“5G Internet opens up a fundamentally new level of opportunities,” said Acting CEO of MegaFon Sergey Soldatenkov. Mr. Soldatenkov spoke to Kommersant FM’s political analyst Dmitry Drize during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.
— How are you doing today? Is there a lot to discuss on the sidelines?
I’m in a great mood, and not only because this is my city (I’m from St. Petersburg), it’s sunny, and there is an economic forum underway. I’m also in a great mood because this morning we used our network to demonstrate the future of the so-called 5G technology. The mobile Internet speed reached 1Gbps.
This is truly fantastic! This is the goal that we have been consistently working toward. We have always said that we are a leader in data transmission speed. Six years ago we were the first to build a 3G network. Four years ago, we launched the first 4G network in Russia. Last year, we demonstrated a speed of 450 Mbps, which is already 4.5G. Now, we are inching toward 5G. The set of standards has not been developed yet. We are taking part in developing them. Of course, this network will change the way people live, since this kind of speed will allow people to move to a different model of consumption of services and “heavy” content. The fact that we were the first to do this is, of course, a great honor and joy for us. It is especially nice that the event coincided with our birthday — MegaFon is turning 23 tomorrow. It was born in Petersburg, and later became a nation-wide operator.
— Could you tell us how much you spent on this project?
Investments in this specific project were mostly covered by our investments into the development of 4G infrastructure. We didn’t change any of the major parameters. Our bandwidth, which is unique in Russia as of right now, allows us to add frequencies together in order to generate these high speeds. Of course, there were minor expenses associated with our partnerships with Huawei and Qualcomm, which demonstrated this speed together with us.
— So when do you get your return, when do you expect results?
In the future, of course. The commercial project will begin no sooner than 2019. The set of standards will only be finalized in 2018, including international standards. And we can only calculate the parameters after this is done. Of course, we are going to invest in technology development in big cities, where there is demand for the consumption of heavy content.
It’s tough to estimate investment volumes right now. It will depend on both how much the equipment that we purchase costs and on how much the device that supports the network will cost. Remember how much the first phones with mobile Internet used to cost when they first came out? One or two thousand dollars. Now you can get a smartphone for $100. This is all part of the return on investment into the network.
— In general, how are you doing in terms of profit and what is your take on the market? Has the crisis affected you?
The crisis has affected everybody, and this is obvious if you look at the statements of all the operators. Growth has almost entirely stopped, but there is no internal panic in telecom. In my opinion, telecommunications is a fairly stable industry. It doesn’t grow. Formats of consumption change, there is a lot of competition, but it is stable because we work with clients for whom connection, data transmission and Internet are simply vital.
— You haven’t seen customer churn due to the crisis?
I’m not going to comment on MegaFon’s experience, but I will say that customer churn is something that every operator experienced in the first quarter.
— We had MTS here and they said things were going well, that profits were good.
It’s always a pleasure to praise competitors when they are doing something more effectively. Perhaps this is the case here. But I can neither confirm nor deny this information.
— What is the most promising area right now in terms of payoff, in your opinion?
I’m afraid that the answer to this question is something that operators all over the world are struggling to find an answer to. The telecom sector has changed in Russia and internationally, and all of us are looking for new solutions and approaches.
— What is your joint project with Rosseti, what do you plan on doing?
A number of companies are already beginning to understand the role of M2M services (machine-to-machine) play in terms of consolidating processes, optimizing expenses and improving operating efficiency. We plan on creating a data collection system with Rosseti. It will be processed by MegaFon and handed back over to Rosseti, which, in turn, will enable us to cut down on the number of emergencies that occur on their sites. Essentially, this entails using M2M to manage their network. We have already created a pilot project that proved to be efficient and are now approaching the strategic partnership stage.
I must say that the M2M market in Russia is developing. In just a year, MegaFon increased the number of SIM cards operating in M2M by 25%. This is a point of growth for us and is a truly interesting area of focus. Right now we have about 2 million M2M SIM cards and a series of M2M projects. There are “smart cities,” like what we did in Sochi, “smart transport,” and now we want to move into “smart power.” We are ready to support all future areas of focus with our technology.
There is a special center that manages our entire network in Saint Petersburg. Information from all Rosseti points will be transferred here, processed and transmitted back to them. This way, we are helping them optimize their processes and eliminate human error. I hope that we will be able to do this in real networks in the future.
Source: Kommersant FM