Ukrainians Plan IP Explosion

A few years ago the notion that an operator in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) would be planning domestic VOIP and IP video services might have been dismissed as unrealistic.

Not any more.

JSC Ukrtelecom, the national operator in Ukraine, is doing just that, and spent $350 million in 2004 as part of its network and systems upgrade program.

Ihor Tarasenko, deputy director at the carrier's Advanced Technology Department, says the operator plans to spend about the same amount this year to help it deliver the most up-to-date services it can to its 9 million fixed-line subscribers.

At the heart of its plans is an IP/MPLS core network built entirely on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) gear, says Tarasenko (see Ukrtelecom Uses Cisco Routers).

Cisco is also the sole supplier of metro Ethernet infrastructure, IP gateways, softswitches, and wireless LAN equipment.

Tarasenko says his other chief infrastructure suppliers are ECI Telecom Ltd. (Nasdaq/NM: ECIL), which has delivered DWDM systems for Ukrtelecom's national optical network, and Slovenian access vendor Iskratel, which has supplied more than 1,000 IP DSLAMs for the operator's national rollout of ADSL2+ services.

Iskratel and Cisco are, in fact, partners, having signed a "letter of intent" in November 2004 to "cooperate in the building up of IP and Metro Ethernet networks" in Eastern Europe.

Tarasenko says Ukrtelecom is in the early stages of providing broadband access services, having only 10,000 DSL customers at present. But with DSLAMs now installed in 450 towns around Ukraine, "we hope to have more than 100,000 DSL subscribers within the next 18 months."

He adds that the IP core network has been built with this expansion, and the launch of VOIP and IPTV services, in mind. "We have built eight RPR rings, each with a capacity of 2.5 Gbit/s, and we feel this will be enough to cope with the expected increase in IP traffic."

He adds that VOIP and IPTV trials are ongoing, and that Ukrtelecom plans to offer its broadband customers a VOIP connection as a second voice line rather than as a replacement for the existing POTS connection. He won't, though, say which vendors' systems the carrier is trialing for its planned IPTV service, which will see up to 100 TV channels delivered via the Iskratel IP DSLAMs.

Eastern Europe, including Russia and the CIS (parts of the former Soviet Union), is emerging as a potentially lucrative growth region for vendors as national and competitive carriers upgrade their networks, often jumping from archaic analog infrastructures with nearly non-existent back-office support to state-of-the-art IP infrastructures designed to deliver packet voice and wide-area Ethernet services. (See Broadband Booms in New EU, LR Insider Analyzes Eastern European Telecom Market, and Interoute Buys Euro Network.)

As a result, Western vendors haven't been slow to make their way into the region and seek to capitalize on that opportunity. (See, for example, Sistema Selects Tandberg, UTStarcom Makes Euro Headway, Sentito Signs Russian Reseller , Atrica Names Customers, Partners, Sonus Expands in Europe, Paradyne Wins in Serbia, and Alcatel Wins Slovak Telecom VOIP Deal.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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