Tenders for the frequencies needed for the operation of LTE networks in Russia will be issued later this year, according to the country's Communications Ministry.
Before that can happen the three largest Russian mobile network operators, together with national telecoms carrier Rostelcom, will have to devise 'a digestible scheme' for converting military frequencies. In late December 2010, the State Commission for Radio Frequencies allowed Mobile TeleSystems, VimpelCom, MegaFon and Rostelecom to form a consortium to study suitable LRE spectrum and prepare proposals for converting the spectrum; the proposals will be reviewed in July.
Other operators might join the consortium. Once the research is complete, the frequencies will be tendered. The winners will then set up contracts with the Defense Ministry to convert the frequencies. The companies that win the spectrum will have to pay the costs of converting it and of manufacturing equipment for the military, although they may immediately begin to offer communications services as they free up the frequencies.
The cost of freeing up military spectrum, which lies in the 710-860 MHz range and which analogue TV is currently using, could run as high as £1.25 billion (€1.49 billion). The competition will be open to all applicants, foreign and domestic, although the Communications Ministry is doubtful whether overseas companies will participate due to the difficult of gaining access to Russian military equipment. However, foreign companies will be able to form joint ventures with Russian partners to build LTE networks.
In related Russian LTE developments, the national telecoms regulator has cancelled the 800 MHz licences for regional CDMA operators, including Kaliningrad-based operator Svyazinform and Saratov-based NTS. The cancelled frequencies could be used to deploy LTE. Additionally, Russian WiMAX player Scartel, which operates under the Yota brand, finished its implementation of an LTE network in Kazan. The operator also plans to deploy LTE networks in Novosibirsk and Samara.
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