Posted 27 декабря 2022,, 14:50
Published 27 декабря 2022,, 14:50
Modified 27 декабря 2022,, 15:02
Updated 27 декабря 2022,, 15:02
A given for today: after stopping shipments of foreign equipment, the quality of mobile communications is falling, and operators are once again preparing to increase the cost of their services. Since last month, the Big Three has been sending out notifications to customers about tariff increases unilaterally, by an average of 10-20%.
The need to change prices is explained by inflation, the rise in price of equipment and technologies up to 40% and problems with its maintenance.
What do we have with the communications infrastructure after the introduction of multi-stage sanctions against the industry in Russia?
About 70% of GSM, 3G and LTE networks of domestic telecom operators are built on Nokia and Ericsson equipment. After the largest Western manufacturers of telecom equipment and microelectronics suspended shipments, Chinese Huawei remained the main supplier in the country.
However , supplies from China was soon also partially frozen due to the risk assessment of secondary sanctions. In addition, a significant part of the Chinese equipment uses the component base of American manufacturers, which is now also unavailable for Russian companies.
By the end of 2021, the volume of investments of the largest companies in information and communication technologies in Russia amounted to more than 500 billion rubles. About 50% of them are expenses for the purchase of equipment, 95% of which are expenses for the purchase of foreign solutions that have no domestic analogues, said the commission of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP).
Since April, a shortage has been accumulating in the supply of switching equipment, equipment for IT infrastructure and radio access networks, which forms the basis for the functioning of communication networks. The equipment used continues to wear out, approaching the point of no return. Market experts predicted the onset of the first serious failures by the summer of 2022 — both mobile communications and the Internet.
"The sanctions imposed may lead to accelerated degradation of the communications and broadcasting infrastructure, disruption of their stability, deterioration of the quality of voice communication services and access to Internet services for our citizens. The above circumstances are fully present when organizing the work of technological communication networks of railway transport," the commission said at the end of March.
The RSPP report on communications and IT also says that the cost of telecom hardware may rise by another 80% in the near future.
In March, it became known that the Megafon operator company was excluded from the GSMA International Association of Mobile Operators for unknown reasons, where it had been since 1995. One of the activities of the association is the development of technological standards. It consists of more than a thousand companies, including major Russian operators MTS, Beeline and Tele2.
The government then developed a set of measures to support mobile operators. First of all, companies were allowed to raise tariffs freely in proportion to inflation. The telecommunications business was exempted from fulfilling the requirements of the "Spring package", according to which Russian operators had to store all conversations, sent media content and SMS users for the special services. In compliance with this law, the operators initially purchased storage facilities and planned to increase their capacity by 15% annually. According to MTS data for 2020, for example, the operator's expenses for the implementation of the law from 2018 to 2023 were estimated at 50 billion rubles.
In total, according to RSPP estimates, operator costs have increased from 390 billion rubles in 2021 to 450 billion rubles by the end of 2022.
Among other announced support is a reduction in the income tax rate from 20 to 3%, preferential lending at a rate of up to 3% per annum.
Also, operators were allowed to postpone the construction of fourth-generation cellular networks (LTE) in small settlements and along federal highways. Previously, there was a requirement to provide 4G Internet to all settlements with a population of 1,000 people by September 2024.
The RSPP Commission, in turn, believes that these measures are not enough. The Union sent a proposal to the Government of the Russian Federation to reduce the fee for the radio frequency spectrum by 50%, reduce the property tax fee to zero for companies, and exempt employees from paying income taxes.
In addition, the industry suffers from a huge outflow of IT specialists abroad. According to the RSPP commission, the number of highly qualified personnel involved in the field may be reduced by a third. Due to the deterioration of the financial situation, telecom operators, for their part, are forced to reduce their already thinned staff. By the end of the year, the "release" may amount to 15-20%, experts say.
The Ministry of Finance denied the occurrence of communication problems after the departure of Nokia and Ericsson: "there are no prerequisites for failures."
"Representatives of the Ministry hold regular meetings with telecom operators and representatives of the IT industry, assess the situation on the market and, if necessary, take measures to support the efficiency of enterprises. Business receives whole packages of support measures from the state. This applies to all industries overseen by the Ministry of Finance, " they said in a comment to RBC.
The other day, on December 21, the Ministry of Finance once again promised that the quality of mobile communications will remain the same, despite the departure of foreign suppliers. Earlier, Reuters reported that in the long term, Russian subscribers will face difficulties when connecting calls and downloading data.
Of course, there will be difficulties in the planned replacement and supply of equipment in the conditions of sanctions. If the sanctions are tightened, there will be a subsidence, but it is unlikely to be critical, judging by the already accumulated experience of parallel import and import substitution. In addition, the business itself always strives to optimize and "compact" the use of existing equipment. In addition to technical reasons, the quality of communication is affected by the economics of processes, explains Pavel Zubenko, general designer of the Triline Systems development company. Providers, like any commercial companies, strive to increase profits — it is achieved here due to the growth of the subscriber base. In a mobile network, as in any multi-user system, there is a certain planned "overbooking": the capacity is calculated taking into account a certain coefficient of subscriber activity, since by default it is assumed that even at peak load, the probability that all clients will start communicating at once is extremely small. However, with the growth of the subscriber base, hardware capabilities should also grow. With unchanged capacities, a situation of "planned" overflow occurs, the activity coefficient increases, this leads to an overload of the system and, as a result, to a decrease in the quality of communication — interruptions, interference, deterioration in voice connections, etc.
— The safety margin of the network is an issue that telecom operators pay special attention to, as they count on a constant increase in mobile traffic consumption. Today in Russia, a number of operators have managed to modernize their networks, respectively, they will have a higher margin of safety, this is a serious competitive advantage. In 2021, for example, traffic volume increased by 31%. It was better to prepare for this in advance," says Yulia Arkhipova, head of the Space Technologies Consortium.
What else worsens the quality of the Internet? The approaching trend is to move away from all types of unlimited. The process will be gradual, but it is assumed that sooner or later all operators will come to this. For this reason, even today, those who use unlimited Internet, note a drop in speed, but if the subscriber has a specific tariff offer, there is no such problem, the expert notes.
Another reason for the deterioration of cellular communication is the not—too‑publicized "friendship" of mobile networks with high technologies: voice traffic often goes not over the cellular network, but over the high-speed Internet, via "fast" Wi-Fi, today it is ubiquitous. But for operators of such networks, voice communication problems are far from a priority, so the quality of calls drops. A little trick of cellular companies is easy to recognize — for example, if the Voice over Wi‑Fi or VoWiFi icon is lit in the "Status" line in your phone, it means that the economical Voice over IP technology is currently being used, and the cellular network is being unloaded. The function of voice communication via Wi‑Fi can be disabled in the smartphone settings and thereby improve the quality of communication, explains Pavel Zubenko.
Finally, in Russia, as in the whole world, there is a certain and rather significant proportion of priority subscribers — special services, government agencies, etc. In conditions of high network load, as is usually the case in the centers of large cities, traffic is first provided to "privileged" users, which is why other customers experience failures, perhaps privileged customers have increased demand for communication in recent months, Zubenko notes.
— Problems with the equipment appeared four months ago. The equipment that provides technical support for operational activities — listening to calls, conversations in messengers and social networks, viewing messages — is gradually failing. There are no budgets for new equipment and details, you have to mine yourself and buy at your own expense, often even getting into the "black market", including difficulties with the equipment necessary for the execution of the "Spring Package" — storing all user traffic," says a source of NI, who wished to remain confidential.
If employees of federal law enforcement agencies have to restore supply chains on their own, you can imagine what is happening with civil communications. Communications, cellular operators, as well as airplanes, as railway transport, are going through a period of cannibalism — they remove spare parts from one equipment in order to repair a similar one. However, there is nothing to replace it with. Great hopes are pinned on China and Taiwan, but it is still unknown when this reorientation in supplies will come. Whole blocks of equipment need to be changed now, the source adds.
— The withdrawal of foreign companies from the Russian market after the strengthening of sanctions really affected the quality of communication. Yes, there are new "failures" of the mobile Internet where they did not exist before — check in your apartment or office — "failures" appear in new places, despite the fact that the coverage areas remained the same, and the speed of the mobile Internet in Russia has even grown. There are, of course, forecasters who say that the state of mobile communications will leave much to be desired in the very near future, and, for example, the coverage area of communications will return to the 1990s, but I think this is an exaggeration," says Yulia Arkhipova.
The expert believes that the Russian market today is able to offer successful solutions — from new telecommunications equipment and software that allows various parts of the network to function smoothly, to new generation satellites that can be used to provide communications.
— The construction of new plants without taking into account real Russian developments, and worse, attempts to adapt to old imported equipment without having access to constantly updated software are simply money in the wind. The tendency not to notice real domestic developments is generally our sore spot. Easier (more profitable?) to push through an unpopular solution with huge budgets and then report losses, than to take ready-made technologies and implement them without remaining on the technological sidelines. It is necessary not to draw new projects in Dubna, but to scratch, as they say, on the sousek — and what technologies are Russian developers and private companies ready to offer today? — There are definitely such solutions, — says Aripova.
The purchased equipment for repair and replacement, of course, will come to an end, so now it is important to prepare for the next years, as stocks in warehouses, of course, will run out. So far, there is a small reserve for maintaining networks, and for their development, the expert adds.
In any case (with the exception of causing physical damage to all available equipment), conclusions about the degradation of mobile communications and all comparisons with the difficult year 2022 should be made no earlier than the second quarter of 2023, while everything is functioning on "old yeast", experts agree.