Russia’s leading mobile operators to slash roaming prices

Igor Artemyev, Head of the Russian federal AntiMonopoly Service has told Prime Minister Putin that major telecommunication providers will cut roaming call prices by up to half, and by more on SMS and internet services.

Speaking at a meeting with Prime Minister Putin, Artemyev, with Communications and Mass Media Minister, Igor Shchegolev also present indicated that major price reductions on roaming mobile services, domestically and abroad, from providers including MTS, Megafon, and VimpelCom could be expected prior to the new year.

"By December 1 at the very latest, but several companies earlier,they will be cutting tariffs on roaming within Russia – that is, between cities – and in full scale in all CIS countries. Furthermore, they will soon send letters to counterparties in Western Europe and North America suggesting that international roaming rates be cut not only within the bounds of the CIS, but worldwide,"

Prime Minister Putin noted that the reductions would have a significant impact on prices paid by consumers.

"I judge from looking at the documents you have presented that this is a substantial reduction in roaming prices. The voluntary reduction in the price for roaming will average across the three main companies for voice services 33%-50%, for sending SMS messages – 67%, and for mobile Internet services – 50%-75%,"

In March 2010, the Federal Antimonopoly Service initiated proceedings against the operators in connection with their inflated prices for roaming. Antimonopoly representatives stated that the cost of international roaming in MTS, VimpelCom and MegaFon was twice than that of other operators. Kazakhstan's anti-monopoly regulators joined the investigation this summer.

The companies began cutting their roaming charges in September. Vimpelcom reduced roaming prices in countries where it operates under the Beeline brand, Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Ukraine, as well as the Kyivstar network and the Velcom network in Belarus.

Megafon press secretary, Tatiana Ivanova, said the company will introduce new roaming prices in several countries with 30% price reduction on incoming and out coming calls

“MegaFon announces roaming price reduction of calls when roaming from 1 December 2010 in the following countries Abkhazia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belorucsiya, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Turkey, Estonia, Finland, Turkmenistan, South Ossetia. The new price for all calls will be 33 roubles per minute and 13 roubles per sms.”

Ivanova added that prior to the reductions incoming calls cost 46 roubles, and outgoing calls cost 56 roubles. She added that the price cuts were being made possible through cooperation agreements with international partners.

Vimpelcom spokeswoman Anna Aibasheva said calling costs would fall to 34 roubles from 49 roubles, with SMS prices to fall to 9.5 roubles from 19 roubles, and mobile internet costs to fall by more than half – from 15 roubles per 20 kilobytes, to 6 roubles. She added that Vimpelcom had sent letters to 30 operators in the CIS, proposing inter-operator traffic charges be reduced.

MTS spokeswoman, Irina Osadchaya, said the company had sent similar letters to operators in countries where it doesn’t have subsidiaries.

"If we can agree on a reduction in interoperator tariffs with our roaming partners in other CIS countries, that would allow us to offer even lower rates to subscribers."