According to Prime-Tass news agency, Russian mobile giant Vimpelcom has received approval to initiate mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services using Long Term Evolution (LTE) infrastructure owned by Scartel (Yota). The development means that Vimpelcom is eligible to join its chief rivals MegaFon, which part-owns Scartel following a July 2012 deal, and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), both of which have already launched LTE MVNO services over Scartel’s in-deployment network. Elsewhere, Russian national operator Rostelecom filed a lawsuit against Scartel in the Moscow Commercial Court last week, regarding wholesale access to the latter’s LTE network.
According to a recent report by Reuters, Scartel’s network can potentially accommodate a maximum of four operators, possibly explaining Rostelecom’s dissatisfaction with the current situation. Bearing in mind the MVNO deals with the self-styled ‘Big Three’, and the presence of Scartel’s own Yota unit, the wholesale operator now hosts its full allocation of MVNOs. It is believed that operators have to guarantee a minimum payment of USD20 million (per macro-economic region) to use Scartel’s network until end-2014, although the fee to piggyback on the company’s network in the Central Federal District has been set at USD70 million, on account of access to the potentially lucrative Moscow market.
In other news, Prime-Tass also reports that the Russian government has denied long-running rumours that Denis Sverdlov, the CEO of Scartel, has been appointed as the country’s deputy communications and mass media minister. It is unclear if the development is related to the legal dispute between state-owned Rostelecom and Scartel.