By EDWARD HARROFF
Sonera, the former Telecom Finland, which is the incumbent telecommunications operator in its domestic market, has constructed the final rings of its international network that links 11 major cities between New York and Moscow (see Figure on page 41). The last link was St. Petersburg to Moscow, and after a two-year build, Sonera offers initial capacity of 2.5 Gbits/sec using Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) optical-networking equipment.
Finnish-Russian Optical Gateway (FROG) is operated by Sonera's International Carrier Services Unit and provides access for gateway traffic from Russia to Europe and the United States. The FROG cable line spans a total length of 1,000 km (625 mi).
Sonera faced extremely difficult terrain as it completed the network installation. For example, one of the toughest natural borders between Finland and St. Petersburg is a seemingly impenetrable 30-km-wide swamp near Tsudovo. Sonera construction teams were faced with unrelenting rain, sinking tractors, and a 3-kg pike caught under a tractor's wheel. The swamp was not deep enough to be conquered by boat. Aerial examinations of the area from Red Army military helicopters failed to provide a clear path across the swamp. The crossing was successfully completed only with the help of two elderly Russian fishermen who knew the swamp paths.
This isolated geography continued to pose operational headaches because winter weather conditions can fall below -15°C (-5°F). Installation of the FROG optical cables had to be postponed until spring due to technological difficulties and interruptions of power lines.
While building one of Europe's longest uninterrupted optical cable lines from St. Petersburg to Moscow, Sonera has closely cooperated with NK Cables (Finland) and the major Russian power companies-Lenenergo, Novgorodenergo, Tverenergo, and Mosenergo. IVO Power Engineering (Finland) consulted on the installation phase of the project. Sonera has signed several indefeasible rights-of-use agreements for at least 30 years.
The FROG optical line runs above the ground with the power line. The lightning-protection ground wire is a new type with the fiber-optic cable encased in a steel sheathing. The cable is made up of optical pairs, and the capacity could easily handle all of Finland's telecommunications traffic. Sonera is using SDH optical-transmission equipment provided by Marconi.
Sonera Network Services president Eila Rummukainen sees the St. Petersburg-Moscow network as one of Sonera's most important infrastructure projects this decade: "It is not only important for Sonera, but also for Russian business; Moscow is the center of Russian business life. There is a clear need for more transmission capacity between the two cities. Even though the Russian economy is prone to crisis at the moment, Sonera has entered the market with persistence. It is in Finland's interest to help accelerate an improvement in the Russian economy. The St. Petersburg-Moscow optical network is also part of the infrastructure that Russia needs to enable future cooperation with the European Union."
The new cable is a logical continuation of the Finland-Russia Line (FRL); an optical-cable line built in 1993 by Sonera and Lenenergo, one of the Russian utility partners of the FROG consortium. Sonera serves the Russian financial-services industry with 80% of its corporate customers in Moscow. FROG permits broadband capacity between the "two capitals of Russia." Sonera Russia general manager Saku Berg explains, "Our main domestic business will ultimately concentrate on the St. Petersburg-Moscow connection featuring advanced ATM-based combinations of data, voice, and new media services, with the key customer segments comprising Internet service providers, operators, and corporate clients."
Sonera currently has three different operator licenses in Russia. One is for point-to-point communications in northwest Russia, including Moscow, and it allows trunk and international corporate connections and leasing of both trunk and international channels to other operators. The second license covers the provision of international and national data, Internet, and new media services. Until now, Sonera Russia has served the Moscow market through leased lines. "The St. Petersburg-Moscow cable line is a great addition to our carrier capacity," says Timo Hartikainen, director of Sonera International Carrier Services. "After the completion of this new cable line, Sonera Carrier Services' own network will reach from Moscow to New York. From our customers' point of view, it is of utmost importance that the same carrier is responsible for transmission from end-to-end."
FROG demonstrates once again Sonera's experience in building cable in the Baltic Sea region. In 1993, Sonera built FRL with Lenenergo and IVO Power Engineering, and 1994-1996, Sonera was involved in installing an Optical Ground Wire (OPGW) in and around Riga, Latvia, in cooperation with Lattelekom and IVO Power Engineering. With the completion of this latest link, FROG, Sonera Russia promises to deliver reliable, end-to-end connectivity based on SDH optical networks-a major achievement for the European Union's only border state with Russia.