Valery Kozlov is CEO of Comstar. He spoke to Telecoms Russia about the company’s moves into the Moscow region and about the telecom industry’s prospects in general.
Telecoms Russia: In August, Comstar launched operations in the Moscow region. Unlike other major telecoms – which have not found the area to be attractive – you have plunged into the market. What were your reasons for the move?
Valery Kozlov: For a long time, Moscow Oblast has received little attention from major telecom providers, and not without reason, considering its poorly developed infrastructures and low spending power of the population. Therefore, residents of Moscow Oblast could pin their hopes only on local divisions of Centertelecom and some 300 small commercial telecoms in the area.
As it is having problems maintaining its outdated equipment, Centertelecom cannot meet growing demands for quality services. Currently, the problem is a matter of concern for the regional administration. On orders from Gov. Boris Gromov, a working group has been formed to develop telecom infrastructures in the region. The group consists of representatives of the Moscow Oblast administration and Comstar.
The choice of Comstar is not coincidental. The firm has earned a reputation as an "alternative" provider with sufficient capacity and experience in implementing successful and economically efficient projects.
Comstar will develop telecom infrastructures in Moscow Oblast, introduce new technologies and seek to make modern telecom services available.
TR: Has there been a demand for the hosting service launched by Comstar last summer? Do you plan to further expand your services?
VK: Starting in July, Comstar has been providing a complete set of hosting services. Hosting is a new type of service, and may not seem to be quite fitting into the bounds of traditional sets of services offered by telecom providers. Nevertheless, we’ve elaborated the program deliberately, and now we offer content, Web-design and Internet applications on customers’ request. Comstar has introduced these services primarily for existing clients. It is convenient for a client to purchase all services from one company, and this played a decisive role in our decision-making. We provide a complete set of hosting services in cooperation with our strategic partner – the Nasha Studiya company.
Of course, Comstar is providing hosting services to new clients also, and we always seek to offer "ready-to-use" solutions to customers.
TR: Your ACP Comstar-Billing system has passed government certification and represents Comstar’s first software product to be officially recognized in Russia. Comstar has no competitors so far. Do you expect any moves from your competitors?
VK: It is not correct to say we have no competitors. A number of products of this kind are currently available on the market and some of them are certified.
However, there is a niche where we enjoy unsurpassed leadership. We are a one-stop shop providing complex solutions, including communication channels, commutation equipment, technical support and billing system.
This does not mean that we limit ourselves to those clients who use us as a one-stop shop. Though we have not undertaken any serious efforts to promote ACP Comstar-Billing, specialists are aware of the product and we expect it to become popular. As of today, ACP Comstar-Billing has been installed by more than 100 customers.
TR: What are the main trends of the telecom market’s development in Russia?
VK: Among the main trends is an increased demand for services and hence the sector’s outpacing development compared with other industries, and also tough competition, rapid introduction of new technologies and new kinds of modern services. Services that seemed exotic not very long ago have become products of mass consumption. These developments come into increasing contradiction with the outdated methods of management at the top.
But one thing is clear about Russia’s telecoms market: It will grow and expand. There’s no alternative because this market represents the basis of the information community in all developed countries. I would even say that putting obstacles in the way of its development could cause an economic collapse.
TR: Do you consider the Russian telecoms industry to be attractive for investors?
VK: Generally speaking, telecoms are among the most attractive industries for long-term investing. Within the Russian telecoms market in particular, this is a matter of government strategy. World experience indicates that the state’s opportunities to finance telecoms development are always far below the amount required for the industry to keep pace with growing demand for its services.
Therefore, private investments are vital here. The only way to attract private investments to the industry is to become committed to the principles of fairness, openness and free competition and to demonstrate such commitment through a fulfillment of these obligations.