According to the Moscow Times, the consortium formed by Russia’s so-called ‘big three’ mobile operators – Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Vimpelcom and MegaFon –and national fixed line operator Rostelecom, has submitted its findings on clearing military frequencies suitable for Long Term Evolution (LTE) to the State Radio Frequency Commission (SRFC) for consideration. The initiative was conceived earlier this year following the emergence of controversial Ministry of Defence-controlled start-up company Osnova Telekom, which sought to seize the LTE-suitable frequencies awarded to Rostelecom in March 2010 on security grounds. The SRFC duly commissioned Osnova Telekom to begin work on an ‘experimental dual-purpose LTE zone’ – which would comprise a primary network used to provide commercial services, and a confidential telecoms subsystem used by the government and the Ministry of Defence – but Russia’s telcos united to block the perceived threat from the shadowy newcomer.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Osnova’s challenge for Rostelecom’s frequencies was effectively laid to rest in March 2011 when Prime Minister Vladimir Putin brokered a deal between the ‘big three’ and Rostelecom which will see them facilitate the rollout of a combined national LTE network by 2014. WiMAX-turned-LTE operator Scartel (Yota) will act as the companies’ 4G network provider of choice, and the telcos will buy wholesale capacity from it and lease its LTE facilities, rather than rolling out separate infrastructure.
TeleGeography notes that the Ministry of Communications (MinSvyaz) has previously estimated that the cost of the military frequency conversion was likely to be around RUB60 billion (USD2 billion), a sum which the operators are obliged to meet themselves. The consortium was instructed to submit the results of its findings by 1 July 2011, and the SRFC is expected to issue a decision regarding the information before the end of the summer.