New defence minister offers to return Osnova’s LTE frequencies

11 Feb 2013

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.

Russia, Voentelecom (incl. Osnova Telecom)