The Crimean government intends to utilise the mobile assets that previously belonged to Ukrainian cellco Kyivstar to create a new state mobile operator, Crimean communications minister Dmitry Polonsky has told regional news agency Interfax. He commented: ‘We are going to use [Kyivstar’s network], and I hope that it can be the foundation for a Crimean state mobile operator to begin operating as soon as possible … I think that the property will be transferred to the balance sheet of one of our state enterprises. Possibly [broadcasting group] KrymSvyaz, possibly KrymTelekom.’ Polonsky notes that the Crimean portion of Kyivstar’s network was rendered inoperable after the company stopped operating in the region in August 2014.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Kyivstar rival Astelit (Life:)) switched off its Crimean network in December 2014, while its wireless frequencies were reportedly passed to Russian company KTK Telecom (registered in Moscow in September 2014 and 50/50 owned by Boris Pershin and Alexei Rzhanov). 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 have claimed that WIN Mobile is associated with Russia’s MTS 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.