Russia round-up: MegaFon hikes overseas roaming by 300%; Rostelecom plans massive jobs cuts and deploys ETTH in Elista; Yota starts selling SIM cards; SRFC may license 2.1GHz band; MTS completes Chukotka upgrade; NetByNet adds Canas to broadband footprint

1 Dec 2014

Vedomosti reports that MegaFon, Russia’s second biggest mobile operator by subscribers, is increasing its roaming charges in 51 countries by more than 300%, effective 8 December. In a company statement last Thursday, the cellco confirmed that charges will increase from RUB9 (USD0.2) per minute to RUB29 per minute in the countries affected, which include Turkey, Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the Czech Republic. The rates are also set to rise in a number of former Soviet countries, such as Armenia, Belarus, Ukraine and Moldova. However, even with the higher roaming fees, MegaFon is still cheaper than its two main rivals Vimpelcom and MTS, with the former charging RUB69 per minute and MTS anywhere from RUB65 to RUB89.

National telecommunications operator Rostelecom intends to cut its workforce substantially over the next few years, in a move that local watchers say could weigh heavily on the country’s already weak economy. The telco may shed up to 10,000 jobs every year over a four year period as part of the efficiency drive. In an emailed statement Rostelecom confirmed: ‘At the moment we have clear vision of how we will manage labour productivity and staff count in the midterm by 2018.’ Based on its provisional estimates, the carrier – which employs 157,000 staff – may cut between 8,000 and 11,000 jobs next year amid a broad economic slowdown in the country.

Meanwhile, in a separate development Rostelecom says it is rolling out its fibre broadband network in the north-west zone of Elista, a city in the republic of Kalmykia. The Ethernet-to-the-home (ETTH) network is covering residential quarters of the city as part of a 20km installation plan. According to unconfirmed reports, Rostelecom has around 8,000 ETTH subscribers in Elista.

New federal mobile operator Yota (Skartel), which is owned by MegaFon, has begun selling mobile SIM cards in Penza, Orenburg, Orel, Bryansk and Kursk. The cost of the package, which includes unlimited internet access, SMS, unlimited on-net calls and 100 off-net call minutes is RUB240 (in Kursk, Bryansk and Orel), RUB240 (in Penza) and RUB270 in Orenburg. The cost of a similar package in Moscow is RUB440.

The State Radio Frequency Commission (SRFC) may license the 2100MHz band for the development of 4G Long Term Evolution (LTE) by the first half of 2015. Although the band is currently reserved for 3G UMTS, Minkomsvyazi Kirill Stepanenko, director of the department of regulation and radio networks, confirmed the plan at a speech to delegates at the second ‘Voice 2014 – The Future of VoIP-traffic in Russia and the CIS’ international conference. ‘Of course, we are already considering technology neutral licensing in the 2.1GHz band. A number of subscriber devices already support LTE in this frequency range, and certainly, the development of this trend is promising for 2015,’ said Stepanenko.

ComNews reports that Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has completed the next phase of its network modernisation, specifically covering the Chukotka autonomous region in the Far North, with the launch of a new base station controller (BSC) to increase cellular network capacity and provide for a 50% average increase in mobile internet speeds in the region. This year, MTS has also provided a network coverage to the seaport of Anadyr it said, while work has been done to increase capacity and optimise network settings in remote settlements, to improve network reliability and stability in the Far North.

And finally, fixed line operator NetByNet has started offering high speed broadband and digital TV to residential users in Canas, the third largest city in the Chuvash Republic. The operator says that thanks to the rollout of 30km of new optical fibre networking, it is able to offer households a maximum 70Mbps broadband connection for between RUB350-RUB799 per month.