Tele2 tests LTE in Omsk; anxious to hitch a ride on the 4G bandwagon as auction looms

14 Mar 2012

Swedish-owned mobile operator Tele2 Russia has announced that it has commenced testing of Long Term Evolution (LTE) technology in Omsk, a city in south-western Siberia, using its existing 1800MHz spectrum. The trial, which has been approved by the State Radio Frequency Commission (SRFC), aim to demonstrate that GSM and LTE technologies can share the same frequencies without degrading the quality of end-user service. The trial will be completed by 31 March. Tele2 signposted its intention to conduct an independent trial of LTE technology in the 1800MHz band in October 2011, and duly applied to the SRFC for permission to run tests in Pskov and Omsk. The cellco, which first declared its interest in rolling out a 4G network in Russia in November 2010, cited its Swedish parent company’s prior experience rolling out LTE networks elsewhere in Europe.

As reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, in August 2011, frustrated at the lack of progress, Tele2 conducted an independent study into the dual use of wireless frequencies in the 1800MHz band for both GSM and LTE services. After extensive research by equipment vendors Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Huawei and Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN), it was established that fourth-generation services could theoretically be operated in the 1800MHz band without any discernible detriment to the quality of Tele2’s existing GSM operations; Tele2 Russia CEO Dmitry Strashnov submitted a copy of the study to the SRFC, but Shchyogolev reportedly denied receipt of any such document. This time around, Strashnov says that Tele2 hopes to enlist a number of government institutions to participate in the tests, which ‘should enable the SRFC to consider the results on a par with the research consortium’.

In other news, the Moscow Times reports that Tele2 is committed to taking part in the Russian government’s long-rumoured auction of LTE spectrum, despite widespread industry speculation suggesting that it realistically has no chance of being awarded any of the sought-after frequencies. Budget brand Tele2 raised its share of the Russian wireless market to 9.0% by end-2011, equivalent to 20.36 million subscribers, despite being denied both a 3G concession, and a licence to operate in Moscow. The self-styled ‘Big Three’ mobile operators – Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), MegaFon and Vimpelcom – are expected to scoop the 4G frequencies. In March 2010, in a spectrum auction held by the Ministry of Communications (MinSvyaz), national operator Rostelecom claimed 38 regional concessions comprising frequencies in the 2.3GHz–2.4GHz band. Nevertheless, Tele2 Russia’s communications director Alexander Bakhorin commented: ‘Currently, the terms for the tender to allocate frequencies for LTE network construction are being prepared. Tele2 will take part in the tender’.