Ukrainian operator Ukrtelecom’s 3G mobile division TriMob has shut down all its network base stations except those in Kiev, after returning most of its cellular frequencies to the regulator in late December, and will now rely mainly on 2G/3G network coverage via its existing domestic roaming partner Vodafone Ukraine. Brief notices on the Ukrtelecom and TriMob websites informed users of the change, while Ukrtelecom said that it will continue its partnership with its hosted MVNO Lycamobile Ukraine, users of which also have access to Vodafone Ukraine roaming services. Furthermore, Ukrtelecom promised to continue developing its fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) project deploying ‘fixed line replacement’ telephony services over 3G cellular connections (also utilising Vodafone Ukraine roaming, it confirmed previously) as it looks to replace copper last-mile infrastructure which has suffered from widespread theft and damage. As previously reported in CommsUpdate (MVNO Monday, 6 January 2020), Ukrtelecom says its latest move forms part of its strategy to ‘virtualise’ TriMob’s operations.
TriMob’s website confirmed that its newly scaled-back 3G UMTS mobile frequency licence was issued on 28 December 2019 with an unchanged expiry date of 14 December 2020, while it continues to hold a nationwide mobile service permit (independent of frequencies) valid until the same date.
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database estimates that TriMob’s mobile network user base numbers less than 260,000, and whilst the group had held 2×15MHz of 2100MHz national spectrum since 2005, the annual fees required to retain the frequencies represented an extra financial burden on the struggling operator. With the 3G licence expiry date looming, Ukrtelecom had also lost any chance of selling its mobile assets, and instead the telco has looked to create new revenue streams such as its FMC and MVNO projects.