Russian WiMAX-to-LTE transition given go ahead

The Russian telecoms regulator Roskomnadzor has caved in and given WiMAX operator Yota (Scartel) and national operator Rostelecom the OK to use their existing frequency allocations for deploying LTE networks.

The regulator had previously taken a hard line with these requests and stipulated that the allotted spectrum was to be used for a WiMAX build out and not used for other wireless technologies.

Yota, the brand adopted by Scartel for its WiMAX network, launched its service in September 2008 and was reported to have broken even after five months of operating the network in Moscow and St. Petersburg. The company had been a keen advocate of WiMAX and was the first to announce that it wanted to migrate to LTE, causing an upheaval within the WiMAX community.

Scartel (it remains unclear what will happen to the Yota branding) has stated that it plans to start construction of a commercial LTE network this summer covering 15 cities, with five networks going live before the end of 2010.

Rostelecom said that it hopes to launch LTE networks in regions where it holds licences, with a target date of service availability of mid-2011.

Both operators said they were preparing LTE tests using Russian equipment.

Separately, the country's top three cellular providers have written to the Communications Ministry requesting a ban on the non-competitive distribution of LTE spectrum to companies which might acquire them for further sale.

Reports indicate that these operators fear smaller companies would be awarded spectrum and that would have a detrimental impact on users. Two potential firms--Voentelecom and its subsidiary Osnova Telecom, have been named as likely winners.

The owner of these companies, the Russian Defence Ministry, already owns the bulk of Russian frequencies, and has requested surplus frequencies to resell them to other companies or offer services to households.

For more on this story:
- read LTE World & RAI Novosti

Related stories:
Russia WiMAX operator Yota barred from LTE, says regulator
Samsung scoops mega Russian WiMAX contract
Russian telco giant chooses LTE; must use home-grown equipment
Ericsson highlights LTE advantages, as WiMAX wobbles