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Cellumapping in Ukraine: Exclusive Report!

Discussion in 'GENERAL Wireless Discussion' started by RadioRaiders, Apr 25, 2013.

  1. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    [​IMG]

    I just spent some time in Southern Ukraine and managed to do some Cellumapping, and thought I'd give a short report on the state of cellular in Ukraine.

    Ukraine has a slightly different situation compared to other European countries. To start with, their 2G (GSM) coverage is very good, and relatively affordable. Most "starter kits" (a SIM card with some call credit and about 500 MB free data per month) cost between 30-50 HR (less than $5 USD). Most offer some kind of free in-network calling as well for the first month, and then they start charging something like 2 HRV ($0.20) per day to keep it active. Calling out of network is always charged. If you are visiting for under 1 month, and will only use sporadic data (e-mail, short web-browsing, Cellumap, etc.) and call only in-network, then you won't have any need to buy any refills.

    The main 2G (GSM) providers are:

    Kievstar (Ukrainian company)
    MTC (now Russian owned, they took over a formerly a state run company)
    Life ;) (A Turkish owned company)

    If you want 3G the situation becomes a little strange. In Europe, most 3G (UMTS/HSPA) networks are run on 2100Mhz. When the Ukrainian government auctioned this frequency, no cellular network operators bid on it, because the price was considered too high. So as of 2013, none of the above established network operators run a 3G network, only 2G (!!). There was talk of Kievstar attempting to re-farm their 900MHz spectrum to squeeze in 3G, but at this point, they may just bypass 3G altogether and focus on building a 4G (LTE) network in the near future.

    There is actually ONE 3G UMTS operator on 2100MHz in Ukraine, and that is UkrTelecom's "OGO" branded network. Since UkrTelecom is state own, I guess they could afford to pay themselves for the license;) The coverage is however restricted only to densely populated areas. Outside of that you will roam on one of their 2G partners (Kievstar, I believe).

    UkrTelecom ("OGO" branded)

    In addition to the lone UMTS operator, there are at least 2 CDMA operators running a data-only network on 450Mhz. For this you need to buy a USB-dongle modem from the operator (about $40 or so). The coverage of these networks is better than UkrTelecom's 3G network, and the quality I assume is also better. However for a short stay, most visitors probably wouldn't want to go for this option. And this would only apply to laptop users with a USB port, can't really be used with a phone or tablet.

    Here's one picture of a typical busy building in Nikolaev:
    [​IMG]

    And now for some Cellumapping! Here is Kievstar's coverage of central Nikolaev. 2G coverage was very good, including deep in-doors, so site-to-site distance is good and dense. If they re-use the same sites for 3G or 4G they can build a good network on that. Call quality was good as well, but most 2G networks should be very stable and mature by now, so no surprise.

    [​IMG]

    In addition to my Kievstar SIM card, I had a second phone with a UkrTelecom SIM card to check out the 3G network. The coverage was not very good, but then it's running on 2100Mhz which won't provide as good coverage as the GSM 900 will. Keep in mind that the Cellumap data is mainly gathered while outside or in-car (GPS with under 100m accuracy is needed, so no deep-indoor plots can be made). So if you are considering in-door coverage, subtract another 10-20dB. Most outdoor UkrTelecom coverage was around -90dB, so going into a typical concrete building would norally leave you with either no or fringe signal (about -105dB needed for voice, and -110dB for data). The latency didn't feel too great for UkrTelecom either, but maybe I didn't use it extensively enoguh to really get a fee of it. In any case, the UkrTelecom 3G network seemed kind of sub-par compared to other European 3G networks.

    [​IMG]

    Here's the drive from Odessa airport to Nikolaev. It's not the signal strength displayed here, but instead the LAC (Location Area Code). The LAC is used for "paging" purposes. When somebody calls you, the network will page all cells within a LAC to find your phone. Every time you move out of a LAC, your phone informs the network of the new LAC.

    The first picture is of Kievstar. Note the airport has a different LAC than the surrounding area (the lone red dot to the left). Operators usually treat airports as special cases, because of the importance of snagging roamers, as well as the constant signalling going on with people switching on/off phones constantly.

    [​IMG]

    Here's UkrTelecom's 3G coverage between Odessa and Nikolaev. There was no coverage outside populated areas, so it's not as much info. UkrTelecom gave the airport the same LAC as the surrounding area. Actually, the airport didn't seem to have any dedicated 3G antennas, and had kind of a weak signal. Which is pretty strange, since most operators give airports a high priority (!)

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. Remensongalli

    Remensongalli New Member

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    Thanks for collecting and sharing with us this useful data. We get information about the cellular system of Ukraine and the service providers also. The rates of call and surfing are really affordable at Ukraine. But if we use other companies international Sim card then they will not provide the Ukraine based call rates. Some international Sim card service provider companies offer cheapest rates for voice and data.
     
  3. M in LA

    M in LA Mobile 25 Years Plus
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    RR, what would we do without you! Thank you for this!
     
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  4. JFB

    JFB Gold Senior Member
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    Very nice work!
     
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  5. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    simferopol_2014.jpg
    Here's one picture of a tower in Simferopol taken during the first few days of the Russian take-over of Crimea.
     
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  6. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    Ukraine has just now completed the auction for 3G (UMTS 2100Mhz). I don't know why they just didn't skip it and go directly to 4G? Oh well, better late than never...

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/turkc...-081457331.html;_ylt=AwrBJSA1bOxUxGIAHzPQtDMD
     
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  7. RadioRaiders

    RadioRaiders RF Black-Belt
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    A follow-up report....
    I was in Southern Ukraine a few weeks ago, and it looks like they rolled out 3G (HSPA) on 2100 in most of the major cities, and even along some roads. The latency looked pretty bad, typically around 400-800ms, but the connection worked well enough. But any real-time streaming like Skype probably won't be too good. In any case, considering the 3G license was only awarded about 1 year ago, I think they rolled out the 3G and got it up and working very fast.

    Kievstar and MTS are the two largest providers, and (Turkcell's) Life is trailing in 3rd place behind them. Life has only GSM on 1800 and was the last to come along, while Kievstar and MTS both have GSM on 900 and are more "established". In the city, MTS had better 3G coverage, I think because they took over some existing UkrTelecom 3G sites. On the rural roads, Kievstar had better 3G coverage (I only had 2 phones, so I didn't measure Life outside the city, but I'm sure they were worse than Kievstar and MTS)

    The packages are all priced about the same (Life was even slightly more expensive, for a less developed network). Rates are very cheap, especially for foreigners, since Ukraine's currency dropped by 3x since 2014 (when their conflict with Russia started). Starter SIM is about $2, and for $2/month you get a data package with 500MB and a bucket of calls/SMS.

    Since MTS is a 100% Russian-owned company, they have been trying to lose the Russian image and are re-branding themselves in Ukraine as "Vodafone", to appear more "Western", Kievstar is partly owned by Russia's Vimpelcom and Telenor (Norway),and Life is owned by Turkcell (Turkey)

    Kievstar UMTS City Coverage
    [​IMG]

    MTS UMTS City coverage
    [​IMG]
    Life UMTS City Coverage
    [​IMG]

    Kievstar Rural Coverage
    [​IMG]

    MTS Rural Coverage
    [​IMG]
     
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