According to a number of unconfirmed local press reports, Russian national operator Rostelecom has filed a lawsuit against WiMAX-turned-Long Term Evolution (LTE) operator Scartel (Yota) in the Moscow Commercial Court, regarding wholesale access to the latter’s under-deployment LTE network.
Last week TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate reported that Rostelecom had abruptly changed its plans to offer LTE technology as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) over Scartel’s infrastructure starting on 1 September, citing disagreements with the wholesale provider regarding the terms of the offer. The lawsuit was reportedly registered on 6 September.
The development marks a new low for the often complicated relationship between the two parties. In March 2011, in a deal brokered by Vladimir Putin, Yota united with Rostelecom and the self-styled ‘big three’ cellcos Vimpelcom, MegaFon and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), to facilitate the rollout of a combined national LTE network by 2014. Yota was expected to act as the consortium’s 4G network provider of choice, and the other operators would buy wholesale capacity from it and lease its LTE facilities, rather than rolling out separate infrastructure. However, the joy was short-lived, and in August 2011 the future of the LTE consortium hung in the balance after Yota slapped a USD1 billion price-tag on its 4G network, prompting the cellcos to distance themselves from the partnership on financial grounds. Unperturbed, MegaFon, which now part-owns Scartel following a July 2012 deal, and MTS have both gone on to launch LTE MVNO services as planned.