The Russian telecom market is the largest in Europe, supported by a population of approximately 144 million. The market is dominated by the western regions where the main cities and economic centres are concentrated. All sectors have been liberalised, with competition most prevalent in Moscow and St Petersburg, the two largest regional markets.
The number of mobile subscriptions has passed 230 million, while SIM card penetration is high, at around 162% by early 2017. Several mobile network operators are active, although the market is dominated by four major operators.
MegaFon has the best nationwide coverage and good speeds in cities although at the highest prices. It is considered by many as the premier network in the country and the first one that covered all 83 regions (except Crimea).
As of 31 December 2018 their number of mobile subscribers was 76.9 million.
MegaFon was the first to start 3G (on 2100 and 900 MHz) and 4G/LTE network in Russia. This is the only network that is available in every region of the country except Crimea and Sevastopol. Their LTE is mostly on 2600 MHz and has reached all 83 regions where they operate. 800 MHz and 1800 MHz exist too, but have very limited coverage and are unlikely to be seen.
At the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF), in May 2017 MegaFon and Huawei set an all-time mobile internet speed record for Russia, demonstrating the operation of a 5G network at speeds of 35 GB/s.
At their stand in St Petersburg, MegaFon and Huawei presented a 5G base station in action, using TDD in the 70 GHz (E-band) frequency band with bandwidth of 2 GHz.
Aside from its high speed, 5G also ensures unprecedentedly low data transfer latency (less than 1 ms), which opens up new opportunities to use 5G in various areas of life. One such area is driverless cars, where reaction speed is vital. The stand featured a model car and virtual reality, allowing visitors to experience how — thanks to numerous sensors that communicate with each other over wireless 5G internet — the car could react in good time to changes in road conditions, cross junctions without traffic lights, overtake and much more.
“We have entered an era where all areas of life are going digital. As the future network technology, 5G will ensure connectivity anywhere, anytime, when in motion and with virtually no latency and unlimited possibilities for application. This will require the efforts of the entire ecosystem — operators, equipment manufacturers and industrial partners. Huawei is actively collaborating with sector players to develop and improve 5G technologies and create new use scenarios and business scenarios to speed up industrial and social transformation. There is a huge space for collaboration between Huawei and MegaFon — two innovative companies — for development of 5G on the path towards an ideal communications world.”said Huawei Russia CEO Aiden Wu.
MTS (or MTC in Russian, stands for Mobile TeleSystems, "Мобильные ТелеСистемы" owned by russian Systema group) is at present the biggest operator with more than 100 million customers and it is licensed in 83 regions of the country. It is the only provider operator that can be used in Crimea.
It's available in most regions of the country and gives good speeds but at lower prices than MegaFon. MTS is associated with Vodafone, which is also their favorite roaming partner. Nevertheless, MTS roaming prices in foreign countries are very high.
Their 3G network is on 2100 MHz and 900 MHz. LTE is on 2600 MHz in the form of both FDD-LTE and TDD-LTE (on bands 7 and 38) and on 800 and 1800 MHz. 4G/LTE coverage has reached all 83 regions where MTS operates in 2016. 55% is on 1800 MHz, the others on 800 and 2600 MHz.
As of June 2019 Huawei has signed a deal to develop 5G with MTS.
MTS has also started a programme to support start-ups focused on 5G. The operator will provide the start-ups with premises for design, development and testing of digital solutions and devices using 5G technology. The best start-ups will be offered grants and an opportunity for long-term cooperation with MTS.
Companies using 5G solutions for the development of cloud transformation, new forms of streaming (Ultra HD, VR/AR, 360 degrees), IoT, new formats of cloud and data storage and other issues are invited to participate in the programme. In September MTS Startup Hub experts will select the best start-ups from the submitted applications for participation in the programme.
Nokia acts as a technological partner of the programme and has provided an end-to-end solution with a core network and radio sub-system on the basis of the new generation AirScale module, as well as the 5G Nokia AirScale indoor Radio.
MTS plans to invest RUB 100 million in the programme through the end of 2020.
Veon (formerly known as VimpelCom) -owned Beeline is 3rd nationwide operator woking in almost all regions of Russia, their 3G coverage is concentrated in populated places, and is still limited in rural areas. 4G/LTE coverage is available in 246 cities in 58 regions covering roughly half of the Russian population in 2016.
Beeline and Huawei signed an agreement to pursue the joint development of 5G in Russia May 2018. Beeline is preparing its network infrastructure and is conducting research on how to make a rational transition to 5G technologies.
Tele2 by Rostelecom became the fourth national network active in 60 regions after they merged into a joint venture in 2014. Tele2’s subscriber base totals 40.6 million
Tele2 Russia commercially launched LTE on 1800 MHz (B3) in 2014 and rollouts in most major cities began throughout 2015. Further LTE networks have been launched on B7 (2600 MHz) and B20 (800 MHz), with smaller LTE-TDD deployments over B40 (2300 MHz) primarily in Krasnodar and Sochi districts. The company commercially launched B31 (450 MHz) LTE under the SkyLink banner in May 2016, initially in regional areas and gradually expanding to cover St. Petersburg and Moscow within the same year.
Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) has been selected by Tele2 Russia to upgrade its network with the 5G-ready Ericsson Radio System, including software. More than 50,000 base stations will be deployed across the country as part of the five-year network modernization deal signed at Mobile World Congress 2019 .
Sergey Emdin, CEO of Tele2 Russia, says:
“Mobile traffic in networks will continue to grow exponentially. We are deploying a high-quality network based on advanced equipment while taking into account the increasing data volumes and technological changes in the industry. Before launching 5G networks, Russia must first address several infrastructure issues. However, when all barriers are overcome, new networks will be built faster than LTE, partly owing to existing infrastructure. This would be possible only with Ericsson’s cutting-edge technology. We are sure that Ericsson’s experience, expertise and market-leading portfolio will allow us to upgrade our network to meet loads and gear up for the launch of 5G.”Sebastian Tolstoy, Head of Ericsson in Russia, says:
“Tele2 is an important strategic partner. We understand that their subscribers have high expectations on mobile connection speeds. Advanced 4G networks and 5G communication technologies provide the data throughput required. Ericsson’s commercial equipment and software for wireless communications support 5G technologies and we can deploy new functionality as soon as Russian regulators make the necessary decisions on frequencies, enabling operators to provide relevant services.”
Hootsuite has a good summary of Russian Federation Digital 2019 embedded below: