Since signing a 5-year deal in early 2019, Ericsson and Tele2 have moved quickly on upgrades to the operator’s network infrastructure in Russia. That includes deploying 25,000 5G-ready base stations across the country.
The multi-year project called for 50,000 base stations from the Swedish vendor. That’s now 50% complete in just 18 months, Ericsson said Tuesday.
Updates span 27 regions in Russia, and network performance and capacity has improved by a factor of 1.7, according to Ericsson.
When the deal was announced at Mobile World Congress 2019, Tele2 CEO Sergey Emdin acknowledged Russia had to address several infrastructure issues before it could launch 5G networks.
“However, when all barriers are overcome, new networks will be built faster than LTE, partly owing to existing infrastructure,” Emdin said in a statement at the time, citing Ericsson’s technology.
Now, since the installed and launched network gear can be upgraded to 5G with a remote software update, Russian operators will be able to launch new services as soon as they’re awarded licenses, said Sebastian Tolstoy, head of Ericsson in Russia, in a statement.
“Our development enables Tele2’s subscribers the opportunity to use mobile internet services in high quality,” Tolstoy stated.
In July, mobile operator MTS announced it was the first in Russia to receive a license for 5G operations in the 24.5-24.65 GHz millimeter wave band. The license covers 83 regions and expires July 2025, based on a March decision by the Russian State Commission for Radio Frequencies.
The Russian regulator didn’t hold a 5G auction, instead opting to directly allocate 400 MHz of spectrum to an undisclosed number of operators for trials.
“Obtaining Russia’s first 5G license is a historic moment for our industry, bringing us one step closer to a new era in the history of communications, digitalization, and information technology,” said Alexey Kornya, MTS president & CEO in a statement. “While we still have a long way to go before mass adoption, it’s already clear that in the next few years 5G is set to impact every industry and become a key growth driver for the economy as a whole.”
Ericsson is also a network partner to MTS. With a deal announced in March, the service provider plans to use Ericsson Radio System products to modernize 2G/3G/4G infrastructure at several thousand sites in central Russia. The MTS project is expected to last until 2026 and includes deploying Ericsson’s dynamic spectrum sharing tech.
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The vendor’s network modernization work with Tele2 includes Moscow, which saw base station deployments early on with the launch of Russia’s first “5G Zone” last summer. That was a joint initiative with between Tele2 and Ericsson under a separate agreement.
The 5G pilot zone was deployed in non-standalone (NSA) mode using the 28 GHz band and the 2.6 GHz band as an LTE anchor. Outdoor 5G coverage was turned on in the center of Russia’s capital, as a place for demos to explore consumer and industrial use cases.
Ericsson also has a 5G Innovation Hub in Moscow where service providers can test applications on live 5G and IoT networks. More than 1,000 specialists from Russian service providers and students are trained at the Ericsson Academy, according to the vendor, which is co-located with the Innovation Hub.