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ASTEL: Faultless Communications
The ASTEL telecommunications company, set up in 1993, is Kazakhstan's major private telecommunications operator, offering a wide range of services to transfer voice, data and video, access financial information and the Internet and create corporate networks. ASTEL's main priority is to effectively solve tasks set by clients, using advanced technology. The company now has one of the most powerful data-transfer networks in Kazakhstan, KazNet, and its satellite VSAT network, with about 1,000 stations, has no match in Central Asia.
ASTEL offers telecommunications services to government bodies, transnational companies and banks, major local companies, medium-sized and small enterprises and media organisations. ASTEL also has many clients among the oil and gas companies operating in the country, such as KazTransOil, Intergas Central Asia, Kazakhoil Aktobe, KuatAmlonMunay, CNPC-Aktobemunaygaz, Agip KCO, the GIS company, PetroKazakhstan, Turgay Petroleum and others.
Given that the Kazakh oil and gas sector is a leading contributor to the economy, the level of technical tasks and requirements set for service companies in this sector is often far higher than in any other. Quality telecommunications are particularly important in this context because the efficiency of a modern oil and gas enterprise mainly depends precisely on them. They are actually the alpha and omega in terms of managing a company efficiently.
ASTEL's commercial director, Sergey Tabakayev, says that the main requirements set by oilmen for their telecommunications are the accessibility and economic feasibility of solutions offered and the speed, quality and reliability of channels.
In order to meet these criteria, ASTEL is adapting and adopting in Kazakhstan the most advanced technology based on the latest developments by Gilat Satellite Network, Cisco Systems, Nortel Networks, Tandberg, Ericsson, RAD Data Communication, N.E.T., Expand Network, SAGEM, Avaya, Alvarion and others.
Working in direct contact with its clients and taking into account the specifics of their business processes and individual requirements, ASTEL is developing constantly. The company is expanding the range of its services and improving their quality. In this way, it ensures the profitability of each solution to create integrated telecommunications projects.
ASTEL has developed and adopted procedures to work with its clients, involving specialists from various services who directly supervise projects. This includes analysing the task, finding the best technical and economic solution, drafting a comprehensive "ready-made" project, supplying equipment, post-sale individual services and round-the-clock technical services.
All the issues relating to relations with clients, starting from establishing their needs to billing, are solved equally efficiently at both the headquarters and in any of the company's branches, which now number 23, including 19 Kazakh towns and Central Asian countries.
ASTEL's team, totalling over 200 highly-qualified specialists, cannot be called large in terms of Kazakh business standards. However, Mr Tabakayev believes, this is rather an advantage than a disadvantage because the independence of heads of regional branches in taking decisions boosts efficiency in reacting to clients' needs. By the way, ASTEL specialists themselves call their clients not clients but partners because effective cooperation in the telecommunications is impossible without a high level of mutual trust.
This factor acquires special significance for mining companies because the specifics of their work mean that they have to carry out their operations in the regions, literally far away from civilisation. Geologists prospecting for natural resources, builders assembling shift camps and production facilities, oil and gasmen developing fields and operating pipelines – all of them need quality and reliable telecommunications. And in this respect satellite technology is the best solution to ensure telephone connections, data transfers, telemetry and access to the Internet.
In this connection, in 2005 ASTEL launched the modern technology SkyEdge, the latest development by Gilat Satellite Networks (Israel), a recognised leader in the sphere, in Kazakhstan. This is not the first solution ASTEL received from its Israeli partner with whom it has been cooperating closely over the past five years. Satellite systems DialAway IP and FaraWay VSAT have also shown their advantages in Kazakhstan. They are very efficient since they operate satellite channels "on demand" (DAMA) and payment is made only for the actual time of connection.
In particular, a DialAway terminal, made up of a little satellite aerial and a user's bloc, makes it possible to solve the problems of telephone connection for any remote user – an office or a camp, a drilling or pumping station of a pipeline. Its very low power consumption and solar batteries make this system irreplaceable in areas where there is no electricity.
The FaraWay VSAT technology is designed for creating distributed corporate data and voice transfer networks. It connects remote terminals with one another and the client can hold online meetings involving branches located thousands of kilometres apart.
As for SkyEdge, it is an integrated updated satellite telecommunications system which combines the unique technological and technical experience of the DAMA technology. Its advantages are the guaranteed speed of data transfer, the high quality of telephone connection in sending voice or fax messages and support for IP telephony. Various types of terminals and satellite accesses ensure the efficiency of telecommunications services.
Intergas Central Asia was the first Kazakh oil and gas company to adopt the SkyEdge technology with assistance from ASTEL in mid-2006. In addition, ASTEL is currently testing and switching PetroKazakhstan's remote terminal networks to SkyEdge and carrying out two major projects with Agip KPO.
ASTEL specialists forecast that a surge in adopting this technology in Kazakhstan will take place in 2007-2008. To a greater extent this will be thanks to the commercial commissioning of the first Kazakh telecommunications satellite KazSat. Bearing in mind the absolutely new level of information security that the satellite will ensure, the company intends to actively use KazSat's capacities to expand the range of its clients, above all, among government structures.
The main advantages of the SkyEdge satellite technology:
· any network topology – star, multi-star, fully-connected;
· the speed of the channel from the terminal to the main control station – up to 2 Mbit/s;
· the speed of the channel from the main control station – up to 66 Mbit/s;
· end-to-end level QoS;
· the high quality of telephone connection in transferring voice or fax messages;
· support for its own and standard IP-telephony;
· various types of access to the satellite;
The SkyEdge series include the following five terminals:
· SkyEdge™ Pro – a multifunctional platform simultaneously supporting interactive data transfer, broadband IP connection and traditional protocols, as well as public and corporate telephony;
· SkyEdge™ IP – IP-router supporting interactive and broadband IP applications, traditional protocols and applications of multi-address broadcasting for both separate and all points;
· SkyEdge™ Call – telephone terminal for transferring high-quality voice and fax messages;
· SkyEdge™ Gateway – gateway platform supporting digital telephony and enabling connection to telephone station using E1 (R2, SS-7). As a fully-fledged router, it supports data transfer using IP;
· SkyEdge™ DVB-RCS – solution meeting expanded standard. This VSAT terminal supports interactive broadband IP applications and multi-address broadcasting for corporations, services suppliers and network operators.

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