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Reality check from Russia

Aug 09, 20042 mins
Data CenterNetworking

* Components of convergence are scarce in Russia

Late last month, Larry had the opportunity to speak with telecommunications and data communications professionals in Moscow about voice over IP, and the talk served as a reminder about the ingredients for convergence that we sometimes take for granted.

One of the factors we tend to take for granted is the wide availability of a fiber-optic core. While Moscow is a very modern city in many ways, fiber is not very available in the metro area and even scarcer in the wide area.

Competitively priced broadband access – another prerequisite for cost-effective convergence – is also scarce. While TDM private lines, frame relay service and ATM are generally available, DSL is not exactly ubiquitous. Even if the cable TV plant could provide the bidirectional support needed for Internet services, cable access is unavailable for the enterprise and far too expensive for the home office. Internet access in the office can be rationed as a luxury, depending on the user’s job description.

Desktop computers and laptops, while not universally available, are widely used in the office – but not nearly as important for consumer or home use. Internet cafés provide some relief, but one hour of access at the local Internet café costs nearly the equivalent of an hour’s wages for the average middle-class worker.

Data services are open to competition, as is local voice service; however, long-distance services are still provided via a monopoly.

So, sometimes in our discussions about Session Initiation Protocol vs. H.323, about the best means to secure a VoIP call, and about applications convergence, we forget that basics like a solid fiber-optic core, broadband access, widespread use of computers and fully open competition are also important to moving forward with convergence.

Our thanks go to the gracious citizens of Moscow for this gentle reminder. And our best wishes go with those who continue to provide the needed infrastructure and competitive environment to the benefit of all.