Moscow: Russia’s number one cell operator MTS said on 5 September it has signed a deal with Apple Inc. to sell the iPhone in Russia.
MTS, which becomes the last of the country’s “big three” providers to announce a distribution agreement for the handsets, did not provide immediate details of the deal.
The announcement was made less than a week after MTS’s major rivals Vimpelcom and MegaFon said they have reached similar deals with Apple.
Both MegaFon and VimpelCom said they will be offering iPhone 3G. MTS was not able to specify which model it will be selling.
iPhones have not gone on sale officially in Russia, but are available on the “gray market” for some $1,000, several times the current retail price in the United States. An estimated 500,000 iPhones are in use in Russia, which makes it one of the biggest markets for iPhones outside the United States.
Analysts say Apple decided to sign deals with the “big three” because it wanted to get a good exposure on the local market where buyers can be put off by being able to use a handset on only one network.
Analyst Anna Lepetukhina, of Troika Dialog, said that iPhones will probably be available on different networks and operators will not be subsidizing the handsets, although details of the deals are not available yet.
Lepetukhina said the official retail price in Russia, which she estimated at between $600 and $700, will draw iPhone users to buy more.