Russia allocates LTE-450 spectrum in five federal subjects

At the meeting of the State Commission for Radio Frequencies (GKRCH) held at the very end of 2017, a number of decisions were made that allow us to say that the development of the LTE-450 standard in Russia will receive a new impetus, and the future of projects for the construction of communication networks based on this standard may not be as unpromising as the experts drew in the forecasts.

Based on the results of the SCRM meeting held on December 28, 2017, it was decided to allocate radio frequency bands 453 to 457.4 MHz and 463 to 467.4 MHz for the creation of fourth generation communication networks (LTE) in the territory of five federal subjects.

According to the decision of the GKRCH, communication services in the LTE-450 standard can be provided in the Nenets and Chukotka autonomous regions, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia), and also in the Republic of Ingushetia and the Chechen Republic.

At the same time, the minutes of the SCRM session state that, given the amount of the minimum radio frequency resource required, the available radio-frequency spectrum in the radio frequency bands 453-457.4 MHz and 463-467.4 MHz in the territories of the above-mentioned subjects of the Russian Federation limits the possible number of telecommunications operators by one. In order to determine this single operator, no later than the second quarter of 2018, auctions will be organized to obtain licenses for the provision of telecommunication services in the LTE-450 standard in five regions of the Russian Federation.  

The choice of standard LTE-450 for covering the five subjects of the Federation is understandable. Since the coverage radius of a LTE cell in the 450 MHz band is at least 20 kilometers, it allows covering large areas, installing fewer base stations, rather than deploying LTE networks in higher frequency bands. In particular, this is relevant for the Nenets, Chukotka autonomous regions and the Republic of Sakha: the area of ​​Yakutia alone exceeds 3 million square kilometers.

It is interesting that at the same meeting SCRC took another important decision. From now on, communication operators are allowed to use narrow bands of radio frequencies for the deployment of Internet networks of things (IoT) using NB-IoT technology (Narrow Band Internet of Things). The list of frequencies that can be used by electronic means of the LTE standard and its subsequent modifications in the NB-IoT mode in the territory of the Russian Federation included both the bands 453-457.4 MHz and 463-467.4 MHz.

The only operator in Russia, which develops LTE-450 networks, is Skylink. Under this renewed brand, the service is provided by Tele2, which received the appropriate frequencies based on the results of the establishment of a joint venture with Rostelecom, T2 RTK Holding. Let's remind, that Tele2 has started commercial operation the first in Russia network LTE-450 under the brand Skylink in May 2016. Data transmission services for this technology are now available in Moscow and Moscow region, in St. Petersburg and Leningrad region, as well as in the Novgorod and Tver regions.  

Immediately after the launch of the project and in the future, in the spring of 2017, when the year from the beginning of its implementation was celebrated, analysts were very skeptical about its prospects. They noted the high cost of LTE-450 equipment (both subscriber and network), as well as the fact that the service is niche, and noted that the number of Skylink subscribers is measured in no more than tens of thousands, and the project itself is probably not so successful , as expected in Tele2.  

However, now the regulator created the prerequisites for giving a new impetus to the development of the LTE-450 standard (and the Skylink project in particular). Obviously, Skylink is the number one contender for obtaining licenses in five new regions.

Of course, there is no need to talk about a significant increase in subscribers due to the provision of LTE-450 services on the mass market in these territories. In the Nenets and Chukotka autonomous regions, as well as in Yakutia, the population density does not reach one person per square kilometer. But at the same time, for example, the Nenets Autonomous District has large reserves of oil and gas: 83 hydrocarbon deposits have been discovered on its territory. In Yakutia, a powerful diamond mining industrial infrastructure has been created and is functioning.

In other words, in these regions there are actively developing directions related to the extraction of minerals, which means that the corresponding industrial infrastructure is also developing. Modern industrial complexes - this is the place that is best suited for the deployment of Internet networks of things (IoT), which can now be developed in the 450 MHz band. And here we are talking about tens and hundreds of thousands of different sensors and sensors that can transmit data over the air interface NB-IoT, which since 2016 is a standard feature of the LTE standard (including LTE-450). We should also note that large companies are traditionally engaged in the extraction of fossils in Russia, whose budgets can not be called modest. And this means that they carry out corresponding contests for automation and digitalization of production for very significant sums.

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