Skoltech and FSBI NIIR, subordinate to the Ministry of Digital Development, will receive more than 30 billion rubles until 2025 for research on a new 6G communication standard, despite the fact that 5G networks have not been launched in Russia, Kommersant reported . Specialists from the information and analytical agency TelecomDaily told The Insider that Rostec was never able to create equipment for 5G networks, so the strategy has changed, while someone can make money on the study of sixth generation communications right now.
TelecomDaily CEO Denis Kuskov
Kuskov claims that there is no fifth generation of 5G mobile communications in Russia and, most likely, will not be. The main problem is related to the fact that the Russian government at one time decided to create its own cellular communication equipment, but nothing happened.
He recalled that Rostec presented a prototype of equipment in 2021, but it did not fit the operators. Now there is no equipment for current networks, and this forced Rostec to change its strategy instead of finishing the already started equipment for 5G and manufacturing it for 4G. According to Kuskov, frequencies are the second problem.
“Our main frequencies belong to the Ministry of Defense, and the frequencies that operators needed to deploy fifth generation networks were not issued to them. The problem is that the development of the process goes through each generation. Now we are trying to jump over the fifth generation, which is not just launched all over the world, and go to the sixth. There are several questions here: will we be able to make the sixth generation by jumping over the fifth, and what prevented us from creating a device before?
Russia is investing 30 billion rubles in 6G research, but it may not appear in the world until 2027-2028, the expert notes. Kuskov added that now the quality of cellular networks is slowly deteriorating, because there is no equipment. He expressed doubt that Rostec will create equipment that will be coordinated with Huawei, Ericsson or Nokia. At the same time, without entering the fifth generation, in 2-3 years Russia will get a sufficient number of problems related to the quality of services provided by current technologies. He concluded that it is necessary to develop 5G, and 6G communication is a further perspective.
TelecomDaily analyst Ilya Shatilin
5G networks are now, in principle, developed and standardized, there is subscriber equipment for them, while sixth-generation networks are the prospect of the 2030s, Shatilin believes. In order to launch them, you need to start developing them now, because 5G networks began to be developed in the early 2010s to launch commercially in the 20s.
“This is a very convenient story like “let’s develop something that will be in the future in ten years,” because you can get money now and start developing it, but no one knows what the result will be in ten years. Such long-term projects certainly allow you to receive investments without much control. Someone is making money off of this.”
5G networks in Russia could have been launched even earlier, in 2019-2020, adds Shatilin. According to him, they were not allowed to launch “under the sauce of import substitution”: they were allowed to build fifth-generation networks only on Russian equipment, which was never released. He also recalled Rostec's promises to start serial production of equipment in 2023. But while it is not there, there will be no networks. At the same time, the situation has nothing to do with the war in Ukraine and sanctions, the analyst emphasizes, since import substitution has been actively promoted since 2014.
“It is one thing to replace some kind of cheese, and another thing is infrastructure equipment, which is very important from a security point of view. If the infrastructure equipment is built on foreign suppliers, then we will see what we see now, when the networks work in principle, but it is difficult to maintain and expand them.”
Shatilin acknowledged the problems with the frequencies, noting that the operators were offered frequencies of 4.8-4.99 GHz. According to him, such a range is used in a very small number of countries and the equipment for it is twice as expensive as for the 3.4-3.6 GHz band, in which 5G networks operate in Europe and most countries of the world. The range, under which there are many smartphones and in which it is much cheaper to build 5G networks, was not allocated because it is occupied by the military. They are not going to clear this range, because the Ministry of Defense needs it more, the expert said.
The specialist said that at the end of 2021 in Russia, for the first time in ten years, the data transfer rate in 4G networks decreased, because traffic is growing, and the range can only be expanded through 5G. In 4G, it is possible to compact and increase the number of base stations, Shatilin notes, but this is no longer economically feasible. 5G could be a way out, but it is not, so speeds continue to fall, and operators have massively canceled unlimited tariffs for mobile Internet and are trying to “squeeze out” subscribers from old tariffs.
Now there is no equipment in mass quantities, moreover, in each region and each operator, equipment from different manufacturers. For example, Beeline has Ericsson equipment in Moscow, and Nokia equipment in St. Petersburg. In order to expand this network, where Nokia is located, you need to install Nokia, and where Ericsson is, you need to install Ericsson. “You can't just take and add Russian equipment there, because the networks are mono-vendor. There is nothing special to expand existing networks due to sanctions and the lack of equipment supplies,” Shatilin explained.
Lead Analyst at Mobile Research Group Eldar Murtazin
Murtazin agreed that it is impossible to skip 5G and immediately make 6G, 7G and so on, 5G must first appear in Russia. According to him, money is needed to work on the next generation standard, since 5G has already been de facto developed and is now being commercially exploited and implemented.
“At the moment, we are talking about the fact that the development of 6G is starting all over the world, these are working groups, and it is necessary to participate in them, it was the same with 5G. We, as a country, are now working on 6G, and this is primarily not technology or hardware, but legal documents, this is the harmonization of legislation, this is the study of what equipment operates at these frequencies, how it intersects with current legislation, communication licenses, how it works roaming and so on.
The expert believes that it will take about 6-7 years or more. There will be no jump, bypassing 5G, Murtazin notes. At the same time, 5G, according to him, will be in Russia in 2-3 years, as soon as an economic model appears to justify investing in 5G, which is not currently "neither in China, nor in America, nor anywhere else." There will be no problems with equipment for the implementation of 5G due to sanctions, Murtazin assured. He concluded that there will be no drop in quality if the supply situation normalizes by December.