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Russia hands out 4G licences in an instant

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The Russian regulator has skipped over all that auction nonsense to award 4G licences to the four network operators, denying licences to three others, but then Russia has had 4G for years.

The state-owned Rostelecom got one licence, surprising no one, and the other three went to Russia's Big Three mobe operators – MTS, Vimpelcom and MegaFon. That decision, reported by Reuters, squeezed out Tele2, TTK and Summa Telecom, which will have to sub-let if they want to complete. The winners don't have to pay anything, but they do have to promise to pile 15 billion Russian rubles ($457.42m, £296.2m) into network infrastructure every year until 2019.

Russia's existing 4G network is run by 4G operator Yota, and was built using the now-dying WiMAX standard, but it is in the process of converting to LTE – with 300,000 Muscovites already using the international 4G standard. That network is already being sub-let to MegaFon and Rostelecom, but it operates in the less-popular 2.3, 2.5 & 3.5GHz bands, making handsets less compatible and equipment more expensive.

The new licences are in the 800MHz band, which is standardised for LTE across Europe, having been cleared of analogue TV transmissions. The lower frequency offers better range and building penetration. Popular thought is that it works best when combined with a higher frequency for dense networks in urban areas.

In the UK we have our own version of Yota in the form of UK Broadband, which has 4G-LTE networks running in Swindon and Southwark at 3.5GHz, though it doesn't have any customers or sub-licensees just yet, so it isn't quite like Yota in that respect.

But UK Broadband will have more time to make its mark, as Ofcom isn't likely to start handing out free radio spectrum any time soon. Our own regulator is still drafting version three of the auction rules, and if they escape legal challenge, then the UK's 800MHz will go on the block early next year... but that's still a big "if". ®

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