Russian mobile giant MegaFon has revealed that it sold almost 7,000 white label ‘MegaFon E392 Long Term Evolution (LTE)’ modems in its Moscow retail branches during May, making the new 4G dongle the company’s best-selling device that month. 23 April saw MegaFon inaugurate LTE services in Novosibirsk, before extending coverage to Moscow and Krasnodar in mid-May, and Sochi and the Volga Region on 21 May and 23 May respectively. Further network launches have been pencilled in for St Petersburg, Samara, Vladivostok, Ufa, Kostroma by end-2012. The cellco’s E392 modem is priced at RUB2,990 (USD90.95), and all new customers have been granted free LTE connectivity until 30 June.
TeleGeography notes that despite a promising start, MegaFon faces an uphill struggle to gain a foothold in the emergent LTE sector. Until such time as it is ready to roll out an LTE network using its own infrastructure and frequencies, the cellco must rely on a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) arrangement with Scartel (Yota), which already has a solid operational footprint after being granted permission by Roskomnadzor to abandon its previously favoured WiMAX technology and re-use its existing radio frequencies to deploy national networks based on LTE technology. Prior to switching its existing subscriber base to LTE this spring, Yota had an estimated one million or so customers (up from a confirmed figure of 731,500 in March 2011), putting it in pole position in the domestic 4G sector; the company expects to cover 180 Russian cities with LTE technology by 2014.