Russia’s Ministry of Communications has announced that Norilsk – the world’s northernmost city, with nearly 180,000 residents – has lit a fibre-optic backbone network link for the first time, with capacity of around 40Gbps, providing external bandwidth for faster and cheaper internet/voice/multimedia services for residents, businesses and public institutions in the industrial city and neighbouring town of Dudinka (population 22,000). The fibre rollout was funded to the tune of RUB2.5 billion (USD43 million) by locally-based metals mining giant Norilsk Nickel via its subsidiary Edinstvo, as the Arctic Circle city (in the Krasnoyarsk Krai region) was not included in the Federal ‘digitalisation’ fibre expansion programme operated by Rostelecom.
The project kicked off in November 2015, and involved deployment of a 957km optical connection to Novy Urengoy on a route through Yamal-Nenets Autonomous District and Krasnoyarsk Territory. Prior to the fibre-optic project, Norilsk was connected to the outside world only via satellites, with total throughput of around 1Gbps (according to Norilsk Nickel’s estimate in November 2015), whilst bandwidth channel prices were expensive, leading to slow and pricey end-user internet services. Alongside fixed broadband service improvements, Russian mobile operators are also switching their voice/data traffic backhaul from satellite to fibre in the region.
TelecomDaily reports that Norilsk was one of the last remote Russian cities to be reached by fibre-optic networks. Since 2012, such cities receiving fibre links have included Magadan (around 100,000 inhabitants), Mirny (35,000), Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (180,000), Salekhard (48,000) and Yakutsk (over 300,000 residents), whilst fibre expansion projects for settlements in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug are ongoing.