FOCUS: Russia has to allocate 5G frequencies, allow any technology not to fall behind world
By Yekaterina Yezhova
MOSCOW, Jun 29 (PRIME) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to work and study from home, analysts say that Russia may fall into telecom and digital obscurity unless the military and satellites give away the frequencies needed for 5G deployment and allow any technology to be used on the networks.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has boosted traffic, mainly over fixed lines, and changed its profile as the load moved from downtown to uptown and suburbs. Many people work and study at home, and the volume of traffic carried from a subscriber to a base station has rocketed,” Ilya Kryuchkov, a leading expert for radio access networks in Europe and Latin America at telecom equipment maker Ericsson, told PRIME.
Mobile operator MegaFon Director for Network Infrastructure Valentin Polozenko said that Russia’s mobile Internet traffic rises by 30% every year, and the pandemic will spur it up even stronger.
But the pandemic has not pushed the country to the development of 5G as the government is yet to allocate the frequencies, Kryuchkov said.
“To attain all goals and expectations from the 5G technology in the country, a combination of three ranges is needed: below 3 GHz for a wide coverage and moderate capacity, from 3 to 6 GHz for high capacity, and over 26 GHz for extremely-high capacity and industrial automation,” he said.
The Ericsson expert said that the absence of any component will extend 5G implementation significantly and drive its costs to a point barring economic efficiency.
In Russia, the 3.4–3.8 GHz range, used by popular 5G equipment internationally, is occupied by the military and the satellite system.
“The 3.4–3.8 GHz range should be provided for 5G, as it’s a priority band that will ensure a reliable coverage on the existing grid of base station sites. In other words, the operators will not have to condense the network. A broad availability of the range makes it key in many countries for creation of user devices, mainly smartphones,” Kryuchkov said.
MegaFon has two permanently functioning 5G zones in the 27 GHz range in Moscow. “In St. Petersburg, MegaFon runs its own research and development center that tests 5G, and the technology is being checked for compatibility with the existing connection networks,” Polozenko told PRIME.
Another barrier for 5G is Russia’s lack of technology neutrality, when an operator can use any technology on a frequency band without applying for a permit, for the existing 2G, 3G, and 4G networks.
“It will enable the operators to be flexible in redistribution of frequency resources between technologies depending on penetration of 5G supporting devices. The existing ranges are crucial mainly from wide area coverage point of view, including areas outside big cities, along railway lines and highways,” Kryuchkov said.
The Ericsson expert cited Russia’s well-developed and competitive telecom industry – mobile Internet penetration at over 90%, low prices, a quick transfer to the mobile broadband network – as the country’s advantages.
“In order to maintain and develop the mobile connection market further, the country should eliminate the existing barriers for 5G and ensure constant healthy rivalry and maintain global competition in the high tech sphere. As soon as the barriers are lifted, 5G will evolve more actively in the country,” Kryuchkov told PRIME.
Earlier in 2020, MegaFon called a public tender to choose suppliers of radio telecommunications equipment with compulsory 5G support. “It means MegaFon’s new infrastructure will be ready for the 5G launch from 2021. We’ll kick off the latest technology after the problem with the lack of frequencies, mainly occupied by the existing satellite systems, is solved,” Polozenko said.
Mobile operator MTS said it will test products of 12 startups from six countries in the 5G Center at trade show VDNKh in Moscow. The company is ready to provide the center’s residents with up to 6 million rubles.
MTS will equip the firms with mentor and technical assistance. The startups work, among others, on augmented reality technologies for the smart city, automatic creation of content, video broadcasting to smart devices, the spheres that have synergy with MTS’ key business-vectors, as the company said.
(69.1284 rubles – U.S. $1)