Crimea river: Ukrainian cellcos stream out of peninsula

23 Jan 2015

Astelit (Life:)) has closed its mobile network in the Crimea peninsula, following the exit of Ukraine’s other two GSM operators Kyivstar and MTS Ukraine from the Russian-controlled region. Vedomosti reports that Astelit switched off its Crimean network by the end of December 2014, while its wireless frequencies have reportedly been passed to Russian company KTK Telecom (registered in Moscow in September 2014 and 50/50 owned by Boris Pershin and Alexei Rzhanov), which the paper’s sources said is affiliated with Tatarstan (Russian) regional operator Tattelecom (unconfirmed by the latter company). KTK Telecom received its telecoms operating licences for the Crimea region (including the separately administered city of Sebastopol) in December 2014. Like Kyivstar before it, Astelit was reported to have written off GSM network equipment in the Russian occupied territory, while MTS Ukraine previously sold off certain operating assets in the region. Another newly formed Russian company K-Telecom (branded as WIN Mobile) was previously reported to have ‘taken over’ the Crimean GSM frequencies and network operations of MTS Ukraine, having launched mobile services in the peninsula in August 2014 (under a frequency permit issued by Russia in May 2014), and sources claim that WIN Mobile is associated with the Russian MTS parent group (and therefore a sister company of MTS Ukraine), although this has not been confirmed by the group. WIN Mobile’s website confirms that it covers the whole Crimea region and Sevastopol city with GSM 900MHz/1800MHz mobile services.

In other Crimea news, iPhone-maker Apple has reportedly prohibited the sale of its devices in the peninsula from 1 February 2015 in a move related to US sanctions imposed on Russia.