Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

How Businesses Cope Calling Long-Distance

Guests and staff at the Hotel Baltschug have backups for their backups when it comes to calling abroad. The hotel has connections to all three of the major foreign long-distance companies, Combellga, Comstar and Sovintel.

The reason is the unreliability of the Russian telephone system, which despite improvements is still below western standards. "This is the way it has to be at the moment", said hotel manager Hans Sebasta. "I've really gotten used to it".

For many foreign companies, whose business depends on being able to call abroad and communicate quickly with its staff in cities throughout the former Soviet Union, redundancy of communications is the name of the game.

For example, Sumitomo Corp. , a Japanese trading house, uses five different connections. It is hooked up to Sovintel, a joint venture between U. S. -based GTE and San Francisco/Moscow Teleport and the Russian Communications Ministry.

Sovintel is called an overlay network because it doesn't use the Russian telephone lines. The company places microwave dishes on top of its customer's buildings, which beam a signal to another dish on the Ostankino television tower. The signal, after being processed by Sovintel, then goes to a very large satellite dish outside of Moscow.

The dish beams the signal to an Intelsat satellite in space, which then sends the signal back down to either British Telecom or AT&T for routing throughout the world.

Another Sovintel system uses a separate land line network, known as ISKRA, which was formerly used by the KGB. This system in turn connects into the satellite network.

Sumitomo also uses World Trade Telecomm for satellite connections, and as final backup uses the Russian telephone system for international calls and calls throughout the CIS.

In addition to Sovintel, the Hotel Baltschug also has connections to Combellga and Comstar.

Combellga has laid its own cables and connects customers through its own switching station to a satellite network, which is duplicated to provide backup in case one satellite fails. Combellga is a venture between Belgacom, which is the Belgian national telephone company, Alcatel Bell, a Belgian manufacturer and supplier of telecommunications products, Comincom, a private Russian company and MGTS, the Moscow City telephone company. A small percentage of its customers are hooked up through the Russian phone system because the company has yet to lay cable in certain areas of the capital.

Comstar, a joint venture with MGTS, and GPT, which is a joint venture between GEC of Britain and Siemens of Germany, uses both the Russian telephone lines and about 100 kilometers of cable it has laid in Moscow to connect customers to a satellite network.