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  1. Technology
November 28, 1991


By CBR Staff Writer

The quality of telecommunications in the Soviet Union has always been the butt of jokes, or at least the level of public services in the USSR have. But it emerges that there are several rather well developed private systems, used by various government agencies (including the now defunct KGB), capacity on which is now being offered to private businesses. Inzhenernaya Gazeta quotes V Presnukin, director of the All-Union Institute for Interbranch Information in Moscow as saying that there are about 20 branch telecommunications networks in the USSR that are used for less than one hour a day. Making that capacity available to companies is problematic though, according to Presnukin, for a number of technical and organisational reasons. It has apparently worked in some cases, however. The Kommersant newspaper has revealed that former KGB-run government communication services will be offered to every interesting party willing to pay. The services have been developed since 1930 under NKVD/KGB direction. A decree signed by President Gorbachev on August 29 declared that these government communications, electronic surveillance and cryptography services would no longer be controlled by the KGB, but rather would be the responsibility of a Government Communications Committee reporting directly to him. The newspaper quotes Alexander Starovoitov as saying that hundreds of lines that formerly served party officials are now free and being offered to banks, and other independent businesses. The vertushka or ATS-2 service which serves subscribers in Moscow has two pricing structures, according to whether the customer is a state-run or private company. For state-run companies, the tariff is 30,000 roubles per year ($600) while the long distance service is charged at an annual flat rate of 85,000 roubles ($4,250), regardless of usage. Charges for commercial and other non state-run enterprises are noted to be 40% higher. Another communication system, Istok, (which needs to be connected via leased lines) provides encrypted communications, and is priced in the $210 to $1,960 range to the extent that rouble pricing means anything. Meanwhile Tele, the Finnish state telecommunications authority, has signed a digital telecommunications agreement with Estelcom, the Estonian region of the Soviet Union’s telecommunications ministry. Estelcom is to co-operate with Tele to build and maintain an optical fibre cable between Helsinki and Tallinn. The cable will augment the existing 50 mile radio microwave link between the two cities, and will carry digital audio and video signals. Completion of the project is set for the end of 1992, which is when the cable is due to become operational. By this time, a parallel link between Turka in Western Finland and Stockholm in Sweden will also be operational. Linking Turka and Helsinki will give Estonia direct digital links to digital communications systems.

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