Russia's Nornickel dials up rhetoric on private 5G

Russian mining company expresses desire to work directly with vendors on private 5G, although such a scenario is currently not permitted.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

September 22, 2021

4 Min Read
Russia's Nornickel dials up rhetoric on private 5G

As 5G rollouts pick up pace around the world, Russia has proved to be something of a laggard in the deployment of the next-generation mobile technology.

A lack of spectrum has hampered progress here, in part because the 3.4-3.8GHz bands identified by much of the world as optimal frequencies for 5G are still occupied by government agencies and the military.

Some early steps have been taken, nevertheless. In April, MTS and Huawei activated 5G networks at 14 locations in Moscow after MTS became the first mobile operator in Russia to be granted a 5G license in the 24.25–24.65GHz band.

Figure 1: Join the queue: The 3.4-3.8GHz bands needed for 5G are still occupied by Moscow's government agencies and the military. (Source: Nikita Karimov on Unsplash) Join the queue: The 3.4-3.8GHz bands needed for 5G are still occupied by Moscow's government agencies and the military.
(Source: Nikita Karimov on Unsplash)

Operators such as MegaFon and Rostelecom have been testing 5G in so-called 5G test zones. In May, MegaFon also began testing Dynamic Spectrum Allocation (DSS) technology in St. Petersburg.

The Russian branch of law firm CMS explained that according to Russia's Digital Economy program, 5G coverage should be available in ten major cities by the end of 2021. By the end of 2024, 5G services should be deployed in all cities with more than one million inhabitants.

The Russian authorities are not planning to hold public tenders for 5G frequencies. According to a 2020 Decree of the Frequencies Committee, the following frequencies are allocated for deployment of 5G: 694-790MHz; 2300-2400MHz; 2570-2620MHz; 4400-4990MHz; and 24.25-27.5GHz.

Privacy please

MTS has also been actively exploring private 5G networks — regarded as a key 5G use case for the enterprise market. Indeed, the operator collaborated with Ericsson on the deployment of a private 4G and 5G network at Kamaz factory in 2020.

In May 2021, ​​Russian palladium and nickel mining company Norilsk Nickel (Nornickel) announced it had tested a private LTE/5G network with Nokia, Ericsson, Huawei, MTS and MegaFon.

Rostelecom-owned Tele2 Russia also provided frequencies for the pilot. The test was conducted at Nornickel’s Skalisty Gluboky, the deepest mine in Eurasia, at a depth of 875 meters using 1.8GHz-2.6GHz frequencies for LTE and 28GHz for 5G.

It now appears that Nornickel wants to go a step further with private 5G. Reports say company executives have been openly discussing the possibility of deploying private 5G networks without the involvement of a mobile operator — by applying for a private 5G license and working directly with equipment vendors.

Want to know more about private networks? Check out our dedicated private networks content channel here on Light Reading.

According to, Alexander Kudinov, head of the industrial assets department at Nornickel, said during the GSMA Mobile 360 ​​Eurasia conference that the company would like to receive frequencies and deploy a private 5G network.

Kudinov appears to favor a scheme like the one in Germany, where telecoms regulator Bundesnetzagentur (BNetzA) reserved 100MHz of spectrum in the 3.7GHz/3.8GHz band for private companies.

As of September 15, BNetzA said it had received 148 local 5G network applications, with 148 granted; the nation's liberalization of the rights commenced in November 2019. The regulator also launched the application process for local licenses in the 26GHz band (24.25GHz–27.5GHz) on January 1, 2021. As of September 15, BNetzA had received and granted seven licenses.

Such a scenario is currently not possible in Russia. Indeed, CMS notes that only major telecom operators are set to be given access to the frequencies in the near future.

While recognizing that operators have more experience with the deployment of mobile networks, Kudinov said Nornickel is considering the model of working directly with vendors for security reasons. He appeared critical of the fact that such a model of cooperation cannot exist at the moment because of what he described as "incomprehensible" points in the law.

The report also cited Semyon Zakharov, director of project implementation for corporate business at MegaFon, as saying that the operator sees a great interest in private LTE and 5G networks from the corporate market.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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