Russian operators MegaFon and Rostelecom have partnered Nokia to make the country’s first international 5G video call, at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), with a 5G network link-up demonstrated between the northwest Russian city and Helsinki, Finland, using Nokia Airscale solutions. MegaFon and St. Petersburg State University also announced the creation of a 5G digital laboratory, equipped with a fifth-generation network test zone. Earlier this year cellco MegaFon and national fixed line provider Rostelecom formed a joint venture – New Digital Solutions – to develop shared 5G infrastructure.
Rostelecom also signed an agreement at the SPIEF with its part-owned mobile operator Tele2 Russia and Ericsson to operate a 5G test zone in Moscow in July-October 2019, utilising the 27GHz frequency band. The Moscow pilot will be one of four in the capital this year (the other three to be operated by MTS, MegaFon and Beeline). Tele2’s CEO Sergei Emdin was quoted by TelecomDaily as saying: ‘Our Moscow network is technologically ready for the launch of the [5G] standard, and cooperation with Ericsson has expanded the range of potential 5G deployment to almost half of the Tele2 regions’ (referring to a contract awarded to the Swedish vendor in February to upgrade Tele2’s network to ‘5G-ready’ across 27 regions including Moscow and St. Petersburg).
In another signing at the SPIEF, Tele2 Russia and Nokia inked a five-year agreement covering the installation of 35,000 base stations to upgrade the 2G/3G/4G network to ‘5G-ready’ standards in a further 41 regions. Augmenting the ongoing Ericsson rollout, the Nokia contract expands the dual-vendor project to 68 regions (note that Tele2’s network is currently commercially operating in 67 regions). Sergey Emdin declared: ‘Earlier we started installing 50,000 base stations with the support of the latest technology in 27 regions of Russia, and the construction of another 35,000 will allow Tele2 to complete the transfer of the entire network to 5G-ready status.’ The latest agreement with Nokia includes ‘LTE-Advanced and LTE-Advanced Pro, ensuring the evolution of Tele2 infrastructure to fifth-generation networks’ alongside other preparations for 5G introduction including creation of Tele2-Nokia 5G/industrial IoT laboratory zones and the development of ultra-wideband communication for video content delivery, plus creation of a 5G broadband radio interface and optimisation of network architecture (e.g. via Network Function Virtualisation [NFV], Virtualised RAN and Optimised Core/SDM for IoT).
In another related development at the SPIEF, Rostelecom signed a cooperation memorandum with Nokia to advance the development of their joint venture RTK-Network Technologies, via which the manufacture of Nokia equipment is being localised in Russia and integrated with domestic systems.