Russian news agency Prime Tass has reported that Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the country’s largest mobile phone operator by subscribers, plans to double the coverage offered by its burgeoning fibre-to-the-building (FTTB) network in Southern Russia by the end of 2011. According to the report, MTS aims to increase the reach of its fixed line broadband infrastructure from around 123,000 to 300,000 premises by that date. Although MTS declined to confirm specific rollout details, the company indicated that it would plough its investment into the upgrade of old infrastructure, augmented by selected new deployments.
The announcement marks the latest development in a veritable flurry of MTS FTTB activity. In May 2011 the operator upgraded its fixed network in Southern Russia, bringing FTTB connectivity to 75,000 households; the programme was carried out in Astrakhan, Krasnodar, Novorossiysk, Taganrog and Sochi. The network capacity was increased to 1Gbps, with subscribers offered download speeds of up to 100Mbps. Previously, in April 2011 MTS acquired 100% of Inteleca, an alternative fixed line operator that provides broadband and cable television in Barnaul and Biysk in the Altai Region using FTTB infrastructure. At the time of the transaction, Inteleca’s fibre-optic network – which spans more than 500km – covered around 163,000 households in Barnaul, and a further 25,000 in Biysk. The company claimed 41,500 broadband subscribers at that date; the takeover was priced at USD19.2 million.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the bulk of MTS’s broadband services are managed by its 70.97%-owned subsidiary Comstar-UTS, which currently ranks as the country’s largest broadband provider by subscribers. However, speculation has been rife in recent years that MTS intended to enter the broadband market under its own steam. In September 2010 it acquired a 95% stake in Metro-Telecom from Russian telecoms holding company Svyazinvest. The acquisition of Metro-Telecom – which owned its own fibre-optic network in Moscow – was widely tipped to precede MTS’s entrance into the Moscow broadband market under its main brand.