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January 23, 2006


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Oskar L.

Interesting stuff. Does it work the same way with VOIP telephony?



PTK was part of Telecom Serbia before 1999, right? Did Telecom Serbia received any money for losing part of its infrastructure, that became PTK? If it didn't, then it seems kind of fair that they make up for their loss this way...

John Montague


Do most Balkan urban myths have such a political overtone?

Doug M.

Oskar: it depends. VOIP that makes no use of telephone numbers, like basic Skype... no, that's pure Internet. But if it uses a phone number at either end (like Skype Out or Vonage), then yes.

Bojan: Excellent question. This gets really complicated, so I'll simplify.

The Serbs point out that Yugoslavia built all the modern infrastructure in Kosovo -- roads, phones, electricity, you name it. And further, that Kosovo, always a poor province, was heavily subsidized by the rest of Yugoslavia. So, an independent Kosovo should owe Serbia some serious money for all that infrastructure.

The Albanians respond that most of the work was done by autonomous, Albanian-dominated Kosovo between 1974 and 1989; and that Milosevic, between 1990 and 1999, thoroughly gutted and trashed the province, doing damage that is still being repaired. Also that if money is owed for subsidies, it should go to Croatia and Slovenia, not Serbia, since it was those republics that were the big net contributors to the Yugoslav treasury.

PTK is a good example of this. The phone system was built under Communism. Some switches date back to the 1950s, but most of the work was done in the '70s and '80s. It was a Yugoslav thing, with money and personnel from all over the country.

Then after 1989... well, Milosevic trashed it, like almost everything else in Kosovo. Fired all the Albanians. No maintenance. No new construction, except in Serb areas. Massive corruption sucking money out of the system. By 1999 there were fewer working phones in Kosovo than there had been 10 years earlier.

Then the war, which hit the phone infrastructure hard. Antennas and towers knocked down. The Prishtina post office -- which contained most of the accounts and records, plus switching facilities -- blown to hell by a cruise missle launched from the Adriatic. KLA guerrillas targeted local exchanges. The retreating Serbs loaded computers, switches, routers and other equipment into trucks and took them to Serbia.

So, who pays for what today? It's not an easy question.

Doug M.

Oskar L.


Although it's always hard starting from scratch, it's also an excellent opportunity for doing some technological leapfrogging. Lot's of developing countries (eg China, Malaysia or Thailand) in many ways have more modern infrastructure than developed ones. This is also true within Europe, where Spain, Portugal and Greece in many ways have much nicer and newer highways than the f.ex. the UK or Sweden have.

So, maybe this should be a could chance for Kosovo to latch on to the latest technology within telecoms and forget the past!

Doug M.

Hi Oskar,

This idea has occurred to people here too. But there are some problems.

To give one example: widespread VOIP requires a big pipe -- basically, a fiber optic ring. Kosovo doesn't have one. They're putting one in, but it won't be ready until at least 2007, and then it will cover only greater Pristina. In rural Kosovo -- and most of Kosovo is rural -- VOIP won't be an option for years to come.

Then there are economic issues. If we're talking non-numbered telephony... well, ISPs will be happy to support it, but why should a telecom want to cut its own throat like that?

Doug M.


Doug, thanks for long and very informative answer. I like your posts about Kosovo, they seem very objective, and those are hard to find.


Well, where to start? Taiwan doesn't have a country code because China refuses to accept it's a country, but you can still make and receive international calls because there is a code "reserved for the ITU's use" that somehow turns up there.

In Kosovo, during the waaarrrr, the KLA used GSM mobiles *on Albanian or Macedonian networks* in the south because in a lot of places the signal overlapped into Kosovo, and if it's the strongest signal, a roaming GSM handset will grok it...which means the traffic goes through the home network's equipment, in Tirana, not through the Belgradian switch (and the lawful intercept wires plugged into it). Of course that kept up (in fact grew) when we bombed the local network to buggery.

India and China just signed the very first interconnection agreement between their systems - rather, Indian CDMA mobile op Reliance Infocomm and China Tel (one of two national land-line carriers) did. Until then, calls between the two routed via the US or Europe. Now they go via an interconnection point in Hong Kong and the FLAG cable..which makes them 55 per cent cheaper..

Do you *really* need two identical anti-spam tests?



The Kosovars cited Taiwan as precedent in their brief to the ITU. Strangely, the Director of ITU's all-important Telecommunication Standards Bureau -- Mr. Houlin Zhao -- did not find this precedent compelling.

Legally, the Taiwan-Kosovo analogy should be a strong one. Politically... less so. Taiwan got its de facto country code fifty years ago, at a time when the US and its allies had a great deal of clout with the ITU, and China very little. This is no longer the case.

Mobiles in Kosovo are such a baroquely complex issue that I decided to put them off to another post (which may or may not ever get written). Short version: PTK's mobile service comes in through Monaco, for reasons too tedious to go into here. They have an agreement with the Monaco telecom (it's really French) to split the termination fees.

Roaming GSM: In recent months, the Kosovars have decided that enough is enough. They reached a friendly settlement with the Albanians, and started blocking the Serbian and Macedonian signals. In most of Kosovo, the local PTK signal is now strongest, and a GSM handset won't pick up anything else.

India and China: good on them.

Do we /have/ two identical anti-spam tests? Oh, yah, previewing.

Doug M.


Hi there,

I understand this situation but I just want to clarify one thing here, who's right and who's not ou can never know if you don't face alive with PTK, so I just want o explain something here to you, we are a local VoIP provider here in Prishtina and we currently have 100k minutes per month and we have a request on wueue of 500k mins/month for fixed telephony. And when we requested from PTK 10 E1 for termination they said (you are ilegal here) so we decided to forward these calls 100k + 500k so in total 600k mins/month to Belgrade. So, after all of this do you have any idea who's on top of PTK??? Keep thinking because things are never the same as in Newspaper.

Who know more on this I really appreciate to inform us.

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