owned by Voyentelekom, which is itself controlled by the Ministry of Defence. The remainder of Osnova is owned by Vitaly Yusufov, the son of a former energy minister and influential Kremlin insider Igor Yusufov – leading to widespread accusations of nepotism. Now the SCRFA has reportedly approved of the formation of an ‘experimental dual-purpose LTE zone’ which will comprise of a primary network used to provide services on a commercial basis, and a confidential telecoms subsystem used by the government and the Ministry of Defence. Tellingly, the dual-purpose network will be built by Osnova Telekom, after the committee unanimously agreed with the proposal.

Marder commented: ‘The experimental zone is to be set up, among other reasons, to assess whether it will be necessary to cancel the tender results, or whether it will be necessary to switch technology or impose some other limitations. If, during these operations, Osnova Telekom ascertains that several LTE networks cannot operate simultaneously in this bandwidth, then the tender results will have to be cancelled. This would not be desirable, since the frequencies were allocated under a programme aimed at improving the technological development of the economy’.

Russia, Rostelecom