As expected, mobile network operator (MNO) MTS Belarus has launched the country’s first commercial 4G LTE service in the capital Minsk. The cellco’s 4G service promises to deliver peak speeds of up to 112Mbps (downlink) in the first instance, eclipsing the former premium rate of 42.2Mbps offered on its DC-HSPA+ 3.5G system. Commenting on the launch, MTS Belarus director Vladimir Karpovich said: ‘We are proud that MTS Belarus has become the first operator to offer LTE technology in its networks. For many years, MTS has been the largest operator in Belarus, and it is extremely important for us to give our customers the first use of the latest developments. We are witnessing an important event for Belarus – the launch of LTE technology.’
Minsk has been selected for the launch, he noted, because mobile data demand is far higher in the capital. MTS Belarus owns 680 3G-enabled base stations in Minsk, but needs the additional capacity that 4G will afford. Indeed, Karpovich confirmed that the 150 1800MHz 4G base stations already in place in the city will boost data capacity by 40%, and support the more than 100,000 subscribers who have already purchased 4G-ready smartphones. In future the cellco’s infrastructure will be further bolstered when the 2600MHz band is enabled.
MTS Belarus is offering two packages, ‘LTE 25’ and ‘LTE 50’, which include 25GB and 50GB of downloads respectively and can also be used on the 2G or 3G network, if the 4G signal drops out. LTE 25 is priced at BYR234,000 (USD12.80) per month and LTE 50 costs BYR320,000. The offer is available to subscribers of the carrier’s ‘MTS SMART’, ‘SMART MTS +’, ‘ULTRA’ and all ‘Inet’ plans.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Belarus is unusual inasmuch as all three MNOs will be using a common LTE network that is being deployed by infrastructure operator Belarusian Cloud Technologies (beCloud), which owns a 15-year licence to operate 4G LTE infrastructure in the 1710MHz-1730MHz/1805MHz-1825MHz and 2530MHz-2565MHz/2650MHz-2685MHz bands. beCloud awarded the equipment supply contract to Huawei following a competitive tender and, in April this year, confirmed the successful completion of LTE pilot trials with MTS Belarus at the Tibo-2015 exhibition, achieving peak data speeds of 250Mbps. Following the official switch-on in the capital, beCloud intends to roll out services to all regional centres by the end of 2016, and expand to all settlements with a population of over 50,000 by end-2020.