Swedish-owned mobile operator Tele2 Russia has reportedly petitioned Igor Shchyogolev, Russia’s Minister of Communications and Mass Media, for permission to join a new 4G research consortium. Last month, the State Commission for Radio Frequencies authorised four operators – the so-called ‘Big Three’ cellcos Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Vimpelcom and MegaFon, and fixed line giant Rostelecom – to prepare proposals for spectrum in the 2.5GHz band, adding that smaller players could be permitted to join in with the research process in due course. The group’s central responsibility will involve devising a scheme to convert pre-existing military spectrum for Long Term Evolution (LTE) use.
Tele2, which first declared its interest in rolling out a 4G network in Russia in November 2010, has sent a letter to Shchyogolev, asking to be included in the consortium; Tele2 has cited its parent company’s prior experience rolling out 4G networks elsewhere in Europe. Tele2 Russia spokesman Alexander Bakhorin commented: ‘We have got experience in efficient building of 4G networks, and we want to join forces with Russian operators to do it in their country’. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Tele2 launched an LTE network in association with Telenor in Sweden in late 2010, and is in the process of rolling out 4G networks in the Netherlands and Estonia.
The consortium has been instructed to submit the results of its study by 1 July, and, favouring a quick turnaround, Shchyogolev has indicated that a tender is likely to take place before the end of the year. Shchyogolev is keen to avoid the type of delays that have characterised previous spectrum allocations, commenting: ‘We want to avoid a situation where the radio frequencies have been allocated and domestic production of 4G equipment has not started’. He continued: ‘The procedure won’t be the same as in the past. We are announcing the tender immediately. The winners will have to pay the costs of conversion, of manufacturing equipment for the military, and they may immediately begin to offer communications services to the extent they free up the frequencies’. Most of the relevant frequencies are currently owned by the Ministry of Defence, and the Ministry of Communications has estimated that the cost of conversion is likely to be around RUB60 billion (USD2 billion), a sum which the operators will be obliged to meet themselves.