Russian operators MegaFon and Rostelecom teamed to jointly develop 5G networks, in a move designed to reduce the cost of rolling out the next-generation mobile technology in the country.

In a statement the companies said they will develop optimal scenarios for 5G “based on international experience and subject to the specifics of the Russian mobile communications market”.

As part of a wider plan, the operators added they are considering setting up a joint venture which would operate as a single infrastructure operator to construct 5G networks in the country.

MegaFon CEO Sergey Soldatenkov said current market conditions mean the “most logical and cost efficient option for deployment of the new standard is cooperation between several players”. He added the company saw “huge potential for further cooperation” with Rostelecom in the future.

Both operators initially plan to set up a working group which will propose options for rolling out 5G in the 3.4GHz to 3.6GHz, and 26GHz frequency bands.

Government goals
The joint initiative will also integrate with a government drive through its Digital Economy programme, with special attention paid by both and the state and the operators on identifying and freeing up available space in the spectrum for 5G networks.

Rostelecom president Mikhail Oseevskiy noted one of the main aspects of the Digital Economy program is to build the infrastructure required to fuel Russia’s development, with 5G set to become “one of the main technologies that forms the foundation for the digital economy”.

The partnership with Rostelecom aside, MegaFon claims to have set the record for the fastest internet connection in Russia, demonstrating “the operation of a 5G network” at speeds of 35Gb/s in a test earlier this year.

MegaFon is also well positioned to boost its mobile network, with access to spectrum in the 3400MHz to 3800MHz range, and 25250MHz to 29500MHz frequency bands, which will be used to deploy test 5G zones at the 2018 Fifa World Cup, set to be held in Russia.

The operators did not provide a timeline for a potential commercial 5G launch in the country.

2020 is widely touted as the likely launch year in many developed markets, although certain Asian operators, for example, are earmarking deployments as early as 2018.

MegaFon is the largest operator in Russia, according to Q3 2017 estimates from GSMA Intelligence with 79.1 million connections.

Rostelecom, which Tele2 Russia in a joint venture with the Sweden-based operator, is the fourth largest with 40.5 million connections, also ranking behind MTS and Veon’s Beeline.