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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Dikson Comes In From Communications Cold

For MTThe recent launch of a land-based satellite station has given remote Dikson improved communications with the outside world.
Far north of the Arctic Circle, the 1,000 residents of the northernmost continental settlement in the world make do with two television channels and substandard telephone lines. As for Internet access, that's just a virtual reality.

But with the recent launch of a land-based satellite station, Dikson, a small village situated at a latitude of 73.5 degrees north, will be better connected to the rest of the world through an improved communications system.

"Telephone communications will improve," Mikhail Ananko, deputy head of the local administration, said down a crackling phone line. "We will have Internet access, too."

Most residents of Dikson work as meteorologists or aviation specialists serving the North Sea route, an Arctic ocean link connecting Murmansk in the west and Anadyr in the east.

Travelers to the outpost arrive via Norilsk, 600 kilometers to the south, from which there is a weekly flight -- or at least there is in theory.

Officials who attended the unveiling said they had to wait in Norilsk for two weeks before they could get a flight to the remote town.

When the weather is bad, Dikson can remain inaccessible for weeks, Ananko said. "Good communications are essential for us," he said.

The station is part of the Angara-S satellite network of 18 stations installed over the past six years throughout the Krasnoyarsk region and operated by Iskra, a Krasnoyarsk-based design bureau.

Iskra co-funded the Dikson project together with Kosmicheskaya Svyaz, a national state-run satellite communications operator.

The station is one of five installed across the northern part of the Krasnoyarsk region and the Taimyr and Evenkia autonomous districts to replace the Sever troposphere radio-relay communication lines that were in operation for more than 35 years, said Vasily Kabanov, technical director at Iskra.

Satellite systems in the cities of Dudinka, Igarka and Dikson have already been launched, and two more -- in Karaul and Vorontsovo -- are expected next year.

For the next six months, the new satellite station will overlap with the radio station before the old system is retired in June, Ananko said.

"We will buy additional equipment worth $4,000 to provide better television reception and Internet access," he said. "Residents will be able to watch seven channels."

"We want to wire our schools for the Internet, so that children can have access to all kinds of information," Ananko said.

Alexander Alfeyev, who lived and worked as a chief engineer for 20 years with the hydrographic department in Dikson, moved to the Moscow region a month ago. He recalled connecting to the Internet through a provider based in Norilsk. Because people have to pay for long-distance calls in addition to regular access tariffs, Internet access is more expensive than in most places.

"You can only connect to the Internet with a [modem] speed of 2,400 bytes per second," Alfeyev said. "Given the frequent connection failures, the web is practically inaccessible, even if you don't pay attention to how much it costs."

Poor phone lines have kept Dikson lagging behind the rest of the country. Automatic long-distance calling, without operator assistance, became available to residents just a year ago, Alfeyev said. And only the year before had telephone users been able to use telephone cards to make long-distance calls for the first time.

"It was difficult to launch the stations in the conditions of the Arctic North," Kabanov said.

Installation was completed in the summer, the only time of the year with acceptable weather conditions for such work. The launch took place in mid-November, when temperatures had plunged to minus 25 degrees celsius.

Two-story buildings had to be excavated from snow and transportation to the site was possible only by all-terrain vehicle.