An invited audience of representatives of 100 telecom operators, manufacturers and administrators heard yesterday how the Ukraine stands to benefit from the launch of 3G/UMTS mobile broadband services.
Co-hosted by Ukrainian incumbent operator Ukrtelecom and the UMTS Forum, the 3G Strategic Leadership Seminar presented a roadmap to third generation for Ukraine's mobile market - the most dynamic in Central/Eastern Europe. Demand is growing fast, particularly in urban areas, with subscriptions to Ukraine's networks growing by more than 100% between March 2005 and March 2006. Ukrainian mobile subscribers exceeded 33 million by March 2006, with SIM penetration averaging more than 70%.
The audience was welcomed with remarks by Georgiy Butenko, Director, State Department of Communications and Information of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Ukraine.
The seminar also featured an opening address by Igor Syrotenko, Deputy Chairman of the Board for Marketing & Sales, JSC Ukrtelecom.
"Ukretelecom's plans for the development of its third generation mobile network are divided into some stages", said Mr. Syrotenko. "As a preliminary stage, the choice of network architecture and the equipment supplier will be made. Then we will construct the network in Kiev. The next stages will expand this network to the other regions of Ukraine. Implementation of this mobile project by such an operator as Ukrtelecom is notable, not just due to the technology but to the fact that Ukrtelecom has the largest fixed line customer base all over Ukraine. We have more than 10 million lines and up to 30 million subscribers to our fixed telephony service".
Victor Pinchuk, CTO of the Utel Branch of Ukrtelecom JSC, outlined the operator's business plans for 3G/UMTS, basing projections on the commercial introduction of services in 2007. Launching initially in Kiev followed by coverage in four major cities and subsequent regional roll-out, Ukrtelecom is targeting more than 4 million 3G/UMTS subscribers by 2010, increasing to over 9 million by 2013.
"It's time for growth markets like Ukraine to think right now about the timely deployment of 3G/UMTS, initially in urban centres", noted UMTS Forum Chairman Jean-Pierre Bienaim. "In a dynamic market where we are seeing steady migration from fixed to mobile-derived revenues, it makes sense for operators to capitalize on this increasing demand with a new generation of mobile multimedia services that 3G/UMTS enables."
Bienaim suggested that 3G/UMTS can serve mobile users as an 'incremental evolution' from other GSM-based networks. "Ukraine's mobile operators are already giving their customers a first taste of mobile broadband services via EDGE" noted Bienaim. "As a next step it's logical to introduce 3G/UMTS in densely populated urban centres, with EDGE providing complementary coverage in rural areas.
Other seminar presentations delivered by 3G operators and vendors focused on HSPA (High Speed Packet Access), Mobile broadcasting, 3G Long Term Evolution and the need for sufficient harmonised spectrum to satisfy projected demand for mobile broadband services over the next decade and beyond.
While Ukraine's first phase of 3G/UMTS and HSPA deployments will occupy core spectrum bands in the 2GHz range, presentations from the UMTS Forum's Spectrum Aspects Group raised the longer-term possibility of using "extension" spectrum bands in the 500 MHz region to offer lower-cost coverage in outlying rural areas of low population.
Ukraine has not yet launched 3G/UMTS services, one license has already been awarded to incumbent Ukrtelecom, and the operator has previously announced plans to invest US$700m into 3G/UMTS over the next 5 years. Six vendors have approached the Ukrainian Regulator with applications to build a trial 3G/UMTS network operating in the so-called "core band" of frequencies in the 2GHz range. It's also anticipated that three additional national 3G/UMTS licenses will be awarded by the Ukrainian regulator by early 2007.
UMTS Forum members can view seminar presentations here