Russian media has reported that the country expects to begin the large-scale shuttering of 3G networks in 2023, with the technology set to be phased out almost entirely by 2025.
The Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG) stated that by 2025, 3G coverage was expected to be available only in specific areas with low subscriber density. TeleGeography noted that Rostelecom subsidiary Tele2 Russia has stated that it expects to have shut down its 3G offering before the end of 2025, while rival Beeline confirmed in 2019 that it would no longer invest in new 3G infrastructure. The operator has already shut down its 3G UMTS-2100 service in Moscow and replaced it with UMTS-900, freeing up base stations and allowing it to refarm the excess spectrum for 4G use.
Huawei Russia’s Dmitry Konarev told RG: “Disconnecting 3G networks is [easy] for a number of reasons: firstly, the main task of 3G networks – data transmission – is much better done by 4G networks, while voice can be redistributed between 2G networks and VoLTE networks. And secondly, 3G networks are much more complicated to plan and optimise in comparison with 2G and even 4G.”
ZTE Russia’s Tigran Poghosyan underlined the cost of 3G in comparison to other technologies, saying: “Firstly, user traffic and technologies have changed a lot since the deployment of 2G and 3G networks, and today it is more logical to use the available spectrum for promising 4G and 5G networks. Secondly, it is quite costly for operators to simultaneously serve all 2G / 3G / 4G / 5G technologies.”
Denis Kuskov, head of news agency Telecom Daily, noted that the spectrum could be better used for other purposes, saying: “The third generation of networks has played a huge role in the development of cellular communications. But now it is absolutely pointless. And unlike the second generation, which runs a lot of devices in the Internet of Things segment, various ATMs and counters where there is actual voice communication, it can be painlessly removed. in order to free up the frequencies.”
Leading operator MTS supported this idea, telling RG: “The timing of the transfer of frequencies occupied by the current standards to the needs of 4G and 5G will depend on the timing of the provision of frequencies for the development of fifth generation networks. As 5G networks are built, the 3G spectrum will be fully refarmed, and for the remaining 2G and LTE devices, there will be bands in ranges of 900MHz and 1800MHz.”