1999 saw the transition from DAMPS/AMPS, which had earlier dominated the Russian market, to GSM networks, with the majority of new subscribers opting for GSM operators.<
One cannot claim that GSM operators rushed to join MTT’s transit network. Out of 65 operators which started to employ the MTT transfer traffic there were only 24 GSM operators. The transit network was generally believed to have been created for NMT, the already outdated standard. The functionality of GSM allows providers to grow independently and connect with each other directly. However, gradually they gained deeper understanding that the development prospects for the company are limited and bound to the region, and cooperation across the Russian Federation is a very complex and expensive task.
A.E. Kroupnov, the then Chairman of the State Committee for Communications, explained that the ready-made network meant substantial economies in resources and represented an excellent opportunity for mobile operators to develop new services. “We believe that if such a network has been created, we need to take full advantage of it. One need not create their own optical lines from Moscow to Khabarovsk. We need to use the previously laid foundation to develop networks, including institutional ones”, said A.E. Kroupnov.
The transit network allowed MTT to serve as a single centre for operational and technical management of federal mobile networks since 1999. MTT provided operators with services such as the notification on adjusting and repairing networks, warnings and rapid interaction with the control centres in case of accidents, the notification on the reconfiguration of federal cellular networks, the notification on numbering changes, monitoring and analysis of the traffic quality in federal ATP networks.
MTT committed itself to developing unified information space in Russia and made steps towards developing closer ties with mobile operators in the region. Under these conditions MTT decided to pay for the links connecting regional networks to its transit node, which was a necessary, albeit demanding, step. That gave a new impetus to the development of mobile communications in Russia, laid the foundation for expanding cellular communication. Decreased expenditures on links to transit nodes allowed the operators to spend funds on self-development. The operators did not lose access to MTT, which allowed local companies to provide their subscribers with expanded services.
1999 witnessed an event recognized as milestone for the Russian cellular market: the number of mobile subscribers exceeded 1 million in the third quarter of 1999. At the end of the year, there were 1.370 million subscribers to 151 ATP networks in Russia.
In March 1999 MTT and Ericsson announced the completion of the first phase of modernization of the Russian transit network, which included three modernized MTT transit nodes: Moscow, St. Petersburg and Samara ones, with direct internal links to each other.
The outdated GMTX switches were replaced with CGW ones, which provided subscribers of federal standards NMT- 450 and GSM with parallel roaming, as well as with the optimized traffic between these networks. The intelligent platform of the transit nodes allowed connecting to a subscriber in roaming via the shortest path, bypassing the home network. This connection was possible between GSM and NMT networks. Russia was the first country in the world to apply this technology.
In 1999 the list of MTT’s additional services was extended to include voice mail and fax transmission. The agreement was concluded with 12 NMT network providers. By this time, MTT’s network linked providers from about 50 Russian regions. The traffic grew annually by 50 to 100%.