By 2030, Russia will have 50 million 5G users

By 2030, 50 million subscribers will be connected to 5G networks – such a target is laid down in the plan (roadmap) for the development of fifth generation mobile networks, developed by agreement with the government of Rostec and Rostelecom. The authenticity of the plan, which Vedomosti got acquainted with, was confirmed by a source close to one of the developers.

The work of the ministry on the roadmap is almost complete, Deputy Minister of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media Oleg Ivanov said. With Rostec, all the details have been settled, through Rostelecom as a co-executor, “there are two issues that are in the final stages of discussion,” he added.

5G connections are not only smartphones of specific people, but also inanimate automatic devices. According to the plan of the developers of the roadmap, by 2023, Russian fifth-generation networks should have 200,000 subscribers, and by 2024 – 5 million. To achieve these goals, a number of measures must be taken, follows from the roadmap. It also mentions the introduction of changes to existing regulations, and the preparation of new ones, the development of domestic subscriber equipment for the mass market, facilitating access to infrastructure for operators, and much more. The figure of 50 million subscribers is being discussed, but has not yet been approved, as well as the document as a whole, the press service of Rostelecom confirmed.

Roadmap projections for 2023–2024 they still look quite realistic, provided that the issue of frequencies for 5G is resolved in Russia, says Anton Shulga, partner of Deloitte in the CIS. If operators only get frequencies in the range of more than 5 GHz, then the mass construction of such networks will most likely become very costly, he predicts. There should be no problems from the manufacturers of network equipment and smartphones – there will be an offer, Shulga is sure. 4G networks have been developing at a similar pace, he said.

The roadmap does not say about the frequency ranges in which the fifth generation networks will operate in Russia. At the same time, the optimal frequency range for 5G coverage in large cities (3.4-3.8 GHz) in Russia is occupied by communication facilities of state, in particular law enforcement agencies. In May of this year, the Security Council rejected operators’ requests for this range for 5G. As an alternative, frequencies of 4.8-4.99 GHz have been proposed, however, the signalmen consider it impossible to fully launch 5G in Russia without a lower range.

Now 4G-LTE networks cover 88% of the population, but it is impossible to compare the spread of this standard with the spread of 5G, says Mikhail Alekseev, managing partner of AC&M Consulting. LTE coverage almost immediately reached the level of 45%, while for a long time only 10-12% of subscribers used it, he notes. But now the replacement of phones is happening very quickly, so the speed of their penetration into subscriber devices will outstrip the pace of network development, explains Alekseev. However, until operators receive frequencies of 3.4-3.8 GHz, there will be no massive penetration of 5G in Russia, the expert warns.

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The pace of development of 5G networks and growth of the subscriber base primarily depends on the timing of providing operators with a frequency resource sufficient for telecom operators, says the representative MTS Alexey Merkutov. The growth in the number of subscribers depends on the timing of solving the frequency issue and the characteristics of the allocated frequency range, agrees the press secretary of the operator Tele2 Daria Kolesnikova. In terms of building base stations, the pace of 5G development is unlikely to outpace the pace of 4G deployment.

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