Information current as of 19 December 2019
What is the state of 5G deployment in Russia?
5G services in Russia are developing but the deployment plans have been subject to changes. For instance, it was initially expected that 5G infrastructure would be deployed in 5 (five) of Russia’s biggest cities by 2022. However, this plan has been abandoned for the moment, and it is now expected that 5G deployment will be started on the industry-based principle, e.g. in certain industrial zones, etc.
Some of the territories for testing of 5G infrastructure (‘pilot zones’) have been identified, and it was contemplated that 5G services in some of them should be launched by the end of 2019.
The first ‘pilot’ basic station for 5G was launched in September 2019 in Skolkovo (innovation centre in the Moscow Region).
Furthermore, it is expected that incentives (including state financing) will be provided to local (Russian) telecom providers in order to elaborate and launch the production of 5G equipment in Russia. Thus, it is expected that the required research and design works will be completed in 2019-2021 and production launched in 2022-2024.
Which telcos and communications players are launching 5G services?
It is expected that four (4) major Russian telecommunication providers (MTS, Megafon, Beeline and Tele2) will be involved in the launch of 5G services in Russia (and building the required infrastructure).
For this purpose, the Russian operators enter into cooperation agreements with foreign electronic equipment producers in order to facilitate the deployment of 5G infrastructure from a technical perspective. MTS and Beeline have entered into arrangements with Huawei (who are very active in deploying 5G infrastructure in Russia), while Megafon is cooperating with Nokia.
Are there any public tenders for spectrum licenses?
Yes, the tenders are held where radio frequency spectrum required for providing services within a given territory is limited and may be allocated to a limited number of network operators only.
What are the conditions?
The applicable Russian regulations provide for a detailed and complex procedure for organising and holding tenders for spectrum licences.
Only Russian entities (incorporated in Russia) are entitled to apply for spectrum licences.
What has the government said regarding spectrum licences for commercial use?
The spectrum licences are used for commercial purposes by legal entities that have complied with all applicable regulatory requirements and obtained all necessary authorisations and licences to use the spectrum / frequencies for providing services on a commercial basis.
To this end it is also important to note that the frequency allocation table (FAT) adopted by the Russian Government establishes a list of restrictions in respect of the allocation of the frequency spectrum depending on their category of use, i.e. certain frequencies can be used:
- for government purposes;
- for civil purposes (very few bands are allocated for solely civil use); or
- for both government and civil purposes (shared use)
Most frequency bands are specified as being for shared use and the priority shall always be given to governmental use.
Generally, the Russian authorities (especially the military) are given priority within Russia with respect to frequency allocation.
However, as mentioned above, if all applicable regulatory requirements are complied with by the undertakings concerned (communication providers) to use the spectrum licences for commercial purposes, such use is in line with the applicable laws and regulations.
Are the rules for 5G already drafted, and if so, what do they say?
In April 2019 the competent Russian authorities made a proposal on the frequency spectrum to be allocated for 5G infrastructure. On 5 June 2019 the State Committee on Radio Frequency decided on the frequency spectrum to be allocated for 5G testing. Further, in November 2019 more frequency spectrum were allocated to 5G. Namely, these are 25,25–29,5 GHz for high band and 4,8–4,99 GHz for low band.
That said, so far no specific rules for 5G are in place. However, the competent authorities are working on the various technical requirements for 5G infrastructure.
What are or would be the rules for granting competitors access to the new 5G networks, once they are deployed?
As is common in Russia, new market opportunities result in conflicts of interest involving major communication network operators and state-owned telecommunication companies.
Therefore, as the communications sector in Russia is to a very large extent politically driven, it is difficult to predict what the rules will be for granting telcos access to the new 5G networks once they are deployed.