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    RUSSIA TO HAVE 3-4 LONG DISTANCE COMPANIES

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    IRKUTSK, September 16 (RIA Novosti's Natalia Byrkina) - Deputy Information Technologies and Communications Minister Boris Antonyuk said there would be 3-4 long distance telecommunications operators in Russia.

    He said that currently only Rostelecom had a license for all subjects of the Russian Federation, while in some regions about 50 companies had licenses for long distance and international telecommunications.

    Rostelecom, a private company, is Russia's national long distance telecommunications operator. In every region in Russia, Rostelecom is the operator for other operators so that Russian operators maintain a unified network.

    Rostelecom is directly connected to the networks of more than 100 operators in 72 countries, is involved in 30 international cable systems and cooperates with 400 international operators and companies.

    "Today about three or four potential operators in Russia can obtain licenses for long distance and international telecommunications all over Russia," Mr. Antonyuk said.

    At the third Baikal Economic Forum on Thursday, Mr. Antonyuk chaired a round table conference on the development of Russia's information space, during which liberalization of the telecommunications market was discussed.

    At the conference, representatives of operator companies expressed the opinion that the level of the liberalization of the telecommunications market in Russia was rather high and that there could be about 10-15 long distance operators in Russia.

    "Global experience has shown that 3-4 operators can be in this market," he said.

    The ministry has drafted several of the documents necessary for liberalizing the long distance telecommunications market.

    "Our main requirement is that operators provide every telephone subscriber in the country access to its network," he said.

    According to him, the ministry plans to submit a draft resolution to the government in October. The document has been already coordinated with the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Defense Ministry and the Federal Security Service, and is now being coordinated with the Federal Anti-Trust Service and the Federal Service for Tariffs, the deputy minister said.

    The Baikal Economic Forum is a social and economic event, Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov said at the closing of the forum on Thursday. Businessmen and politicians from eleven countries attended the forum.

    They discussed the stable development of regions in Siberia and the Russian Far East and Russia's cooperation with Asian Pacific countries.

    "Specific ways to attract investments to the eastern regions of Russia and ideas for new projects and legislative initiatives were the result of the discussion," he said.

    The fourth Baikal Economic Forum will be held in the fall of 2006.

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