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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Space Industry Makes Cellular Phones Go Ape

ST. PETERSBURG -- One of the peculiarities about the telecoms business St. Petersburg is that the city is home to the central satellite communication center for Russia's military space forces. That can be a problem for an industry that depends on sending information through the air.

Consider Delta Telecom, which works in exactly the same frequency (450 MHz bandwidth) as the central satellite communication center.

Delta had to deal with a flood of angry customers from Dec. 24, 1996 to Jan. 7, 1997, when the company was forced to switch off its network 57 times, for about 20 minutes each time.

The reason? So that central satellite command could communicate with ? two macaque monkeys that were floating in space as part of an international biological mission.

Other cellular phone providers can tell similar horror stories.

In 1995, FORA (which was then called St. Petersburg Telecom) encountered a major political problem: the frequency the Russian Communications Ministry licensed it to use was the same frequency used by a nearby military radar.

At the time, North-West GSM (31 percent owned by Telecominvest) was just beginning its operations and Delta (31 percent owned by Telecominvest) had already been established.

FORA, the smallest of the city's three providers, had trouble competing with the two Telecominvest companies because its clients couldn't use their cell phones whenever the military radar was functioning f which was several times a day.

In the summer of 1996, after nearly a year of negotiating with the Russian Defense Ministry, FORA had to pay a large chunk of cash to get that Russian army base to use a different radar with a different bandwidth.

According to various news reports at the time, FORA had to pay anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000.