Russian WiMAX operator Scartel (Yota), which received regulatory approval from telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor to abandon WiMAX for Long Term Evolution (LTE) in July 2010, has reportedly requested an electromagnetic examination of its in-deployment LTE network in Moscow. RIA Novosti reports that, if approved by the State Radio Frequency Commission (SRFC), Yota’s 4G network could conceivably launch as early as March 2012. Unconfirmed Russian press reports have suggested that Yota has already started to reconfigure its base stations in Moscow ahead of the SRFC’s review. RBC Daily adds that Yota intends to cover around 120 cities with its LTE network by 2014, although it has only deployed such infrastructure in around ten locations to date, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Yekaterinburg and Sochi, meaning that its network is still too limited to launch on a commercial basis.
In related news, RBC Daily writes that Yota is close to agreeing a wholesale deal with mobile giant MegaFon, which will see the latter paying commission to utilise Yota’s LTE network in areas where it does not intend to roll out its own infrastructure; the additional funding is likely to support Yota’s nationwide rollout ambitions. The rumoured tie-up between Yota and MegaFon follows September’s revelation that Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and Vimpelcom – two-thirds of Russia’s self-styled ‘Big Three’ mobile operators (alongside MegaFon) – had confirmed plans to collaborate on a joint infrastructure rollout to support their respective LTE networks. The two companies inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will see them invest a total of USD2 billion in the shared infrastructure by the end of 2012. The first phase of investment will see the pair deploy 34 fibre-optic lines, spanning 4,500km, for LTE backhaul purposes.