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Russian 3G licenses likely in 2003

MOSCOW-Russia will not issue third-generation (3G) licenses this year, and the earliest possible award date is the beginning of 2003. However, everything will depend on the presence of the necessary equipment, according to Communications Minister Leonid Reiman.

“Initially we were promised that equipment would come to the market two years ago. The latest promise is for this year. If that really happens, we shall start issuing licenses from the beginning of next year. If not, we shall wait,” he said.

Reiman added that the Russian 3G Association has to confirm that the time is ripe for 3G licenses. “I can say that they will not be auctioned, but tendered according to proposals,” the minister said, citing the Swedish experience.

3G Association President Alexander Krupnov said the licenses will be issued for a minimum fee that is necessary to free the frequencies in the 2 GHz band. “It will not be the multi-billion amounts that the carriers paid for 3G licenses in (Western) Europe,” he specified.

Russia plans to issue a maximum of four licenses. “The preferable scheme is that the licenses are received by three operators that are most popular in Russia today plus one newcomer,” Krupnov said.

He did not give any names, but the country’s largest carriers are Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Vimpelcom (BeeLine) and Megafon.

In contrast to the current practice where licenses are issued for each of the 89 Russian regions, 3G licenses will cover the whole of Russia and will be valid for at least 20 years, while networks should be launched within 18 months after the frequencies are provided.

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