Domestic mobile operators are exploring the opportunity to use the equipment made by Indian, Israeli and Turkish manufacturers in their networks. These products mainly meet the existing requirements, but their compatibility with Russian networks is limited, operators point out. They assure that foreign manufacturers are ready to invest in further development of the products needed. However, experts note that in any case, second-tier suppliers will try to avoid advertising their cooperation with Russian companies and can face challenges when providing integrated solutions.
Russian network operators have started testing base stations made by Indian, Chinese (in addition to key suppliers, that is, ZTE and Huawei) and Israeli manufacturers, according to Alexander Sivolobov, deputy head of the Skoltech-based NTI Center of Excellence in Wireless Technologies and the Internet of Things. “Such products remain a fallback option for operators and stimulate Russian manufacturers to develop and release decent solutions.”
For example, in mid-2022 and early 2023, OTK LLC registered a certificate allowing it to receive base station deliveries from the JRC (Japan), HTC Corporation (Taiwan) and Telrad (Israel) vendors.
MegaFon confirmed that the company is now testing solutions developed in certain countries “for equipment capabilities.” “We’ve looked into the telecommunications equipment made by Indian, Chinese and Turkish manufacturers, and tested some samples,” Tele2 said. It was added that “in general, there are product lines that meet technical network requirements.” The problem of compatibility with the existing equipment is yet to be solved, but “foreign vendors express the readiness to work with Russia and invest in the development of the products needed,” Tele2 stated. MTS and VimpelCom have refused to comment.
In 2022, following the beginning of the military operation in Ukraine, leading telecommunications equipment makers, Nokia, Ericsson and Huawei, stopped deliveries of base stations to the Russian market but have been supporting the existing equipment. By the end of 2022, instable deliveries resulted in a decrease of 60 % year-over-year in the number of new base stations installed by Russian operators.
“Mobile operators have enough stocks for several years,” Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Chernyshenko told TASS on January 19. However, there are no domestic base stations in Russia. The Yadro company, which is one of the parties responsible for applying the government’s roadmap for developing mobile networks and has already entered into forward contracts with MegaFon, VimpelCom and Rostelecom, is an equipment developer. Serial production is expected to start in 2025.
The main downfall of the equipment made by the so-called second-tier suppliers from China, India, Israel and some other countries is that it requires further development, explains Mr. Sivolobov. “There are concerns about the support and training of professionals, the level of performance reliability and stability, and the adaptation to Russian operating conditions.”
The expert also stresses that the installation of such equipment in domestic networks will result in a notable increase in operators’ spending: “To compensate for all the shortcomings, excessive duplication and frequent replacement will be needed, which will inevitably affect the cost of services.”
There are some second-tier telecommunications equipment vendors that can be interested in delivering solutions to Russia in order to occupy the niche that is being freed up by market leaders, notes Alexey Boyko, MForum analyst. However, “it’s unlikely that they will want to advertise their cooperation with Russian clients in the current situation.”
Mr. Boyko also warns that, for instance, Indian or Israeli vendors do not have much experience in developing integrated mobile network solutions and supporting foreign mobile operators. Therefore, the expert doubts that their products could fully replace those of leading makers, whose equipment makes up 90 % of all base stations installed in Russia.