More than 20 LPR providers sent a collective complaint to the Federal Antimonopoly Service against the largest Lugansk operator Lugacom for setting prices for traffic transmission to the territory of the republic 2.5 times higher compared to neighboring regions. The providers’ application was filed by the legal company “Ordercom” on April 28. His dispatch to Vedomosti was confirmed by the general director of Ordercom Dmitry Galushko.
In the actions of the government of the LPR and the State Unitary Enterprise of the LPR “Lugacom” they saw “signs of violation of the legislation of the Russian Federation on the protection of competition”, follows from the complaint. On September 6, 2022, the government of the LPR adopted a resolution according to which there can be only one external data transmission service provider on the territory of the republic – Lugacom. This means that if traffic transmission services are provided from a neighboring subject of Russia to the territory of the LPR, then they can only be provided by Lugacom.
Thus, according to the authors of the complaint, the government of the LPR has created a natural monopoly and the prices for the service of passing traffic to the territory of the republic turned out to be higher than in other competitive markets. As of April 1, 2023, the service for passing traffic in a channel from 1 Mbps to 999 Mbps is 60 rubles. The same service in the Rostov region costs 24-30 rubles from Retnnet and Megafon operators, the data is in circulation.
In order to protect competition, it is necessary to remove the prescriptions prohibiting the admission of other trunk operators to the LPR market and their connection to the networks of other subjects of the Federation, says Galushko. In addition, it is important to provide for the entry into the territory of the republic of another main operator promised by the Ministry of Digital Development. This will reduce the prices for passing the main traffic from the LPR to the rest of Russia and vice versa, he notes.
For the first time, the exit of an alternative trunk operator in the territory of the LPR and the DPR was discussed at a meeting on communications in new territories with the participation of Russian Minister of Digital Development Maksut Shadayev on February 10, 2023, Vedomosti wrote. In addition, the backbone operator will provide the “outsourcing” service, i.e. it will ensure the transit of the traffic of the connected operator through its communication center, which has already implemented the SORM complex (equipment for operational-search activities, the installation of which is provided for by Russian legislation).
The Ministry of Digital Development of Russia was in favor of an alternative trunk operator entering the territory of the LPR, which would offer a price for traffic transmission of 20-25 rubles. with the outsourcing service included in the price, knows the source of Vedomosti in one of the LPR providers.
Miranda Media (operating in Crimea, owned by Rostelecom by 19.99%) at the end of March posted two vacancies to search for communications specialists in Lugansk on the recruiting service HH.ru, Vedomosti wrote in early April. It was this operator that the Ministry of Digital Development allegedly considered as an alternative backbone operator, which should enter new regions from May 1.
The Russian Ministry of Digital Transformation is aware of Lugacom’s overstatement of prices for traffic transmission for providers and the department is dealing with the situation that has arisen, its representative told Vedomosti. But since March 15, tariffs for passing traffic to the territory of the LPR have already been reduced by more than 20%, he added. At the same time, the Mintsifra does not plan to introduce an alternative operator until it is decided what kind of company it will be, a representative of the ministry said.
At the time of the preparation of the complaint to the FAS, the cost of traffic transmission for LPR providers was 80 rubles. for 1 Mbps (a channel with a bandwidth of 1 to 999 Mbps), says another Vedomosti source in a local provider. The Ministry of Communications of the LPR, in the absence of another backbone operator, made indulgence to local companies in the form of a reduction in the cost of the service – up to 60 rubles. for 1 Mbps without outsourcing service.
“It became 20 rubles. cheaper, but if compared with the neighboring Rostov region, then the cost of passing traffic there is 25 rubles. In addition, no one offers us the outsourcing service, and we simply cannot afford to buy and implement a complete set of equipment on the networks to fulfill the Yarovaya package,” he says.
According to the interlocutor’s calculations, for a small provider, the installation of SORM incurs additional costs from 2 million to 6 million rubles. over the cost of maintaining communication networks. Moreover, there is no opportunity to take a bank loan from local providers for a long time, since no one will provide insurance. “Today we will take equipment worth 4 million rubles, and tomorrow it will stop working, because hostilities are going on,” he says. At the same time, the cost of providing Internet access services for residents of the republic is kept at around 400-500 rubles. for 100 Mbps, and it turns out that local companies operate at a loss, the source complains.
LPR Minister of Telecom and Mass Communications Andrey Eremenko told Vedomosti that he would soon answer questions about the complaint to the FAS and about the second main operator in an interview for the local press.
Separate regulations of local authorities could be dictated by the difficult situation in the region, says Pavel Katkov, lawyer, member of the Russian Chamber of Commerce and Industry Committee on Entrepreneurship in the Field of Media Communications. Any problems in the field of competition are a matter of regulation by the antimonopoly regulator and it should deal with them, the expert states.
In the current conditions, the state needs to take on such things as laying a main optical communication line, since hostilities are taking place on the territory and there is no competition in this matter, Denis Kuskov, CEO of Telecom Daily, argues. Price characteristics should be clear and understandable and may even be subsidized by the state, he concludes.
Vedomosti also sent inquiries to Lugakom and FAS.
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