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Telecom operators striving for LTE spectrum sharing


RBC, Moscow. Russia's LTE Union, of which major telecommunications operators MTS, MegaFon, VimpelCom, and Rostelecom are members, has applied to the Telecommunications and Mass Media Ministry for permission to share frequencies in order to raise data transmission speed, cut costs and speed up the construction of federal LTE networks, Kommersant daily reported.

The LTE Union proposes that several users should be assigned the right to use an LTE frequency spectrum rather than one company, according to a letter by the union's General Director Gulnara Khasyanova to Deputy Telecommunications and Mass Media Minister Denis Sverdlov. Payment for the frequencies should be made by the owner.

To prevent the sale of frequencies, spectrum sharing should be allowed only to the operators that have similar rights to use frequencies in other bands and similar licenses.

The proposed amendments would enable MTS, MegaFon, VimpelCom, and Rostelecom, which were awarded frequencies to build LTE networks countrywide in summer, to cope with the shortage of low frequency bands. The operators were assigned each two bands with a width of 7.5 MHz in the 791-862 MHz spectrum, whereas each company needs two bands with a width of 30MHz to effectively operate their transmitters, according to the letter.

Khasyanova told the daily that if the proposal is approved, operators would be able to reduce expenses on the construction of networks and provide better-quality service, which is dependent on bandwidth. "This option would be most relevant in areas outside Moscow where weak demand for 4G services and longer payback period are anticipated," she added.

By sharing frequencies, limited resources will be used more efficiently, MTS spokeswoman Valeria Kuzmenko said. Operators will be able to roll out 4G service more rapidly, as companies that will have to spend more time on converting military frequencies into commercial ones may use the resources of their partners, a spokesperson for Rostelecom said.

Under the terms of their licenses, the Big 4 has to spend 15 billion rubles (approx. $485 million) on an LTE network and roll it out in at least five regions annually. The expenses required to convert military spectrum into commercial frequencies are estimated at between 56 billion rubles and 200 billion rubles (approx. $1.8 billion - $6.5 billion) and could take several years.

Meanwhile, the Telecommunications and Mass Media Ministry is considering adopting a RAN-sharing model, which would allow transmitters to be shared by several operators, but the implementation of this model differs from the LTE Union's proposal, the deputy minister said.

MegaFon's LTE service is available to subscribers of 20 Moscow Region cities starting October. MTS intends to launch its own 4G service in 80 cities and localities of the Moscow Region before the end of the year. VimpelCom is deploying the first section of the LTE network within the Moscow Third Ring Road. The company expects to get permit to commission this section in early 2013, VimpelCom CEO Anton Kudryashov said earlier.

According to the Telecommunications and Mass Media Ministry's plans, LTE service should be available by 2013 in 41 cities with a population of 38.5 million people, or 27% of the total population, including Moscow, St. Petersburg, Novosibirsk and others.

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