MTS protests against loss of WiMAX subscribers following new LTE scheme

13 Sep 2011

The refarming of frequencies required to develop a national Long Term Evolution (LTE) network in Russia, has been questioned by Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), the country’s largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers, and one of the integral parties involved in the country’s much-vaunted 4G coalition, alongside Vimpelcom, MegaFon, Rostelecom and Scartel (Yota). The Moscow Times reports that MTS president Andrei Dubovskov has contacted Igor Artemev of the Federal Anti-Monopoly service, complaining that the plans will cause MTS to lose around 70,000 WiMAX customers, allowing rival providers to encroach on MTS’ hard-fought territory.

Officially authorised by the Federal Supervision Agency of IT, Communications & Media (Roskomnadzor) on Thursday, the new LTE plans oblige MTS to surrender its WiMAX frequencies in Moscow and the surrounding region by 1 September 2012, after which date it will be assigned replacement LTE-suitable frequencies. Previous drafts of the plan allowed providers to retain their respective spectrum until 2016, but Thursday’s decision brought forward the handover deadline by four years, prompting MTS to express concerns about the disappearance of an increasingly valuable revenue stream. MTS argues that it has invested in excess of RUB1.5 billion (USD49.6 million) in the WiMAX network, which is affiliated to its subsidiary Comstar UTS.

As revealed by CommsUpdate last month, the possession of WiMAX spectrum in Moscow was expected to give MTS and rival cellco MegaFon a significant advantage over their fellow LTE aspirants in the race to build out wireless networks based on the so-called ‘fourth-generation’ technology. Comstar UTS launched WiMAX services in the capital in 2009 after securing spectrum in the 2.5GHz – 2.7GHz range in 2007, whilst wholly owned MegaFon subsidiary Synterra has offered WiMAX services to business users in Moscow, Krasnoyarsk, Ryazan, Kursk, the Chechen republic of Karachay-Cherkessia, Tambov and Samara since April 2006.

Russia, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS)