People come into the telecommunications business from a wide
variety of careers. There are, of course, lots of bankers and
lawyers, though possibly fewer now than during the dotcom boom.
There are people who have run office products companies and
supermarket chains. There are still many who started by
installing phones in customers' premises or checking wiring
along poles in the street.
And Vladimir Pelipenko, the chief information officer of
Comstar in Moscow? He's a former professor of mathematics.
As Russia has changed over the past decade and a half, so
has he. He has moved from the Moscow State University first to
one of the incumbent telecoms operators and then, two years
ago, to a senior position in a metro ethernet provider with
Moscow has a highly competitive market for telecoms, says
Pelipenko. "There are a lot of alternative suppliers." Comstar
has 2,000 kilometres of optical network around the city,
providing services to large and medium businesses. The company
also uses ADSL and VDSL services on MGTS, the city-owned
telephone company, to connect to some customers, providing
internet access and voice over IP.
"But most of our clients have their own optical connection
to our network," says Pelipenko. "They include big hotels,
banks and so on."
Comstar has connections to other Russian operators as well
as international carriers such as BT and Cable & Wireless.
In October the international voice-over-IP carrier ITXC
announced a bilateral agreement, which gives Comstar access to
175 countries. Calls from customers in Moscow with IP phones or
IP office switches will travel in IP format right the way
through to the end."
David Lee, deputy general director of Comstar, commented at
the time: "As an alternative carrier in the highly competitive
telecommunications market in Russia, it is important for us to
maintain the highest quality while keeping costs to a minimum
and to focus on winning market share,"
The services Comstar provides include fixed digital
telephony, internet access, and virtual private networks, adds
Pelipenko. "We have a broad range of services and we are
creating a new information system for the company."
Pelipenko is heading a major investment — he calls
it "a serious upgrade of the system" — in OSS to
improve Comstar's efficiency so that it can provide a new range
of services, including gigabit metropolitan ethernet. "We felt
that gigabit ethernet was needed for our market," says
Pelipenko. "Our customers have branches and sites and need to
build VPNs. That's why we decided to build our MPLS
Current capital expenditure is running at about $15 million
a year, "and so we need new information systems". He is
spending $2 million to $2.5 million a year on that. "It is our
own investment," says Pelipenko. "We have our own funds."
As a result he's been out with a shopping list of OSS
products. "We bought new mediation software, new billing
systems, fault monitoring, and inventory management." Oh, and a
new call centre and helpdesk.
Suppliers include Strom Telecom for the billing. On the
hardware side, Riverstone is supplying routers for its ethernet
VPN services. The inventory management system is coming from
NetCracker: "a very interesting system, with good flexibility
and good support in Moscow", says Pelipenko. Comstar needed to
customize the solution and programmers in Moscow handled the
Pelipenko is a great supporter of the TeleManagement Forum's
efforts to standardize OSS, so that software from different
suppliers can be integrated. "NetCracker will be part of this
integration," he says. "Integration is one of the most
important parts of the project."
Comstar is having to integration old and new systems
— though old in its sense means about 10 years. "We
have Marconi System X switches and GPT/Marconi billing," says
Pelipenko. "Of course we now need to upgrade the
functionality." There are four System X switches, and a Siemens
EWSD has been added more recently, with another due to be
added. "We have several softswitches and Riverstone routers,
and we expect to buy another softswitch from Siemens."
Integration has been a central concern for Pelipenko since
joining Comstar. "I was recruited to this position because the
company needed someone to organize these changes," he says.
The NetCracker system will allow Comstar "to manage all of
its network assets and to automate the customer end-to-end
service delivery process". The company will get up-to-date
knowledge and access to its network infrastructure and new
functions through an enterprise-wide repository of network