The Soviet Union has jumped into third place behind the United States and Japan in the number of telephones in service, according to the 1989 edition of world telecommunications data published by American Telephone & Telegraph.
AT&T;'s annual survey, "The World's Telephones," credits the Soviet Union with having installed 27,660,900 telephones, or slightly less than one for every 10 inhabitants. Although that moved the country up from sixth place in 1981, the last year it contributed data, the total is only about one-fourth the number of phones found in the United States, 118,400,662 (nearly one for every two people), and a little more than half of second-ranking Japan's 49,976,000. The Soviet Union was followed in the rankings by France, Britain and West Germany.
However, the Soviet price for local calling, judging from the 2-kopeck or 4-cent charge for using a pay phone, is considerably less than the 20 cents to 25 cents typically charged in this country. The problem may be finding a pay phone, with just 362,000 scattered from the Ukraine to Siberia.
Most international calling from the Soviet Union goes to Eastern Europe as well as Finland, Italy, West Germany and Mongolia.
Some other tidbits from the 300-page book of charts and tables, which AT&T; has published each year since 1912:
* The United States is the most frequent destination of calls from 25 countries, including Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Cuba, Iceland, Israel, Liberia, Mexico, Panama and the Philippines.
* The most frequently called countries from the United States include Canada, Mexico, Britain, West Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Korea, Taiwan and the Dominican Republic.
* New York City ranks third worldwide in number of telephones (4,520,239), surpassed only by Tokyo (5,319,000) and Paris (5,165,787).
AT&T;, which collects the data by sending questionnaires to the world's telephone administrations or phone companies, said 59% of those queried responded.