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Alcatel Tests VOIP Waters in Russia

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News Analysis
Light Reading
11/26/2003
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Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) has won its first voice-over-IP contract in Russia, with an alternative operator looking to bypass high interconnection rates with incumbent Rostelecom (see Alcatel Wins Russian Contract).

Combellga is initially deploying Alcatel’s 5020 softswitch and media and signaling gateways alongside its installed base of Alcatel SDH equipment to provide long-distance calling to enterprises. Using next-generation equipment enables it to leapfrog the access charges it would otherwise have to pay to Rostelecom, it says.

"In the former Soviet Union there wasn’t much interconnection with the rest of the world. Then Combellga was founded in the early 90's, with the collapse of the Soviet empire, to let people make international calls," says Wolfgang Hein, director of solutions marketing, fixed communication group, Alcatel. Now, he says, they are realizing that VOIP enables them to offer these services with significant operational savings.

Hein also notes that there are about 100 alternative carriers within the Russian Federation, but very few of them have jumped on the VOIP bandwagon. "Less than 1 percent of the entire country has broadband; it’s not enough," he says.

Combellga has its own digital fiber network that supports international and long-distance national communications services in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and 30 regions of the Russian Federation. It claims to have customers in manufacturing, financial and industrial groups, large corporations, financial institutions, embassies, and offices of international companies.

Eventually Combellga plans to offer IP telephony and a range of multimedia services for home and business (i.e. videoconferencing, instant messaging) from the same converged voice and data switch from Alcatel.

Alcatel says it won the deal despite plenty of competition from U.S. equipment providers. It wouldn't name names but said all the usual incumbent suppliers were competing for the contract. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

— Jo Maitland, Senior Editor, Boardwatch

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