Earlier this week, I was in Moscow, visiting the Skolkovo Innovation Centre, Russia’s $15bn attempt to create a tech startup environment to compete with Silicon Valley.
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I mentioned in one of my reports that the Russian government was also funding a massive broadband roll-out – and some people asked for more details. I’ve managed to track down a few more facts:
Last month, the Russian government contracted with Rostelecom, the national telecoms operator, in a deal worth 163bn rubles – about £2.8bn – to meet a universal broadband service commitment.
The agreement will see Rostelecom install fibre broadband to provide a minimum of 10Mbps connectivity to all unconnected towns and villages with more than 250 people – that’s roughly 13,600 settlements with a total population of four million people, currently on the wrong side of the digital divide.
The company will lay 200,000km of fibre-optic cabling over the next five years. The contract offers Rostelecom exclusivity of service for 10 years.
The new fibre network will also be used as the basis for spreading broadband connectivity to smaller, surrounding neighbourhoods.
The Russian government intends to enact legislation to allow Rostelecom to lay fibre in the drainage systems that run alongside the country’s road network.
Russia’s communications minister, Nikolay Nikiforov, told delegates at the Skolkovo event that the plan will bring broadband to 97% of the country’s population.
“In five years we hope Russia becomes a different country in terms of its communications opportunities,” he said.
“We have the scale to make the investment pay off.”
No other details appear to have been released about the specific technologies that will be used, but the scale of Russia’s ambitions to become a major player in the global digital economy is demonstrated by the sheer scale of its broadband roll-out.
(Russia is also separately allocating 27bn rubles – about £460m – to upgrade the communications infrastructure in Crimea…)