A report from Russian newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG), quoting industry experts, says that large-scale disconnection of 3G networks will begin in 2023, and 3G networks will cease operating in most regions by 2025, by which year some 3G sections may remain in localised areas with low subscriber density.
Huawei Russia’s Dmitry Konarev told RG: ‘Disconnecting 3G networks is [easy] for a number of reasons: firstly, the main task of 3G networks – data transmission – is much better done by 4G networks, while voice can be redistributed between 2G networks and VoLTE networks. And secondly, 3G networks are much more complicated to plan and optimise in comparison with 2G and even 4G.’ ZTE Russia’s Tigran Poghosyan highlighted that mobile operators are financially motivated to abandon 3G, saying: ‘Firstly, user traffic and technologies have changed a lot since the deployment of 2G and 3G networks, and today it is more logical to use the available spectrum for promising 4G and 5G networks. Secondly, it is quite costly for operators to simultaneously serve all 2G / 3G / 4G / 5G technologies.’ Denis Kuskov, head of news agency Telecom Daily, added: ‘The third generation of networks has played a huge role in the development of cellular communications. But now it is absolutely pointless. And unlike the second generation, which runs a lot of devices in the Internet of Things segment, various ATMs and counters where there is actual voice communication, it can be painlessly removed. in order to free up the frequencies.’
TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database says that one cellco, Tele2 Russia (a subsidiary of Rostelecom), has already stated that it expects to phase out 3G technology before end-2025, while rival operator Beeline previously disclosed that from 2019 onwards it did not intend to invest in ‘new’ 3G infrastructure (whilst in Moscow, Beeline has discontinued 3G UMTS-2100 in favour of UMTS-900, requiring less 3G base stations and refarming the spectrum for 4G). On the topic of refarming, the press department of market leader Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) noted to RG: ‘The timing of the transfer of frequencies occupied by the current standards to the needs of 4G and 5G will depend on the timing of the provision of frequencies for the development of fifth generation networks. As 5G networks are built, the 3G spectrum will be fully refarmed, and for the remaining 2G and LTE devices, there will be bands in ranges of 900MHz and 1800MHz.’