"Russians are very interested in the Internet," acting Communications Minister Leonid Reiman said, during a Moscow - St. Petersburg - Kaliningrad videoconference. The event was devoted to a new 7,680 channel fiber optic telecommunications network that was just installed in the Kaliningrad region. The videoconference was scheduled to coincide with the commissioning of a new international telecommunications exchange in Kaliningrad. The new exchange can handle up to 960 international data exchange channels.
Mr. Reiman emphasized that the telecommunications exchange and the telecommunications network would make improvements in international telecommunications with this Russian enclave possible. The new network will also facilitate the rapid development of highly popular Russian language Web sites and new telecommunications services.
Vladimir Yegorov, the Kaliningrad region governor also took part in the videoconference. He said that he is sure the new telecommunications network will enable the region to implement full-fledged information technology (IT) projects including a network for monitoring trans-border freight and passenger traffic.
According to Mr. Yegorov, the fiber optic telecommunications network will ensure complete Internet access as well as facilitate the development of Internet-based medical services and education.
The new fiber optic telecommunications network and the new telecommunications exchange highlight the rapid development of Russia's telecommunications sector. More than 13,000 kilometers of multi-channel cable were laid in Russia last year. Russia also commissioned hundreds of automatic telephone exchanges, which made it possible to add 3 million new telephone numbers (1 million new numbers were added in 2001). The Russian heartland received 300% more new telephone numbers in 2003 than in 2002. Various market segments grew by 15-40% in comparison to 2002 levels.
Twenty percent of all Russians use the Internet regularly. Russian authorities understand that many people do not have access to the Internet and have installed public Internet access points at several thousand post offices in Russia. This is an ongoing project. The number of personal computers in Russia is also increasing. The Communications Ministry said that 40% of all Russians now use personal computers (a 100% increase from 2001).
Mobile phone networks provide an alternative to the problematic landline telephone networks. Three years ago, the Russian government passed a mobile phone network development concept that stipulated that there would be 15 million mobile phones by 2010. This target was achieved last year. There are more than 35 million mobile phones in Russia (roughly the same amount as landline telephones). Now, Russia accounts for nearly 33% of all Eastern European mobile phone users. Forty million Russians are ready to spend up to 10% of their income on top-quality mobile services. Incredibly, there were only 300 mobile phones in Russia just over 10 years ago. Regional subscribers account for the majority of mobile phone users. Experts estimate that nearly 50% percent of all Russian citizens will own a mobile phone in 2010. While this is an impressive achievement, Chinese mobile phone companies plan to sell 500 million mobile phones by 2007.
Satellite and cable television markets have significantly expanded. Russia now has its own independent satellite and cable TV companies, which have carved out their own niche and offer stiff competition to state and foreign television companies. Russian territories are also catching up with Moscow and St. Petersburg in this sphere. For instance, Cherepovets, which is located 400 kilometers from Moscow, has 27 (sic!) cable channels, including the National Geographic Channel. Monthly subscription cost $3. Any apartment building can be connected to the local cable television network, if 33% of its residents agree to do this. Russian cities are increasingly receiving their own cable television networks.