“It is unusual to see live people — before that everything was taking place in a two-dimensional format”
Face-to-face board meeting of the ministry of finance of the Republic of Tatarstan — on digital transformation, the elimination of “white spots” of communication and the “radiophobia” of the population
Over the past six months, the number of landline telephone subscribers in Tatarstan has fallen by 9%, while the number of mobile operators' customers, on the contrary, has increased by 6,6% — to 7,6 million people. Mobile Internet traffic has increased by 43% — a trend that increased during self-isolation and has continued since then. The data was announced at the board meeting of the ministry of finance of Tatarstan on the results of the first half of 2020. The correspondent of Realnoe Vremya listened to the reports of the minister and his deputies on the development of 5G technology, the achievements in the promotion of the Internet, exorbitant tariffs of the Russian Post and the aggressive opponents of the installation of cell towers.
How the minister of finance “missed live communication”
“To be honest, it is unusual to see live people," said Ayrat Khayrullin, the minister of digital development, public administration, information technologies and communications of the Republic of Tatarstan, opening the meeting in the IT Park. “Before that, everything took place in a two-dimensional format, via video-conferencing. I must say, I missed live communication.
The head of the ministry of finance stressed that it is important not only to sum up the results but also to formulate the tasks that need to be solved by the end of the year. Khayrullin reminded that the recent decree of the Russian president on new national goals, and that one of the five goals set by Putin's decree relates directly to the ministry of finance and the topic of the meeting:
“This is a digital transformation, increasing the share of households that have broadband access to the Internet to 97 per cent. I believe that we are not only obliged to meet this deadline but also to exceed it.
The Internet to schools
The main report — of Deputy Minister Albert Yakovlev — was full of optimistic figures. The speaker started with news about providing Internet access to educational institutions and other socially significant objects. The state contract for this works at a cost of 1,1 billion rubles for the Information Infrastructure project was won by Tattelecom.
For this money, by the end of 2021, 1,913 objects are to be connected to the Internet via fiber-optic communication lines in Tatarstan, 613 objects of which will be connected in 2020. In particular, 546 schools are to be connected within the framework of federal funding, and another 499 are to be connected under the republican programme. Thus, by the beginning of the school year, there will not be a single school in Tatarstan without high-speed Internet. The most schools, the deputy minister noted, will be connected in the Arsky district — 67, Kukmor district-45, Almetyevsk and Mamadysh district — 40, and Aktanysh district — 35. Wi-Fi will also be provided in 587 schools by the end of the year.
“In 2020, 533 kilometres of fiber-optic communication lines have been built in the republic. But in the Republic of Tatarstan, there are still 420 rural localities with a population of 64,626 people where there are no VOCLs (fiber-optic communication lines)," Albert Yakovlev reminded of the need to eliminate the “digital inequality” of the population of the republic, ending the topic of Internet availability.
Wireless phone, fixed Internet
According to the ministry of digitalisation, the number of landline telephone subscribers in the republic has decreased by 9% in six months — it has fallen to 649,000 people. But the number of subscribers of mobile operators, on the contrary, has increased by 6,6% — to 7,6 million people.
However, when people give up landline phones, they do not leave “landline” operators: the number of “fixed” Internet subscribers has increased by 5% in 2020 — to 1,061 million, and the number of cable TV subscribers — by 1%, to 692,000.
Self-isolation in connection with the coronavirus pandemic has also made adjustments to Internet traffic: the total volume has increased by 43% and amounted to about 140,000. TB, 12 GB per subscriber.
These impressive figures, as it turned out, have a downside: Minister Ayrat Khayrullin, after Yakovlev's report, criticised telecom operators who lay wires, as they say, to every house, not underground but “through the air” — on crooked poles that do not adorn the streets of settlements. In total, more than 1,621 km of overhead telecommunication lines are to be hidden underground in the republic, but operators are not in a hurry to do this.
According to the ministry of digitalisation, MTS PJSC was supposed to remove 61,4 km of overhead telecommunication line but removed 28,8 km (46%), VimpelCom PJSC removed 28,7 km (39%) out of the planned 72 km, and ER-Telecom JSC — 19 km (56%) out of 35 km.
But the head of the settlement is against...
Internet users during the self-isolation 2020 began to complain much more often about its quality. In 2019, 41 such complaints were received in the first six months, and in 2020 — 98. VimpelCom received the most complaints per 100,000 subscribers — 24,9 against last year's 10,67. Rostelecom's indicators — 13,49 (in 2019 — 5,06), Tattelecom's — 12,63 (in 2019 — 5,71), MTS's — 6,73 (in 2019 — 1,34).
But the Internet is just for starters, but it's worse when you can't even call. In 2019, 22 localities of the Republic of Tatarstan did not have cellular communication with the world at all, reported at the meeting. By the end of 2020, there should be 8 of them left.
To improve the quality of communication, operators are installing new towers. But even with this things are not very good: towers are put on municipal land, and citizens living nearby prevent their installation, motivating it with a threat to health. As recently as on Tuesday, the minister reminded, there was a “riot” in the Ayshinsky rural settlement of the Zelenodolsk district of the republic and the head of the settlement himself led it. After learning about the installation of the cell tower, which, according to Ayrat Khayrullin, is necessary to eliminate the “white spot” (due to the lack of cellular coverage at the entrance to Kazan, train passengers' phones are off), local residents held a rally and decided: the tower should not be there. Marat Kabanov, the director of the Kazan branch of T2 Mobile PLC, also complained about the “radiophobia” of the population:
“The towers are on fire!”
Answering questions from Realnoe Vremya at the end of the meeting, Ayrat Khayrullin said that there are many such “white spots” on the territory of the republic, and even in Kazan they are enough, and that towers for their elimination are put only if there are permits, but it is necessary to negotiate with the population about the installation “within the legal framework” and only in a peaceful way — by explaining both the safety and the need for their installation. He also said that in some cities of the republic, telecom operators have already learned to disguise these towers so that they do not frighten people. For example, as trees — it looks like an ordinary pine, but in fact, the artificial tree conceals the equipment.
5G will come
Albert Yakovlev called on operators to “actively engage in the implementation of 5G technology” and “apply for frequency assignment and obtaining licenses”. According to the deputy minister, 115 operators supply fifth-generation communication services in the world, 15,000 network locations have been deployed, for example, 250,000 5G base stations are planned to be built in China this year, and the number of their users has exceeded 36 million:
“Obviously, China is going to lead this growing market.
Ayrat Khayrullin later reminded reporters that the Russian government has not yet made a decision to assign 5G frequencies and that the pilot project, which is being tested in Tatarstan at KAMAZ PJSC, is only part of the internal production process.
But in Tatarstan, according to him, it is planned to launch 5G networks in a pilot mode: in Kazan, Innopolis and Arsk. In particular, in Kazan, such towers are going to be installed on the territory of the Agricultural Palace and near Ekiyat puppet theatre. This, according to the minister, will help solve security issues, for example, when it is necessary to install video surveillance devices with a facial recognition system:
“It is important that radio-frequency spectrum appears here. And most importantly, the services or solutions that this will give.
Mikhail Peysakhovich, the territorial manager for e-сommerce at Russian Post JSC, answered for postal communication at the meeting. He said that in the first half of the year, against the background of self-isolation, the number of parcels issued online on the department's website and mobile app increased 10 times, and the number of registered letters doubled.
At the same time, according to the ministry of digitalisation of public administration, information technologies and communications of the Republic of Tatarstan, the number of parcels sent has increased by 21%, but the exchange of written correspondence has fallen by 5%, the number of postal transfers has decreased by 15%. One of the reasons for this, according to Ayrat Khaiyrullin, is the exorbitant rates of the post for delivery services.
“Your delivery price...” he reproachfully addressed the speaker and noted that the competitors' cost of services is lower, and the operator needs to think about how to reduce it at least for state institutions.