Mobile firms outraged as regulator considers seizing LTE frequencies

9 Jul 2013

Russia’s Ministry of Communications (MinSvyaz) has reportedly sent a draft proposal to the president’s office concerning a possible ‘redistribution of frequencies for the construction of a pan-Russian 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) mobile network’, business daily Vedomosti reports. According to the paper the ministry has demanded access to the right to use spectrum in the 720MHz-750MHz and 761MHz-862MHz bands, as well as any available spectrum in the 390MHz-470MHz and 694MHz-876MHz bands. It then proposes transferring the accumulated spectrum to a new, state-owned company that will build a wholesale LTE network, providing access to all operators at state-regulated tariffs.

Despite confirming that LTE licensees Rostelecom, Vimpelcom, MegaFon and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) all met their licence-stipulated launch conditions on or before 1 June, MinSvyaz is reportedly concerned at the slow pace of the respective deployments; to date MTS and Vimpelcom are offering LTE services in Moscow, while MegaFon launched its 4G network in Yekaterinburg, and Rostelecom in Sochi. According to Vedemosti, the four companies have rolled out fewer than 1,000 base stations between them over the course of the last year. In addition, the ministry has expressed concern that the four operators are deploying ‘overlapping’ LTE infrastructure and are focusing their efforts on large cities ‘in the pursuit of profit’. Finally, MinSvyaz has complained about the inefficiency of the spectrum allocation process that granted each operator a 7.5MHz block of spectrum, rather than the standard 5MHz. This means that more than 30% of the allocated spectrum will not be used, the ministry has claimed.