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Communications in Russia

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Communications in Russia

Russia was among the first countries to introduce radio and television. Due to the enormous size of the country Russia leads in the number of TV broadcast stations and repeaters. There were few channels in the Soviet time, but in the past two decades many new state-run and private-owned radio stations and TV channels appeared.

The telecommunications system in Russia have undergone significant changes since the 1980s, resulting in more than 1,000 companies licensed to offer communication services today. The foundation for liberalization of broadcasting was laid by the decree signed by the President of the USSR in 1990. Telecommunication is mainly regulated through the Federal Law "On Communications" and the Federal Law "On Mass Media"

The Soviet-time "Ministry of communications of the RSFSR" was through 1990s transformed to "Ministry for communications and informatization" and in 2004 it was renamed to "Ministry of information technologies and communications (Mininformsvyazi)", and since 2008 Ministry of Communications and Mass Media.

Russia is served by an extensive system of automatic telephone exchanges connected by modern networks of fiber-optic cable, coaxial cable, microwave radio relay, and a domestic satellite system; cellular telephone service is widely available, expanding rapidly, and includes roaming service to foreign countries. Fiber to the x infrastructure has been expanded rapidly in recent years, principally by regional players including Southern Telecom Company, SibirTelecom, ER Telecom and Golden Telecom. Collectively, these players are having a significant impact of fiber broadband in regional areas, and are enabling operators to take advantage of consumer demand for faster access and bundled services.

Early history

Retrospectively, "networking" of "data" in the Russian language can be traced to the spread of mail and journalism in Russia, and information transfer by technical means came to Russia with the telegraph and radio (besides, a 1837 sci-fi novel Year 4338, by the 19th-century Russian philosopher Vladimir Odoevsky, contains predictions such as "friends' houses are connected by means of magnetic telegraphs that allow people who live far from each other to talk to each other" and "household journals" "having replaced regular correspondence" with "information about the hosts’ good or bad health, family news, various thoughts and comments, small inventions, as well as invitations"[1]).

Computing systems became known in the USSR by the 1950s. Starting from 1952, works were held in the Moscow-based Institute of Precision Mechanics and Computer Engineering (headed by Sergei Lebedev) on automated missile defense system which used a "computer network" which calculated radar data on test missiles through central machine called M-40 and was interchanging information with smaller remote terminals about 100—200 kilometers distant.[2] The scientists used several locations in the USSR for their works, the largest was a massive test range to the West from Lake Balkhash. In the meantime amateur radio users all over USSR were conducting "P2P" connections with their comrades worldwide using data codes. Later, a massive "automated data network" called Express was launched in 1972 to serve needs of Russian Railways.

From early 1980s the All Union Scientific Research Institute for Applied Computerized Systems (VNIIPAS) was working to implement data connections over the X.25 telephone protocol. A test Soviet connection to Austria in 1982 existed, in 1982 and 1983 there were series of "world computer conferences" at VNIIPAS initiated by the U. N. where USSR was represented by a team of scientists from many Soviet Republics headed by biochemist Anatoly Klyosov; the other participating countries were UK, USA, Canada, Sweden, FRG, GDR, Italy, Finland, Philippines, Guatemala, Japan, Thailand, Luxembourg, Denmark, Brazil and New Zealand.[3]

Also, in 1983 the San Francisco Moscow Teleport (SFMT) project was started by VNIIPAS and an American team which included George Soros. It resulted in the creation in the latter 80s of the data transfer operator SovAm (Soviet-American) Teleport. Meanwhile, on April 1, 1984 a Fool's Day hoax about "Kremlin computer" Kremvax was made in English-speaking Usenet. There are reports of spontaneous Internet (UUCP and telnet) connections "from home" through X.25 in the USSR in as early as 1988. In 1990 a GlasNet non-profit initiative by the US-based Association for Progressive Communications sponsored Internet usage in several educational projects in the USSR (through Sovam).

1998 financial crisis

When the Russian economy’s collapse came about in August 1998, the market shrank drastically and the ruble fell several cellular operators were squeezed between low traffic and huge foreign currency denominated credits and telecommunications equipment bills. In 1998, prepaid subscriptions were made at a loss and infrastructure investments fell. NMT450 operator Moscow Cellular communications was hardest hit due to its about 50% corporate users. The 1998 crisis also caused many regional operators tariff and payment problems with accumulated debt to vendors; large debts were restructured and foreign investors lost out.[4]


Ministry of Communications and Mass Media

The Ministry of Communications and Mass Media is responsible for establishing and enforcing state policy in the sphere of electronic and postal communications, for promulgating the development and introduction of new information and communication technologies, and for coordinating the work of other state agencies in this area.

State Duma Commission onf Mass Media

The State Duma Committee for mass media is charged by the legislative branch with supervision of the broadcasting industry. The Committee develops mass media-related draft laws, and provides expert analysis of laws submitted by other Duma committees regarding their compliance with current media law.


Telephones – main lines in use: 44.152 million (2011)

Telephones – mobile cellular: 236.7 million (2011)

The telephone systems in the 60 regional capitals have modern digital infrastructures; cellular services, both analog and digital, are available in many areas. In the rural areas, the telephone services are still outdated, inadequate, and low density.

The Tsarist government of Russia issued its first decree on the development of urban telephone networks in 1881 and, as already discussed, the first exchanges in the Empire opened the following year.[5] Initially, telephone exchanges were granted to private developers as concessions in the major cities, but in 1884 the government began to construct the first of its own exchanges and subsequently suspended the award of new concessions. Intercity telephone communications grew very slowly, with only a dozen lines in place by the start of the 20th century, most serving Moscow-Saint Petersburg traffic. After 1900, when the initial concessions had expired, the government eased control over private concessionaires and a burst of new construction took place. Included in the expansion during this period was the slow growth of exchanges built and operated by rural Zemstva, which were treated essentially as private concessionaires by the Imperial government.

Telephones played a significant role during the upheavals of 1917. In February, according to the last tsarist Chief of Police, 'neither the military authorities nor the mutineers thought of occupying the Telephone Exchange'; consequently it continued to function, serving both sides, until the operators finally left their positions amidst the growing confusion.[6] In early July, however, the Provisional Government, fearing a Bolshevik coup, reportedly ordered the central telephone exchange to boycott calls requested by Bolsheviks (automatic switching systems had not yet been introduced).

In 1918, when the Soviet government moved to Moscow and war conditions were producing extreme shortages, Sovnarkom ordered a reduction of 50% in the volume of telephone communications in the new capital, to ensure that official needs of the new government would be served. The primary consequence of this decree for individuals was the 'communalisation' of telephones in private houses and flats. According to the decree, restrictions were focused on the 'parasitic stratum' of society, in the interest of the 'working population'. With the exception of personal phones belonging to high government officials, doctors and midwives, telephones in private flats were placed at the disposal of 'house committees', to be made available for 'general use' free of charge. Houses without telephones were entitled to free use of the communal phone of a neighbouring house; the decree further ordered the immediate installation of at least 150 telephones in public squares, particularly in outlying regions.[7]

One year later Sovnarkom nationalized all telephone systems in the Russian Republic-including all intercity, urban, concessionary and zemstvo exchangesand assigned their administration and operation to the People's Commissariat of Posts and Telegraphs. Beginning with the nationalization of telephones in 1919, Soviet policy exhibited two mnain characteristics: telephones increasingly became instruments for the bureaucracy and bureaucrats, and telephones in general were accorded a low investment priority. In March 1920, for instance, government institutions were exempted from the telephone tariff, receiving the right to use the telephone without payment, albeit for sharply restricted periods.

Until the end of 1991 (the end of the USSR), the sole fixed-line telephone operator in the country was the Ministry of Communications of the USSR. The state possessed all telecommunications structure and access networks. In 1994, the investment communication company (OJSC “Sviazinvest”) was established by the Presidential Decree #1989 dated 10 October 1994 “On the specific features of the state management of the electric communication network for public use in Russian Federation”. The authorised capital of OJSC “Sviazinvest” was formed by the consolidation of federal shares of joint stock companies acting in the area of electric communications and established during the privatisation of the state enterprises for electric communications. The seven regional incumbents which make up Svyazinvest, majority-owned by the government, in early 2011 merged with the key subsidiary Rostelecom. The move created an integrated company based on Rostelecom which will be better placed to exploit economies of scale in coming years.[8]

Cross-country digital trunk lines run from Saint Petersburg to Vladivostok, and from Moscow to Novorossiysk.

Liberalization of the long distance communication market is another market driver. Rostelecom lost its monopoly when new players obtained licences for the provision of long-distance communication services. Currently, there are about 32 active companies in this space, including MTT, Golden Telecom, TransTeleCom and Synterra. Russian regulation stipulates that new players must build their own networks. The growth of traffic between Europe and Asia is an additional opportunity; more than 6,000 km of international communication cables were built during the first nine months of 2007, representing a 48.5% increase on 2006, according to the Russian Ministry of Communication and Mass Media.[9]

Public switched telephone network

Russian public switched telephone network (PSTN) has specific features. The lowest part of this model is example of the local network in the middle and large cities. The central office (CO) is connected to the tandem exchange (TE). In some cases, COs are connected by the directly. Such possibility is shown by the dotted lines for three COs connected to the TEIII. COs may be directly connected with the toll exchange. This option is shown by the dotted line for the COII1. Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX) is served by the nearest CO. All TEs are forming the meshed network. Up to the 1990s, TE was independent element of the local network. Operators did not use the equipment combined functions Tandem and Toll Exchanges. So, TE provided connections between COs of the local network, and access to the toll exchange. A function of the toll exchange is to establish connections for the long-distance and international calls. Last type of calls is served by the Gateway (GW). Processing of the local calls is performed by the COs and TEs. If a subscriber dials digit "8" (prefix of the long-distance connection in the national PSTN) all further processing of the call is a function of a toll exchange. The numbering plan for the cellular networks based on the Area Code (three digits) and number of mobile terminal (seven digits). In this case, the Area Code defines the concrete cellular network.[10]

Mobile phone

There are three mobile phone service brands that cover all Russia: Beeline, MegaFon and Mobile TeleSystems. The access points (AP) are built in long-distance telephone exchanges (LDTEs), Russian fixed-line communication infrastructure which is present in every province. As a result, interconnecting mobile operator only needs to create "last kilometer" circuits to the regional LDTE, the requirement already imposed by its mobile license.

In May 2008, 3G network was deployed in St. Petersburg, in Kazan in June of that year, and in Sochi in July of that year. By 2010, 3G networks covered largely most of Russia.

In April 2011, MegaFon deployed high-definition voice services on its Moscow and Sochi GSM and UMTS networks. As the key supplier of core and access networks to MegaFon, Nokia Siemens Networks was responsible for the HD voice implementation, which is also a world first for a commercial GSM network.[11]

In early 2011, Rostelecom signed a memorandum of understanding with the three main MNOs to develop a joint LTE network using the infrastructure to be built by Yota. The network will expand LTE availability to 70 million Russians in 180 cities by 2014, vastly improving regional broadband availability in coming years.[12]

In December 2011, Rostelecom signed an agreement with Yota, a Russian mobile broadband provider, to jointly develop and use 4G wireless networks. The agreement facilitated the development and expansion of advanced communications technologies in the country, including the latest 4G-LTE system. Both companies will make full use of each other's telecommunications infrastructures and advanced telecommunications services will be made more accessible to Russian residents. As part of the agreement, Rostelecom have the right to use Yota's wireless networks and to provide customers with telecommunications services as a MVNO. The agreement will also provide Rostelecom with access to Yota's existing telecommunications equipment sites and its wire communications channels at these sites. In return, Yota will use Rostelecom's wire communications channels at their telecommunication equipment sites; it will gain access to Rostelecom's Internet connection and inter-city backbone links and the company's existing telecommunication equipment sites and data centres.[13]

On September 2012 MTS launched the country’s first TD-LTE network, using the TD-LTE spectrum in the 2595-2620 MHz band it secured in February.[14] On May 2013 there were over one million LTE subscribers in Russia.[15]


Main article: Radio in Russia

Radio Rossii is the primary public radio station in Russia. Digital radio broadcasting is developing fast with the Voice of Russia announced on 1 July 2004, the successful implementation, and planned expansion, of its DRM broadcasts on short-wave and medium-wave. In September 2009 the Russian State Commission for Radio Frequencies, the national regulator of broadcasting, has decided on the DRM has the standard for mediumwave and shortwave services.[16]

Radios: 61.5 million (1998)

Radio broadcasting stations: AM 420, FM 447, shortwave 56 (1998).


Privately owned stations are often owned by industrial groups either controlled by the State or with close connections to the government so that they can be called semi-state. Both state and private stations can have a national status (broadcasters that reach over 70% of the national territory), or a regional, district or local status. Local partners are often united in bigger networks.

In the 1970s and 1980s, television become the preeminent mass medium. In 1988 approximately 75 million households owned television sets, and an estimated 93 percent of the population watched television. Moscow, the base from which most of the television stations broadcast, transmitted some 90 percent of the country's programs, with the help of more than 350 stations and nearly 1,400 relay facilities.

There are about 15,000 TV transmitters. Development of domestic digital TV transmitters, led within "Multichannel" research program, had already been finished. New domestic digital transmitters have been developed and installed in Nizhniy Novgorod and Saint Petersburg in 2001–2002.

The state public television broadcaster is Pervy kanal (Channel One).


Main article: Internet in Russia

Broadband internet access is becoming more readily available in Russia, and as a result the internet is growing as an avenue for Russian commerce, with 42% of internet users in Russia shopping online, and 38% using online banking services.[17]


The IPTV developing fast as a cheap alternative to regular television. On July 2011 Rostelecom started a plan to unify IPTV services in Russia's regions offering standard features such as linear and on-demand TV along with new interactive and OTT services provided by the operator to various mobile devices. For this Russian company SmartLabs was chosen.[18]

Country code top-level domain: RU (Also SU – left from Soviet Union)

International connection

Russia is connected internationally by three undersea fiber-optic cables; digital switches in several cities provide more than 50,000 lines for international calls; satellite earth stations provide access to Intelsat, Intersputnik, Eutelsat, Inmarsat, and Orbita. In May 2006, Rostelecom launched a new fiber-optic data transmission line linking Russia's Far Eastern cities of Belogorsk and Blagoveshchensk with the Chinese city of Heihe on the Chinese-Russian border.[19] On May 2006 TransTeleCom Company and North Korea’s Ministry of Communications have signed an agreement for the construction and joint operation of a fiber-optic transmission line (FOTL) in the section of the KhasanTumangang railway checkpoint. This is the first direct land link between Russia and North Korea. TTC’s partner in the design, construction, and connection of the communication line from the Korean side to the junction was Korea Communication Company of North Korea’s Ministry of Communications. The technology transfer was built around STM-1 level digital equipment with the possibility of further increasing bandwidth. The construction was completed in 2007.[20]

On February 2012 the national operator Rostelecom has selected TeliaSonera International Carrier to operate and manage its new backbone network between Kingisepp, Russia and Stockholm. The next-generation managed optical network provides connectivity between the cable landing points of the Baltic Cable System, Kingisepp and Kotka, implemented over TeliaSonera International Carrier's wholly owned fibre-optic infrastructure to Stockholm.[21]


Percentage (%) of enterprises using selected hardware and ICT services in Russia, 2004-2010[22]

Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Personal computer (PC) 87.6 91.1 93.3 93.3 93.7 93.7 93.8
Local Area Network (LAN) 49.7 52.4 57.0 56.4 59.3 60.4 68.4
Internet access 48.8 53.3 61.3 73.7 73.7 78.3 82.4
Broadband access - - - 31.0 39.2 47.3 56.7
Intranet - - 8.6 9.3 10.8 11.8 13.1
Website 14.3 14.8 21.1 19.8 22.8 24.1 28.5

Key data on the telecommunications and ICT market in Russia, 2004-2011

Year 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011e
Telecommunications market value (€ bn) 12.9 16.0 20.9 25.0 27.5 24.4 28.5 30.6
Telecommunications market growth rate (%) 32.0 23.5 30.6 20.2 10.0 -11.4 17.1 7.3
ICT market value (€ bn) 19.8 25.0 31.6 39.1 42.3 34.0 41.3 46.4
ICT market growth rate (%) - 26.3 26.4 23.7 8.2 -19.6 21.5 12.3

e - estimate

See also


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