Russian fixed line operator Comstar UTS has finished building a long-distance network providing domestic inter-city connectivity, with four international connection nodes, at a cost of USD14 million. The wireline and broadband provider, part of the Sistema group, is running behind schedule in its original plan to launch domestic and international long-distance (DLD and ILD) services before the end of 2007. The Russian long-distance sector was previously a monopoly of the state-backed operator Rostelecom, but the first licences for alternative providers were offered in mid-2005. Since then a number of firms have launched in competition to Rostelecom, including Golden Telecom and Comstar’s sister company Multiregional Transit Telecom (MTT). Comstar says it will not compete in the same areas as MTT. It also announced this week that its Comstar-Direct unit has soft-launched high-definition (HD) TV broadcasts for users of its IPTV service, Stream TV.