Russia’s Yota – one of the world’s largest WiMAX operators – said Friday it is to switch to LTE technology in a significant blow to the WiMAX camp. Reuters reports that Yota plans to spend US$100 million rolling out LTE networks in five Russian cities in 2010, while total investment is estimated at up to US$2 billion. It plans to launch LTE in Moscow and Russia’s second city of Saint Petersburg at the end of 2011. “The world’s biggest operators and device makers such as Nokia and Samsung have chosen the LTE standard. Following the global trend, we are seeking to give our clients the best solutions,” said Yota in a statement. “The only reason we are delaying its (LTE’s) launch everywhere is the fact LTE technology is so new.”

Yota was founded in founded in 2007 and operates in Moscow, Saint Petersburg and three other Russian cities. It had originally planned to launch WiMAX in a further 15 Russian cities. It has around 500,000 customers in Russia and is also active in several other countries, including Belarus, Peru and Nicaragua.  Yota’s move reflects a growing trend for WiMAX operators to switch to LTE. One of WiMAX’s most prominent backers – Clearwire of the US – has also hinted at a similar move. Earlier this month, Clearwire revealed it has changed the terms of an agreement it had with Intel, one of its largest investors, that could lead the way for Clearwire to drop WiMAX and switch to LTE. The initial agreement had forced Clearwire to use WiMAX through to November 2011, but now either party can now exit the agreement with just 30 days notice.