Denis Sverdlov, the CEO of Russian WiMAX-turned-Long Term Evolution (LTE) operator Scartel (Yota), has been appointed as the country’s deputy communications and mass media minister, Prime Tass news agency reports. The announcement caps a remarkable turnaround for Sverdlov; two years ago the chief executive was denied permission to offer LTE technology over Yota’s existing 2.6GHz spectrum, forcing the company to press ahead with its plans to deploy a 4G network using WiMAX technology instead. However, within a matter of weeks Roskomnadzor changed its tune, granting permission for Yota to make the switch to LTE. Subsequent months saw the company courted by Russia’s self-styled ‘Big Three’ mobile operators, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Vimpelcom and MegaFon, as well as national fixed line operator Rostelecom, all of whom went on to sign an agreement to unite for a national open-access LTE network in March 2011. Although the unprecedented agreement later fell apart due to financial wrangling between the telecoms firms, MegaFon continued to actively pursue a partnership with Scartel, and in June 2012 the Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) gave the two companies the all-clear to pursue a full operational merger.
Yota officially inaugurated its commercial LTE network in Moscow on 10 May, going on to offer the service in Krasnodar, Sochi and the Volga Region; further network launches have been pencilled in for St Petersburg, Samara, Vladivostok, Ufa, Kostroma by end-2012.