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The first network of the fourth generation mobile communications in the standard LTE may appear in Moscow in March 2012.
"Scartel" began the modernization of wireless Internet access WiMax in Moscow, aiming for the standard of LTE; agreements with the contractors have already been signed, told "Vedomosti" an employee of one of the contractors. Work is to be completed in March 2012. This confirms a partner of one of "Scartel" shareholders: according to him, in March 2012 company plans to launch LTE network in commercial use. But the actual timing will depend on many factors, including weather, warns a person, close to "Scartel".
Yota WiMAX-networks are operating in Russia and Nicaragua. In Russia, the network covers the Moscow Region, St. Petersburg, Leningrad Oblast, Krasnodar, Sochi and Ufa. The number of active subscribers is 700 thousand people. The company has 1,200 employees. 25% of the "Scartel" belongs to the state corporation "Rostechnologies". Since 1 December 2011 "Yota Bel" (subsidiary company of "Yota" in Belarus) plans to start test operation of the LTE network in Minsk.
"Scartel" WiMax network in Moscow operates on the hardware by "Samsung". According to sources of "Vedomosti", the operator plans to replace all the base stations installed in Moscow by LTE-equipment of "Huawei". A total of 1550 such station will be needed, points out an employee of a contractor. The replacement has already begun.
New base stations are configured on the frequency that the State Commission for Radio Frequencies (SCRF) has issued to "Scartel" in September 2011, the contractor knows. Thus, the LTE network will replace the WiMax network and "Scartel" will turn from the provider of mobile Internet access to a full-fledged mobile operator in whose networks one will be able to make a normal phone call.
WiMax and LTE standards use the same frequency, so "Scartel" will need to replace only the active equipment - base stations and antenna: to carry out such modernization is te matter of of four months, says the top manager of one of the cellular 'big three' operators, who also heard about "Scartel" plans.
The base station costs about $30,000, then the entire cost of the Moscow network upgrade will get approximately $50 million, according to a partner of one of its shareholders. Now the base stations have fallen in price, so the cost will be much less, objects a source close to the company.
This will be the second network of LTE built in Russia. On August 30, 2010 the same "Scartel" launched in test mode LTE network of about 150 base stations in Kazan , spending some $20 million, but the next day it had to turn off the network at the insistence of Roskomnadzor which did not allow the LTE-equipment use. The supervisor stated that the frequencies were given to "Scartel" under the WiMax technology, and can not be used to build a network of LTE. For this reason, "Scartel" had to postpone plans for LTE networks in other regions, where it has a WiMax-license. Disagreements between the company and the regulator were completed on September 8, 2011, when the SCRF has issued to "Scartel" two continuous frequency bands of 30 MHz (for data reception and transmission) in the range 2.5-2.7 GHz across the country for LTE use in exchange to several bands in this range with the total width of 70 MHz.
The remaining frequencies - two bands of 40 MHz - are to be divided equally between the four winners of competitive tenders for the frequency range of 791-862 MHz.
Contests are planned for the I quarter of 2012, however, even after receiving frequencies in these two bands successful bidders will not be able to use them immediately: they will have to fund and organize the conversion of 791-862 MHz frequencies, employed by the military. Each of the four operators will need to spend 85.7 billion rubles ($ 2.9 billion) to build LTE networks, including a total of 52 billion rubles for conversion as estimated this summer by a consortium of "Union LTE» which wst to develop proposals for SCRF by MTS, "MegaFon", "Vimpelcom" and "Rostelecom ". These same operators in March 2011 signed with "Scartel" shareholders a memorandum on the joint use of the LTE, which will be built by "Scartel" and the possibility of buying by each of the participants of the 'Big Four' 20% of "Scartel" in 2014.
Truth is, a binding agreement with the specific conditions was not signed within the prescribed period - until June 1, 2011.
Plans of "Scartel" to launch first Russia's LTE network in March 2012 contradicts to the decision SCRF, says the employee of one of the operators of the 'Big Four'. The other argues that the network of "Scartel" will be built "not without involvement of "Rostelecom". President of "Rostelecom" Alexander Provotorov yesterday confined by saying that the company is "discussing with "Scartel" different ways of cooperation".
Representatives of other companies of "Big Four" yesterday declined to comment, so did the CEO of "Scartel" Denis Sverdlov.