Kyrgyzstan shelves 5G trials but issues MegaCom 2300MHz licences

Kyrgyzstan shelves 5G trials but issues MegaCom 2300MHz licences

Kyrgyzstan’s regulator has issued two 2300MHz spectrum licences to the state-backed operator MegaCom while noting that the country’s 5G network pilots will be delayed.

MegaCom bid KGS116.87 million (US$1.38 million) for two licences in the 2300MHz-2400MHz TDD range in an auction held by the State Communications Agency (SCA), itself a subordinate unit of the State Committee for Information Technology & Communications.

The two licences will allow MegaCom to deliver coverage across Kyrgyzstan, with the notable exception of the capital Bishkek and second largest city Osh. MegaCom spent KGS77.92 million to acquire 40MHz of spectrum in the 2300MHz-2340MHz band, and KGS38.95 million for 20MHz in the 2380MHz-2400MHz band.

TeleGeography reports that MegaCom bid KGS5.56 million more than the combined reserve price for the two licences despite the SCA indicating that it was the only bidder, with a third available licence for 40MHz of spectrum in the 2340MHz-2380MHz band going unsold. The concession covered the Batken, Naryn and Talas regions and had a reserve price of KGS17.72 million.

The SCA sought to blame the pandemic for suspending the planned 5G network tests, although it also told local news outlet Tazabek that a campaign was underway to address “health concerns” among the public over the safety of 5G.

The 5G trials were first planned in December 2019, when the regulator assigned temporary spectrum licences to allow 5G testing in the 3300MHz-5000MHz range, in line with the country’s 2019-2023 Digital Transformation strategy.

In July 2020, the SCA confirmed that operators required specific permission to construct and run 5G network testing equipment, but added that an auction of 5G-capable frequencies would be considered pending successful testing.

In the same month, operators reported network equipment being vandalised due to public fears over 5G. This prompted the SCA to launch a campaign to quell misinformation with peer-reviewed scientific evidence.

It is unclear whether this is the main factor behind the delays, but the SCA has informed Tazabek that it has “not yet determined” when 5G networks will likely be deployed in Kyrgyzstan.