No 3.5GHz 5G conversion forthcoming for Rostelecom, MegaFon subsidiaries

18 Nov 2020

Russia’s State Commission for Radio Frequencies (SCRF) has no intention of approving 5G frequency licences in the 3.4GHz-3.6GHz band for WiMAX fixed-wireless broadband operators FreshTel and Neosprint – subsidiaries of Rostelecom and MegaFon, respectively – despite their ownership of spectrum suitable for conversion to 5G, Vedomosti reported. The current WiMAX spectrum licences expire in March 2021, the report added.

The Rostelecom/MegaFon 5G shared infrastructure joint venture New Digital Solutions, established in January 2019, was aimed at utilising the two groups’ WiMAX spectrum for 5G. TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database notes that frequencies in the 3500MHz band in 75 regions were acquired by Rostelecom via its takeover of struggling WIMAX operator FreshTel in April 2015. Rostelecom aimed to convert this spectrum to technology-neutral/5G mobile usage, whilst MegaFon acquired 3500MHz licences in Moscow/St Petersburg in 2018/2019 via its Neosprint takeover, but permission was not given to convert frequencies from fixed-wireless to commercial 5G. The telecoms ministry has proposed that existing 3.5GHz fixed-wireless licences will be returned ahead of refarming for initial 5G licences, potentially in 2021 in a limited range before the eventual freeing up of the wider 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band involving the defence ministry and security forces at an as-yet unknown date. The bulk of the 3.4GHz-3.8GHz range is occupied by satellite communications for government agencies.