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Russian mobile operators form venture to develop 5G

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Four Russian operators, including the local subsidiary of Amsterdam-based Veon, have formed a company to develop 5G technology in competition with western and Asian suppliers.

Moscow-based news agency Interfax reported this morning that MTS, largely owned by Russian industrial group Sistema, has taken a 25% equity stake in the company, New Digital Solutions.

Three other Russian operators, Rostelecom, MegaFon and Veon’s Vimpelcom, also have 25% stakes each.

According to Interfax, New Digital Solutions was founded in 2018, initially as a joint venture between MegaFon and Rostelecom to build a common 5G network.

“But the configuration of the venture was subsequently changed,” says Interfax. Vimpelcom, the legal name for Veon’s Russian subsidiary, joined the group, and now MTS has also become a member. All four have an equal 25% stake in New Digital Solutions, which is registered with the Unified State Register of Legal Entities in Moscow.

According to the news agency, the goal of the venture is to organise testing for electromagnetic compatibility, conduct research on frequencies that can be used to build 5G networks, and implement measures to free up the radio frequency spectrum for 5G.

But it’s clear that Russian operators have been left isolated from most manufacturers of 5G since Russia started its war against Ukraine in February. The two largest European equipment vendors, Ericsson and Nokia, suspended business in Russia as a result. One of the two big Chinese vendors, Huawei, has limited its sales to Russia, though reports say the other, ZTE, is carrying on.

But all that leaves Russia with a shortage of choice if it wants to move to the newest mobile generation.

MTS’s press service confirmed to Interfax that the company has joined the 5G venture. It notes that senior management of MTS had repeatedly said that the company intended to join the venture.

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