Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s newly appointed defence minister, has offered to return Long Term Evolution (LTE) frequencies awarded to Osnova Telecom – the often-controversial telecoms company which is 25%-owned by the ministry through holding company Voentelecom – to the government, Reuters reports. Shoigu’s predecessor, Osnova founder Anatoly Serdyukov, was sacked by president Vladimir Putin in November, and is now believed to be a witness in an investigation into a suspected USD100 million property fraud involving a company affiliated to the Ministry of Defence. According to Reuters, in a letter to Putin, Shoigu explained that he saw it as ‘inexpedient’ to rollout a 4G LTE network; sources have suggested that the letter has been met with a positive response.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, start-up Osnova first came to prominence in August 2010 when the Russian media leaked the news that the State Radio Frequency Commission (SRFC) was poised to grant a job-lot of LTE-suitable frequencies in the 2.3GHz-2.4GHz band – previously issued to state-backed Rostelecom – to Osnova. The remainder of the firm not owned by Voentelecom was owned by Vitaly Yusufov, the son of a former energy minister and influential Kremlin insider Igor Yusufov – leading to widespread accusations of nepotism. The furore prompted the SRFC to change tack, and instead approve the formation of an ‘experimental dual-purpose LTE zone’ which would comprise of a primary network used to provide services on a commercial basis, and a confidential telecoms subsystem used by the government and the MoD.