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Keep Your Eyes on Russia

Ray Le Maistre

2:00 PM -- There are a number of countries, including Australia, India and Singapore, worth watching very closely during the next few years because of their national broadband strategies. (See Australia Unveils $31B FTTP Plan, Report: 17 Million LTE Users in India by 2016, India's BWA Auction Ends in $8.2B Drama and BBWF 2010: Running Singapore's NBN.)

Add Russia to that group -- it's set to be a humdinger. That's because it has a very different approach to LTE and is already showing the rest of Europe what fiber access broadband is all about, having as many FTTX connections (more than 5 million) as the rest of the region put together. (See Trends for 2012: Broadband & Media and Europe Exceeds 10M FTTH Subs.)

That number is set to grow, with the analyst team at Pyramid Research expecting FTTX connections to number around 15 million by 2015, in turn giving a helping hand to the IPTV sector. (See Broadband to Drive Internet in Russia.)

It's the country's LTE plans that are really interesting, though.

Yota , the network operator that is building a national LTE network in Russia that will be shared by multiple service providers, has turned on its LTE network in Russia's third-largest city, Novosibirsk, according to a report from local media firm Sib.fm. (See Russian Into LTE and Russian Ops to Share LTE Network.)

So far Yota has reportedly invested just US$10 million in that city's network, which comprises 63 base station sites currently, delivering downlink speeds of up to 20 Mbit/s. Ultimately, the operator intends to build out its LTE network in 180 cities, a move that will cost an estimated $2 billion.

The Sib.fm report suggests that commercial services will become available in January and that the cost of an LTE modem will be 2,990 Rubles ($93.47). Yota has yet to confirm this, but this information looks to have come from Yota.

What's going to be really interesting in Russia will be to see whether multiple service providers can share the underlying infrastructure -- with the operational or political issues that go with that -- and all build business cases around their LTE offerings. If four or more providers can piggyback a single network in Russia, then surely that's a model that will be replicated in other markets that want to foster service competition and create a more level playing field, rather than handing the advantage to those companies with the available capital for network construction.

The Pyramid team estimates that by 2015 there will be more than 20 million LTE subscribers in Russia, accounting for about 8 percent of the country's total mobile connections. That presumes, of course, that Yota hits its rollout deadlines and has a suitable model for managing the network sharing agreements. So far, so good…

— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading

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