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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Internet Outshines Telecoms at Expo

Everything for the telecommunications business, from satellite dishes to cables to computer chips to specialized glue, went on display at Moscow's yearly telecoms powwow, Svyaz Expocomm, but the king of the hill was anything related to the Internet.

The multinational information technology firms Deutsche Telekom, Siemens and Hewlett Packard have set up alongside local powers Svyazinvest, Sistema Telekom, BeeLine and some of their smaller, humbler brother telecoms for the yearly industry expo, due to run until Saturday at the Expocenter on Krasnaya Presnya.

Government organs and institutes were also well represented. The entry to one pavilion was dominated by a massive stand proclaiming the presence of FAPSI, the federal electronic surveillance organ, which was represented by the developers of the encryption technology the agency licenses. The government's Communications and Information Technologies Ministry was also represented, albeit by a stand that consisted of a white wall with a closed door.

All in all, 750 companies have pitched camp at the Expocenter, occupying six of the center's vast pavilions, with foreign companies paying 180 to 200 Swiss francs ($310 to $345) per square meter of space and Russian ones paying $350 per square meter, according to Algorithm-Daily, an online computer industry publication.

Expocomm, the company that organizes Svyaz Expocomm as one of its portfolio of 13 telecoms and broadband technology exhibitions worldwide, said in a statement published on its web site that this year the Moscow event expanded by 2,000 square meters.

But while larger, one visitor said this year's expo looked more like a parade of giants than a display of new technology.

"I didn't see anything new here," said David Mamistvalov, an Israeli-based telecoms consultant whose clients include smaller Russian telecoms companies, in an interview.

Even the anticipated local market debut of WAP - wireless application protocol, a mobile Internet technology - appeared to fall by the wayside as data-transfer services dominated the stands.

With its WAP service still in the testing stage, cellular operator BeeLine continued to tout its low-cost Bee Plus packages. And the expected announcement that one of Sistema's cellular holdings, Mobile TeleSystems, or MTS, had entered the WAP market, was brushed aside by Sistema Telekom president Alexander Goncharuk.

"WAP phones? You're welcome to go and buy them," Goncharuk said at a press conference. "But we see WAP as a temporary, interim technology," he said, adding that MTS was already testing GPRS, a more advanced mobile Internet technology.

Instead, Sistema Telekom, a sprawling but low-profile holding whose core business is the city telephone network MGTS, was focused on Tochka Ru, its new provider of digital subscriber lines, advertised as a new option for cheap, constant Internet access.

"The big thing this year is that Sistema Telekom has turned into a great big octopus, with all these arms and legs," Mamistvalov said at Sistema Telekom's stand, a two-story affair that represented half a dozen of the holding's companies.

Svyaz Expocomm is seen as an event put on by industry members for their colleagues. And, in a sign that big IT firms still see other businesses as their primary market after the 1998 financial crisis slashed consumer purchasing power, computer firms were out in force.

The picture was vastly different from last month's subdued Comtek computer exhibition, a consumer-oriented event, where Internet technologies were also the main focus but attendance by major multinational companies was sparse.