Russian mobile internet speeds dropped in regions outside Moscow in February, research from news and analysis firm Telecom Daily showed on Wednesday, as the departure of foreign equipment makers limited operators' access to hardware.
The country's largest telecoms operators, including MTS and Megafon disputed the research, saying they had noted increased speeds in February, both in Moscow and beyond.
Senior telecoms executives and other industry sources told Reuters late last year that the departure of telecoms gear makers Nokia and Ericsson may cripple the country's mobile networks over the long term and lead to a deterioration in communication for Russians.
Leading industry publication Telecom Daily, citing data based on the "results of tens of thousands of measurements" carried out by users of the 'Megabitus' internet speed tracking tool, said Moscow experienced a 32% year-on-year increase in average mobile internet speed, while other regions of the country saw a 7% decline.
Telecom Daily, which has published news and analysis on the sector for 20 years, attributed the decline to equipment shortages and the tendency of mobile operators to install new base stations in bigger cities, where demand for their services is highest.
It also said a fall in mobile internet traffic in Moscow had contributed to a rise in speeds there.
"Any connection problems in Moscow or St Petersburg could become a source of serious image problems for an operator," Telecom Daily CEO Denis Kuskov said. "And, conversely, no one will notice if the speed drops by 20%-30% in a distant district."
MTS said it had noted increased traffic and mobile internet speeds in the regions, recording no decrease.
"MTS is constantly working to expand network capacity, and telecoms operators and regulators are engaged in dialogue aimed at removing administrative barriers and stimulating the industry's development," it said.
Rival Megafon said the median mobile internet speed on its network in regions excluding Moscow was 14% higher in February year-on-year, and up 18.5% in the capital.
Other major operators Tele2 and Beeline, and Russia's digital ministry, did not respond to requests for comment.