Availability of enough frequency band is one of the most important conditions for LTE development and this “frequency problem” widely exists in Russia. J’son & Partners Consulting presents main results of the research: “Frequency bands for 4th generation of networks (4G): current situation and perspectives in the world and Russia”.


LTE frequency bands. World practice

According to GSA data on 17th October 2013, 222 commercial LTE networks had been launched in 83 countries and almost half of them was done in the past 12 months. At the end of 2013 it is expecting that the number of countries with commercial LTE networks will be 93 and total number of networks will reach 260. The largest networks (by number of subscribers) are deployed in USA, Japan, South Korea and Australia.


LTE networks mostly work in the duplex band – FDD (FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) – frequency division of incoming and outcoming channels, when the "accept" and "give away" are happening on different bands). The interest for LTE TDD is still growing – in 18 countries 23 LTE networks have been deployed and they all support TDD regime (11 of them support both regimes – FDD and TDD).


The use of band for LTE has its regional peculiarities; over 40 bands are provided for LTE technology today. For example, 700MHz bands are the most popular in USA (mostly band 13 and band 17) and AWS (AWS band (Advanced Wireless Services band) – duplex bands 1710-1755 MHz (“give away”) and 2110-2155 MHz (“accept”)) (1.7/2.1 GHz); in Europe – 1800 MHz bands (band 3) and 2600 MHz (band 7), in perspective – 800 MHz (band 20). In Japan first launches of LTE were in bands of 800/850 МHz; 1.5 GHz; 1.7 GHz and 2.1 GHz (depends on operator); new band 700 MHz have been allocated for future launches of LTE networks.


Refarming of GSM bands for LTE networks is very popular nowadays (mainly in 1800 MHz band and sometimes in 900 MHz). Most regulators are supporting the “neutral approach”, when operators can use any band that they have with any technology.


1800 MHz band (band 3) is still the most popular in the world, 43% of commercial LTE FDD networks are using them. 2.6 GHz (band 7) and 800 MHz (band 20) are second by popularity, 30% and 12% of LTE networks are using those bands accordingly.



Due to the lack of frequencies for LTE industry, the question of using the additional frequency bands is being widely discussed in the world. Consortium 3GPP has finalized the standardization of LTE technology for 450 MHz band, this gives to the operators (including Russia) that have such bands, an opportunity to deploy LTE in this band. The use of low-frequencies for LTE deployment solving several problems, for example, it helps to cut the costs for networks’ construction, as the coverage of the same territory requires much less base stations, than using the high-frequencies for this matter (e.g. 2.6 GHz). Low-frequencies are good for the territories with low population rate.


LTE frequencies in Russia

In Russia commercial LTE networks have been launched in 37 regions at the end of October 2013. Mostly they have been launched in the duplex band (LTE TDD) in 2600 MHz (band 7), except LTE TDD – MTS in Moscow (2600 MHz, band 38) and “Vainakhtelecom” in Chechen Republic (2.3 GHz, band 40).


“Osnova Telecom” is deploying LTE TDD networks in 2.3 GHz (band 40) where has the most band resources (from 70 to 100 MHz, depends on the region). In accordance with licensing terms companies should launch networks in 40 regions at the end of January 2014. On the 3rd October 2013 “Osnova Telecom” prepared pre-launch networks’ testing in 12 regions.


The largest Russian operators such as “Rostelecom”, MTS, “Megafon” and “VimpelCom” received LTE-licenses in the low-band (720-790 MHz, 791-862 MHz) and high – band (2500-2690 MHz) on auction in 2012. Each winner received 2 bands in high and low bands with bandwidth of 10 MHz and 7,5 MHz accordingly. High band usually used for LTE deployment while the low band is mostly occupied by technologies, radio navigation and radiolocation systems and requires the conversion.



According to the data of Association of regional operators (ARO), in May 2013 “Megafon” and “Skartel” together controlled around 36% of the band, which is good for mobile broadband access networks construction (3G, 4G) in Russia. Rostelecom (including “Skylink”, subsidiary operator) and MTS had 24% and 23% accordingly, Vimpelcom had the last 17% of the band. ARO estimates that in Russia around 135 MHz of the bands are not being used for LTE deployment by different reasons.



The important decision could be made by regulator – give a permission to use 1800 MHz band for LTE deployment. Nevertheless this question is still debating, mainly due to the disagreements of the public officials. They cannot reach an agreement, which obligations should fulfill potential users of this band. Not implementation of technological neutrality is one of the main restraining factors for LTE deployment in Russia.


The peculiarities of use of “high” and “low” frequencies for LTE

LTE development on 1800 MHz band is 60% economically more reasonable – it helps LTE network to enter the market faster and start its development quickly in comparison with the high-frequency bands. Companies would be very lucky if they could make refarming for low-frequencies 800 – 900 MHz where LTE deployment is much cheaper than in 2 GHz bands.


  • Deployment of networks in the low-frequency bands is very appealing from the point of costs and is ideal for the regions with a low population (suburban areas, villages etc,). The pros of such deployment are costs reduction, better penetration inside buildings and coverage of large territories; cons: large coverage restricts the density of the base stations and worsening the intrasystem interference.
  • High-frequency bands are very good for LTE networks’ construction in the regions with high population where high speed of data transfer is required. However, if to work only in high-frequency bands, problems with radio-coverage are still appearing. Femtocells help to decrease the “shadow” zones in coverage, especially in the places with high rate of subscribers (traffic). Femtocells are needed for buildings and storages, for solving subscribers’ problems regarding the network congestion.

The possibility to use the combination of two bands (high and low) is a step forward, in order to provide the enough capacity and coverage of the network where traffic is mostly needed. Femtocells are strongly recommended for use inside the building, so to provide the better coverage.

Perspectives for frequencies’ regulation in Russia

Changes in regulations, how and where is appropriate to use frequency sources, will determine the future course of development of broadband mobile communications in the mid and long terms. Main regulations touch the following key questions:


       Transfer from general procedure of frequency bands distribution to the frequency auctions;
       To accept the principle of “technological neutrality”;
       Possibility to use one frequency band by several operators (share);
       Rules how to pay for the frequency band.


Detailed results of the research are presented in the full version of the report: «Frequency band for fourth generation of networks (4G): current situation and perspectives in Russia and in the world» (96p)



1. Frequency bands for LTE, world practice
       1.1. FDD - bands
       1.2. TDD - bands
       1.3. Main frequency auctions in the world (USA, Europe, developed counties of SEA)
              1.3.1. Accomplished auctions
              1.3.2. Future auctions
       1.4. Problem of LTE spectrum fragmentation
              1.4.1. Production of the standartized devices
              1.4.2. Standartized equipment
              1.4.3. Roaming
       1.5. Perspectives for opening the new bands for LTE
              1.5.1. 450-470 MHz
              1.5.2. 900/1800 MHz
              1.5.3. 3,5 GHz
2. Frequencies for LTE networks in Russia
       2.1. Ready-for-use bands
       2.2. Frequencies that require conversion
       2.3. Frequencies that require “technological neutrality”
       2.4. Support of russian LTE-frequencies on the 4G-smartphones level
3. Pros and Cons of the use of upper and lower frequencies
       3.1. Evaluation of the capital and operational cost for construction of LTE networks in different bands
       3.2. The goal is to find the right balance between the capacity and coverage of the networks
       3.3. “Coverage” problem inside the buildings, use of femtocells
       3.4. Use of bands for LTE networks deployment (typical strategies)
       3.5. Innovational transformations in the use of frequency source
              3.5.1. Hybrid macro/micro networks
              3.5.2. Femtocells
              3.5.3. Combined TDD/FDD networks
              3.5.4. Traffic unload via Wi-Fi networks
4. Implementation perspectives of technological neutrality in Russia, shared use of bands and influence on the broadband mobile access market.
Annex 1. List of LTE1800 networks which launch is planned for 2013-2015
Annex 2. List of operators that are planing to launch commercial TD-LTE networks
Annex 3. List of companies mentioned in the report


List of Figures

Fig. 1. Allocation of commercial FDD-LTE networks in the world by frequencies
Fig. 2. Geographical distribution of LTE1800 network (May, 2013)
Fig. 3. Geographical distribution of launched TD-LTE networks
Fig. 4. Structure of the frequency auction in Germany in 2010
Fig. 5. Distribution of frequecnies by blocks on the auction in France in 2011.
Fig. 6. Distribution of 1800MHz frequency within italian telecom operators
Fig. 7. Distribution of frequecnies in UK (January 2013)
Fig. 8. Distribution of commercial LTE networks in Asia by frequencies
Fig. 9. Distribution of frequecnies after the auction in Hong Kong in 2009
Fig. 10. Distribution of frequecnies (700 MHz) after the auction in Australia in 2013
Fig. 11. Distribution of frequecnies (2500 MHz) after the auction in Australia in 2013
Fig. 12. Fragmentation of LTE-band in the world
Fig. 13. Frequencies with the most potential for LTE deployment, by regions
Fig. 14. Distribution of 3G and 4G bands between the major mobile operators in Russia
Fig. 15. Distribution of frequency sources between Russian mobile operators
Fig. 16. The occupation rate of 791-862 MHz and 2500-2690 MHz in Russia
Fig. 17. Ways and peculiarities of the radiofrequency band’s conversion in Russia
Fig. 18. Bands’ conversion and refarming for implementation of new technologies
Fig. 19. The principle of “technological neutrality”
Fig. 24. «Megafon»: 4G LTE network coverage map in Russia
Fig. 21. Comparison of three-sector coverage BS in the 2600MHz and 800 MHz bands
Fig. 22. Comparison of three-sector coverage BS FDD and TDD LTE
Fig. 23. Organization of connection between the femtocell and operator
Fig. 24. Potential costs’ reduction as a result of the shared network’s use, depending on scenario and number of operators-partners
Fig. 25. Shared network of 2 operators that are using carrier frequencies separately
Fig. 26. Management strategies of the bands in the LTE networks with a shared network of radio access
Fig. 27. Scheme of the shared use of macro and pico cells
Fig. 28. Scheme of frequency band division in the combined network TD/FDD-LTE
Fig. 29. Forecast of mobile traffic generating in the world 2012-2017 and growth rates, Exabyte/month
Fig. 30. Number of sites per operator (pcs.) depending on the total band (MHZ) that are available for providng mobile connection
Fig. 31. “Technological neutrality” in Russia
Fig. 32. Ways of implementation the “technological neutrality” in Russia


List of Tables

Table 1. The division of FDD-LTE frequency by bands and countries
Table 2. The division of TD-LTE frequency by bands and countries
Table 3. The most popular combinations of bands by regions, MHz
Table 4. Structure of frequency auction in USA in 2008
Table 5. Results of the frequency auction in Germany in 2010
Table 6. Results of the first round of frequency auction in France in 2011
Table 7. Results of the second round of frequency auction in France in 2011
Table 8. Structure of frequency auction in Spain in 2011
Table 9. Results of the second round of frequency auction in Spain in 2011
Table 10. Results of the frequency auction for 800 MHz in Italy in 2008
Table 11. Results of the frequency auction in Portugal in 2011
Table 12. Results of the frequency auction in UK in 2013
Table 13. Results of the frequency auction in Sweden in 2011
Table 14. Pivot Table of “digital dividend” distribution in Europe
Table 15. Results of the frequency auction in South Korea in 2011.
Table 16. Results of the frequency auction in Hong Kong in 2012
Table 17. Frequencies that are put for auction in China in 2013.
Table 18. Results of the frequency auction in Australia in 2013
Table 19. The description of lots of the upcoming frequency auction in Taiwain
Table 20. The description of lots of the upcoming frequency auction in Macedonia
Table 21. The description of lots of the upcoming frequency auction in Czech Republic
Table 22. The possible frequency bands for LTE in the world
Table 23. Russian LTE operators, June 2013
Table 24. Events that goal is to “free” the frequency bands: 800 MHz and 2,5-2,7 GHz
Table 25. Smartphones supporting 4G in Russia
Table 26. Combination of frequencies for the optimal cooperation of capacity and LTE coverage by regions Table 27. Pros and cons of TD-LTE
Table 28. The network construction by Network Sharing principle in the world
Table 29. List of operators that launched hybrid network - TDD/FDD LTE
Table 30. Ways for realization of technological neutrality in Russia by bands




This Information Note is Prepared by J’son & Partners Consulting, We strive to provide factual and prognostic data that fully reflect the situation and are available to us before issuing the material. J’son & Partners Consulting reserves the right to revise the data after publication of new official information by the market players.