Unlike our last two reports, this time MTS has made its presence felt as it has forced Tele2 to share the Games Experience and Voice App Experience awards. Also, MegaFon has reclaimed sole control of the Video Experience award and Tele2 is also no longer a joint winner. Similarly, MegaFon wins the Upload Speed Experience award outright, stripping Beeline of its only joint victory.
In contrast to the rapidly changing situation seen in our speed and experiential awards, our two measures of the extent of 4G networks have seen no change in award ownership since our first report on the Russian mobile network experience. Tele2 is now the outright winner of the 4G Availability Award for three reports in a row, while MTS has achieved the same feat for 4G Coverage Experience. In addition, in this report Tele2’s 4G Availability score rose back above the 85% mark and it is the only operator in this report with a score that meets or exceeds this milestone.
The average download speeds observed by our Russian users rose by 0.3-1.5 Mbps depending on their choice of operator and MegaFon’s lead has increased slightly from 6.1 Mbps to at least 6.3 Mbps. This is the third report in a row in which MegaFon has been the outright winner of the Download Speed Experience award.
Turning to developments in the Russian mobile market, MTS launched a large-scale 5G pilot network in in 14 locations in Moscow in
March using the 4.9 GHz band and announced its plans to expand the pilot to St. Petersburg and Yekaterinburg later this year. More recently, the country’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) gave its preliminary consent in May to an agreement proposed by MegaFon, Beeline, Rostelecom (Tele2’s parent company) and Rostelecom’s Bashtel subsidiary for the joint development of 5G networks.
One factor that will complicate Russia’s 5G rollout is the fact that the majority of the 3.4-3.8 GHz spectrum is allocated to satellite communications for government agencies. The telecoms ministry has proposed that the current 3.5GHz fixed-wireless licences will be returned ahead of refarming for initial 5G licences, potentially in 2021 in a limited range before the freeing up of the wider 3.4GHz-3.8GHz band at a later unknown date.
It is worth noting that MTS is the only Russian operator with a commercial licence for new 5G spectrum that is not suited to 4G or 3G — it holds a five-year 24.25GHz-24.65GHz mmWave concession across 83 regions, which was awarded in July 2020. For those readers interested in understanding mmWave’s capabilities Opensignal recently analyzed the mmWave mobile experience in the U.S. and found that our users reported average download speeds of 232.7-692.9 Mbps while connected to mmWave 5G, depending on their choice of operator, but users across all three operators spent less than 1% of their time connected to mmWave 5G.
In this report, we've analyzed our data gathered in the 90 day period beginning February 1 and ending May 1, 2021, to see how Russia’s four national operators — Beeline, MegaFon, MTS and Tele2 — measure up.