MTS tests 5G using LTE spectrum, although no state permission yet for refarming

11 Mar 2020

Russia’s largest cellco by users, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), has partnered Ericsson to test dynamic redistribution of frequencies between 4G LTE and 5G NR networks, demonstrating methods for low-cost deployment of wide 5G coverage utilising existing LTE infrastructure. The tests carried out at MTS’ offices in Ufa used a commercial 5G non-standalone (NSA) 1800MHz/2100MHz base station with Ericsson Radio System equipment utilising the Instant Ericsson Spectrum Sharing (Instant ESS) solution and 800MHz LTE anchor band. Test end-user terminals with MediaTek chipsets were used.

MTS’ VP of Technology Viktor Belov said: ‘Until Russia has resolved the issue of providing frequencies for the development of 5G, MTS considers the technology of dynamic spectrum reallocation as key in the evolution of networks from 4G to 5G. After the regulator decides on the technologically neutral LTE band, the use of this technology on existing networks can give users such benefits as reduced response [time], which is important when implementing 5G-ready services … To conduct further research, we plan to deploy the tested Ericsson solution on the MTS commercial LTE network and in other regions of Russia.’ The ESS solution is supported on all radio equipment supplied by Ericsson for the MTS network since 2016, as well as by 5G NR chipset manufacturers.

Russia’s State Commission for Radio Frequencies (SCRF) is yet to permit operators to use any of their existing 2G, 3G and 4G LTE frequencies to launch 5G services, with newspaper Vedomosti recently reporting that a paragraph permitting such spectrum refarming has been removed from an SCRF draft decision. The original draft envisaged the first commercial 5G base stations operating on a limited basis in spring 2020 with large-scale coverage appearing by the end of the year, whilst according to the Digital Economy federal programme, 5G networks should cover ten major cities in 2022. Moves to free up the 3.5GHz band for 5G have stalled due to the range’s usage by military/security forces whilst a decision on allocating mmWave 5G spectrum is pending.