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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Phone Firm Offers Long-Distance Calling Cards

Moving as fast as its lines will permit, the Moscow long-distance telephone company MMT has hit upon what no upstanding modern phone service can do without -- calling cards.

Decorated with an image of St. Basil's Cathedral on one side, the blue and white cards can be purchased in 50,000-, 100,000- or 500,000-ruble versions at most "calling points," or public telephone stations where long-distance calls can be made.

Aimed primarily at business users, the MMT cards are designed to simplify matters for frequent long-distance callers by eliminating telephone bills and the need to constantly dial 8 before getting a long-distance line.

For rank-and-file telephone subscribers, however, the cards may prove less beneficial.

To use the cards, the company says, callers need telephones that can be switched from pulse mode -- the norm in Russia -- to tone dialing when connected through a local number to a computer that records a user's card number, password and the number to be dialed.

The company says it is not sure how many tone-capable telephones are in use in Moscow, though it is believed most businesses have them.

Cardholders who try to use the cards outside Moscow may run into hitches.

To call long-distance from a provincial city, card users will still have to connect first with the Moscow service number -- a feat the company concedes might be made difficult by poor-quality phone lines. The phone company emphasized that the cards are designed primarily for use with Moscow telephones.

Telecommunications analysts said the card is a sign that Russia's ill-reputed long-distance system is on the mend.

"It's a step in the right direction to be thinking in a service-driven way," said Michael Gerrity, a consultant for Turnkey Office Solutions. "Whether they've thought the whole thing out is another question."

According to an MMT price list, calls to Europe cost 6,300 rubles per minute, or about $1.30, during peak weekday hours, and 14,700 rubles to the United States. By comparison, calls made at a similar time to Europe on satellite lines operated by Western telecommunications firms can range from $1.80 to $2 or $2.60 to $3.38 to call the United States.