As the commander of the Estonian Defense Forces, General Martin Herem, admitted, Russia interferes with the operation of mobile communications on the territory of Estonia because it is preparing for a conflict with NATO.
Herem confirmed that in 2023 malfunctions of satellite navigation systems increased in the Baltic States. In addition, these activities have particularly intensified in recent months and have been reported from Finland to Poland and from there to the Black Sea region.
“Someone is causing this, and we think it’s Russia,” Herem said, adding that Moscow is “playing” with such disruptions against the backdrop of the risk of conflict with NATO.
The US Institute for the Study of War (ISW) also addressed Global Positioning System (GPS) interference in the Baltic region in its recent publication. The organization said the recent disruptions fueled speculation about the possible operation of Russian electronic warfare systems in the region.
At the same time, the governor of the Pskov region, Mikhail Vedernikov, makes it clear that Russia is going to fight Estonia on the telecommunications front.
He recently proposed to the relevant Russian authorities to revise the rules of electromagnetic radiation and abandon frequency use agreements in border areas. According to him, this is necessary in order to reduce the influence of the base stations of the communication operators of unfriendly countries in the border areas.
First of all, Vedernikov plans to fight against the so-called oppression of Russian mobile communications by Estonian operators. He believes that Estonian operators violate the signed agreements on the use of frequencies in border areas.
At the same time, in recent years, almost 100 more masts have been installed alongside the base stations that are already located in the small settlements of the Pskov region. On the Estonian side, such active construction has not taken place.
Despite this, Vedernikov believes that Russia has the world’s strictest standards for the power of mobile transmitters, which is why Estonian base stations are suppressing the Russian signal.
“The limit allowed in the USA and Europe is ten times higher,” Vedernikov said, adding that “the question is not so much about convenience, but about ensuring national and information security.”
He did not comment in more detail on which territory near the border would be threatened by foreign electromagnetic fields, but concluded that the implementation of international agreements should be suspended and the power of Russian transmitters should be increased several times.
Currently, all major mobile operators in the Pskov region – MTS, MegaFon, Beeline and Tele2 – can place their devices in the same base stations. Previously, each cell tower could be owned by only one operator. They now share infrastructure with each other.
In addition, the mobile communication companies of the Pskov region also use the technological infrastructure created by the largest Russian home internet operator “Rostelecom”. This means that Estonia’s frequencies with the whole world are disturbed in this way.
Estonian telecommunications companies have not commented on the current situation. For example, “Telia” explained that since this is a political issue, it is necessary to contact the Consumer Rights Protection and Technical Regulation Authority (TTJA).
“Usually, an agreement is reached which frequencies are used by one country and which by the other, then they do not cause radio interference to each other. Such an approach is standard international practice,” said Erko Kulu, head of the TTJA’s frequency management department, in a conversation with “Postimees”.
He added that the implementation of existing coordination agreements is regularly checked by both the Russian communications regulator and the Estonian communications regulator.
“In case of deviations, the neighboring country is informed and the distribution is adjusted,” explained Kulu. “From time to time there are deviations on both sides of the border, this is a normal phenomenon with radio frequencies in border areas, which happens with several neighboring countries,” he added.
Estonia’s official communications regulator has not yet received complaints from Russia about violations of the frequency agreement in border areas.
Residents of the border areas on the Estonian side are constantly in the zone of Russian mobile communications networks. In particular, tourists in Setoma are warned that they may accidentally get into the Russian border network. Local residents have known about this threat for a long time.