In a press release on its website published yesterday, Russia’s Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) claimed that in December 2015 it became the first cellco in the country to expand its 4G LTE network to all 83 regions in Russian federal territory where it operates (excluding the former Ukrainian areas of Crimea and Sevastopol). The quote was attributed to MTS’ vice-president of technology and IT, Andrei Ushatsky. MTS deployed around 15,000 base stations in 2015 including around 7,300 supporting LTE and 4,410 3G base stations, whilst 55% of its LTE base stations now support the 1800MHz band, Russian news agency Prime added. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database shows that MTS claimed LTE coverage of 77 regions via 800MHz/2600MHz infrastructure in March 2015 (rising to 78 regions in September) whilst MTS did not launch 1800MHz LTE until December 2014, but the recent 1800MHz expansion has been rapid, as shown by the latest announcement.
In comparison, rival cellco MegaFon covered 76 regions with LTE by the end of 2015 (up from 72 regions in March 2015), while VimpelCom Russia (Beeline) had LTE coverage of over 55 regions by end-2015 (March 2015: 46 regions). Tele2 Russia’s combined 3G/4G network covered 59 regions by December 2015, GlobalComms adds.
In related developments, MTS and Beeline have revealed that the first year of their joint LTE infrastructure construction/operating venture (agreed in December 2014) has been successful (‘exceeding all expectations’ according to a December 2015 MTS release). In the first phase, co-development of LTE networks in 36 Russian regions was agreed upon (with MTS responsible for the building work in 19 of these regions, and Beeline tasked with building in the other 17), and the joint LTE infrastructure had gone live in 31 of these 36 regions by end-2015. In a supplementary agreement signed in late-December 2015, MTS and Beeline have agreed to cooperate on the construction/operation of LTE infrastructure in a further 20 regions (taking the total regions under the joint LTE pact to 56).