Four of Russia’s top telecom providers have joined forces with Yota, a wireless broadband start-up firm, in agreeing to share a nationwide wireless broadband network that will span 180 cities throughout the country. Parties to the agreement, signed last Thursday, include Russia’s top three wireless operators—Vimpelcom, MegaFon and Mobile TeleSystems—and state-owned fixed line carrier Rostelecom, which is branching out into mobile telephony. Yota, a venture owned 74.9% by private equity firm Teleconet Capital and 25.1% by the Russian Technologies State Corporation, was established just three years ago and has since launched wireless broadband operations that are based on the WiMax standard in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and three other Russian cities. A much larger broadband network currently under development by Yota, however, will be based on the fourth-generation (4G) long term evolution (LTE) standard. The new network is slated to serve half of the Russian population, and the pact covering that network is touted as the first infrastructure sharing arrangement of its kind in Russia. Although the agreement does not require the carriers to invest funds in the network, each of the four operators will be given the option to purchase a 20% stake in Yota at market prices when the shared LTE network commences operation in 2014. By that year, Yota is also expected to borrow as much as US$2 billion to finance network construction.