TUCoPS :: Phreaking Technical System Info :: russfone.txt

Short overview of the Russian phone system


The telephone system in Russia experienced rather big changes since
1991, when the Soviet Union disappeared as the state. Practically all
the telecommunication systems in the Soviet Union were the state
property. Due to the state monopoly and an absence of competition, the
service was far from ideal. Most of the people in cities had to wait for
a phone line installation for years. In rural areas it was much harder
and often impossible because of the state telco didn't wish to install
their equipment in low-populated places with a low profit. It was a kind
of a luxury to have a phone in a private rural house. Mobile phones was
a privilege of the Communist Party bosses and was inaccessible for an
ordinary customer. In spite of all those things, practically all urban
and rural houses was equipped by the original telco-based wire
broadcasting system. It was intended for receiving from 1 to 3 radio
channels with a simple cheap receiver, and the 1st channel was able to
receive with the cheap est device (so-named "radio-point") containing
only a speaker, a transformer and a volume control, without need of any
additional power source. The reason why the telco gave the much
attention for the broadcasting service was the civil defense. The wire
system is able to function at the hard conditions such as air radio
interferences and a power failure at the customer's location.

Now the things are quite different. The former state monopoly has been
divided by regional telecoms, most of them are joint-stock companies. In
most cities we have a bunch of independent companies which provide a
phone service, the Internet access and other data transfer services. The
companies created at the base of the former state monopoly (so-named
"the traditional operators") serve most of the clients who use only the
phone and don't need other services like fast access to the Internet.
The companies found after the monopoly dividing ("the business
operators") serve most of business and other clients who need the fast
high-quality digital communication. The traditional operators have a lot
of old equipment, such as Step by Step and Crossbar exchanges, in-band
signaling long-distance trunks, wire broadcasting systems and so on. Now
they are installing new equipment mostly in rural areas where there has
never been any service. That's why some villages have the more advanced
digital equipment than huge cities. For example, there are a few old
Step by Step exchanges in Moscow.  The business operators have only the
modern equipment. But they work only in cities and they neglect
low-populated areas. For instance, my small town is located in 36 km (20
miles) from huge St.Peterburg city. Here is perfect voice telephone
service provided by the traditional telco "Lensvyaz". But the access to
the Internet is available only by dialup connection. DSL or other fast
access is unavailable.

As for cellular phones, now we have two nationwide mobile operators,
"Megafon" and "MTS" ("MobileTeleSystems"), and a bunch of small regional
operators. The most widespread mobile standard is GSM, also some of
operators use the old standards NMT-450 and AMPS. The newest CDMA
standard is being started too. Due to the hard competition, the cellular
fees dramatically fell during lasted a few years. The cellular phone was
the attribute of rich businessmen or "Big Bosses" in late and middle
1990's. Practically any average urban citizen is able to use it now.

Since the times when the cellular phones was expensive, people have many
long range cordless phones. Particularly a large quantity of them is at
the Eastern and Northern parts of the country. The roofs of buildings in
Magadan or Tumen cities are the great illustration, they have been
covered by the radio telephone antennas. Most of those phones have been
smuggled from Taiwan or China. They work on unapproved frequencies and
their using is very unsafe. My neighbour had one which worked directly
on the FM radio band. When I tuned my Boom Box I was able to hear all
his conversations!

The great thing being made now is the installation of new modern public
payphones. Most of them operate with smart cards and allow to call any
local, national or international number. Most of old payphones were able
to make only the local calls.

Another interesting thing is a phreaking. As I wrote, some of
traditional operators still have old in-band signaling trunks in use,
besides of digital PCM systems, fiber optic cables and microwave
antennas. That's why the die-hard phreak has all chances to find a
channel for the blue boxing. For instance, about 10 percents of the
channels which connect my town to the rest of the world, are breakable.
Because of the equipment selects the channels randomly, one of 10
attempts to box can be successful. Anyway the blue-boxing is quite rare
kind of the phreaking in Russia. There is more easy and "dirty" method,
named Gray Boxing. It is based on the substitution of the forged
(artificial generated) AON (automatic number identifier) signal instead
of original equipment's signal. The bill will be charged to the phone
number generated by phreak's device. The police often arrests immigrants
from Vietnam or China for this kind of fraud. They organize underground
offices where another immigrants can make international calls for less
fee than legal. This kind of criminal business is very profitable
because the equipment for fraud is cheap and easy to obtain. The
struggle with this is a hard task for telcos. They have to change all
the old equipment if they want to get rid from phreaks fully.

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