VimpelCom, MegaFon to share 4G infrastructure

Russian operators MegaFon and VimpelCom have formed a joint project to share the construction and development of LTE infrastructure across 10 regions of Russia.

In an announcement on MegaFon's web site, the operators said they would share the development and operational costs of the base stations, enabling them to accelerate the expansion of LTE network coverage at a lower cost to each operator. The new network is due to be launched in the second half of this year.

MegaFon CFO Alexander Bashmakov said the implementation of a joint RAN-sharing project with VimpelCom "will allow us to enhance harmoniously our infrastructure in the 1800 MHz band in the most efficient way."

Bashmakov noted that a growing percentage of MegaFon's subscriber base is now using 4G: "At the end of Q3 2015, 40 per cent of our subscriber base used mobile internet with a significant part (40 per cent) of Internet traffic transferred via LTE."

Martin Skop, EVP for infrastructure development at VimpelCom, also said the number of 4G/LTE devices in his company's network increased 3.3-fold in 2015.

"4G/LTE traffic is now over four times higher, while the number of 4G/LTE base stations grew 1.5 times. We anticipate that the trend of growing mobile data usage will increase in 2016 and beyond," Skop said.

A special report by FierceWireless:Europe in May last year highlighted that Russian mobile operators are starting to close the gap with their Western European counterparts in terms of LTE deployments.

The Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (Roskomnadzor) held its first 4G spectrum auction in October last year, covering licences in the 1800 MHz band. The 10 lots of spectrum were awarded to VimpelCom, MegaFon, MTS and Tele2 Russia.

An auction covering the 2570-2620 MHz frequency range was set to take place in the second or third quarter of 2015. It now looks like the auction will be held in February this year, according to a Roskomnadzor release from November 2015.

For more:
- see this MegaFon release
- see this Roskomnadzor release on the 1800 MHz auction
- see this Roskomnadzor release on the 2570-2620 MHz auction (in Russian)

Related articles:
Russian LTE deployments are picking up steam despite many challenges
Report: 23% of European mobile towers could be independently owned in 2016
Telefónica and MegaFon extend strategic alliance first signed in 2013
Tele2 Russia invests in 3G, 4G networks in Republic of Mordovia
MTS bosses bullish despite drop in net income

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