Press about Race: Russia will contact Kaliningrad bypassing NATO.

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On Friday, the head of the Ministry of Information and Communications of the Russian Federation Leonid Reiman spoke about plans to build a telecommunications network connecting the Kaliningrad region with Russia bypassing the Baltic States - the project budget is estimated at 2.5 billion rubles. It is planned that the network will be laid along the bottom of the Baltic Sea together with the North European Gas Pipeline (SEG), the construction of which is being started by RAO Gazprom. Analysts consider the project primarily from a political point of view: today, all land-based communication channels between Russia and the Kaliningrad enclave pass through the territory of NATO countries.Leonid Reiman spoke about plans to create a fiber-optic line that will connect the Kaliningrad Region with the rest of Russia bypassing the Baltic states on Friday in Kaliningrad.

"There is a fairly modern fiber-optic line, through which more than 5 thousand communication channels are operated," the minister explained. - But it passes through the territories of several foreign countries... It is advisable to have a second line that would directly connect Kaliningrad and Greater Russia."
The head of the Ministry of Information and Communications also said that the construction of a new network could be linked to the creation of a North European gas pipeline (the pipeline system that Gazprom and its Western European partners will build will allow natural gas to be transported from Western Siberia under the Baltic Sea to Germany and possibly the UK). The estimated cost of the construction of the communication line is about 2.5 billion rubles.

The Ministry of Information and Communication has not yet called the start date of the construction of the communication line and its characteristics. According to market participants, the length of the fiber-optic line, which will take place in the neutral waters of the Baltic Sea, may be 1.2-1.3 thousand km. According to Leonid Lopatin, the head of Race Communications, subject to cooperation with Gazprom, the construction of each kilometer of the cable line may cost signalmen $10-100 thousand, depending on the conditions in which the work will take place. Experts in the field of network construction say that the joint construction of a communication line and a gas pipeline will reduce the costs of signalers by almost 50%. "Savings can be achieved on the combined conduct of geodetic and other survey work, the operation of equipment for laying underwater infrastructure," says Sergey Golovin, Deputy Marketing Director of Nvision Groupe.

Market participants assume that the construction of the communication system can begin simultaneously with the construction of the gas pipeline, that is, in late 2005 - early 2006. According to Kommersant, the network construction scheme may be as follows. The network will be built jointly by Gazprom and one of the Russian long-distance operators. The network will be on Gazprom's balance sheet, and the operator will receive part of the channels in the fiber-optic cable as a payment for participation in the construction. Rostelecom and Transtelecom did not comment on plans for the construction of a communication line yesterday. Gazprom confirmed to Kommersant that they will operate the network independently, and hand over free capacity to telecom operators. Experts consider such a scheme logical: in their opinion, combining the efforts of Gazprom and telecom operators will avoid creating an expensive and redundant communications infrastructure for a single company. Such a network, for example, was created in the late 1990s by the Ministry of Railways and CJSC Transtelecom Company. A fiber-optic communication network was laid along the railways of Russia (representatives of Transtelecom then stated that the construction budget was $1 billion). Transtelecom then failed to enter the telephone market. However, this year the Ministry of Communications issued the company a license to provide long-distance and international communication services. Having direct access to Kaliningrad, the company will be able to take significant positions in the market of negotiations between European countries - from the Kaliningrad region, the communication channel can be extended to Western Europe. And through its own communication channel running along the bottom of the Baltic Sea, the operator will be able to direct European traffic to Russia without passing it through the transit networks of Latvia and Lithuania (transit of one minute of conversation would cost him $0.05-0.06 on average).

"This project should be viewed from two angles. On the one hand, the state strives to respect the interests of its consumers - law enforcement agencies and authorities. They are interested in ensuring that Russian fixed-line networks do not pass through the territory of foreign countries," says Boris Ovchinnikov, an analyst at J'son & Partners. - But the commercial component of the project is not obvious. Kaliningrad is a fairly small region, there are a lot of telecommunication capacities there. Therefore, from the point of view of commercial operators, it is impractical to build an additional communication channel there."

Valery Kodachigov


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