MOSCOW Feb 8 Russia's newly appointed defence
minister offered to return a 4G licence awarded to Osnova
Telecom, 25 percent-owned by the ministry, under his predecessor
Anatoly Serdyukov who was sacked by President Vladimir Putin in
Osnova was founded in 2010 under Serdyukov, who is a witness
in an investigation into a suspected $100 million property fraud
involving a defence ministry company.
Russia's regulator allocated 4G frequencies to Osnova in
2011, bypassing top three mobile operators: MTS,
Vimpelcom and MegaFon. They were awarded
licences last summer, taking up all available spectrum and
beating out smaller competitors such as Tele2.
Now Osnova's rights to the frequencies, used to provide fast
mobile broadband, look likely to be re-allocated by auction.
The Defence Ministry owns 25 percent plus one share in
Osnova Telecom through state company Voentelekom. The remaining
stake is held by Icominvest, a company owned by Vitaly Yusufov,
the son of former Energy Minister Igor Yusufov.
Vitaly Yusufov could not immediately be reached for comment.
Osnova has not built its 4G network yet, while its rivals
are already investing in the roll-out which is expected to cost
them a total of 420 billion roubles ($14 billion).
In a letter to Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said he
saw it as inexpedient to build a 4G network, a spokeswoman for
the ministry said. The letter had received a positive response,