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Russian Mobile Operators
December 3, 2007 17:36

Three companies stand out among mobile operators in Russia - MTS, Megafon, and Beeline. They have the largest number of subscribers. The rest of the operators have significantly fewer customers and are represented only in certain regions of the Russian Federation. Among popular operators,  not included in the "big three", are Tele2, Rostelecom, and Smarts. The total number of   mobile operators in Russia is over a hundred. Some regional operators are subsidiaries of large Russian companies. For example, Votek Mobile in Tula and Belgorodskaya Sotovaya Svyaz are owned by Tele2.

Mobile TeleSystems (MTS)

Mobile TeleSystems is the largest mobile network operator in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.

MTS was founded as a closed joint stock company by the Moscow City Telephone Network in cooperation with Deutsche Telecom (DeTeMobil), Siemens and several other shareholders in October 1993. 53% of the stock was controlled by four Russian companies, while the rest of 47% was owned by two German firms. In 1995 Sistema, the largest private sector consumer services company in Russia and the CIS, acquired the stake from the Russian shareholders. At the same time DeTeMobile bought Siemens’s block of shares.

The 1st of March, 2000, is the date of creation of the Opened Joint stock Company Mobile TeleSystems as a result of merger of CJSC MTS and CJSC RTK.

Together with its subsidiaries, the Company services over 79.12 million subscribers. MTS completed its IPO and listed its Level III ADRs on the New York Stock Exchange in July 2000, under the MBT symbol. The Company’s shares have been listed locally on MICEX since November 2003, under the symbol MTSI. The Company’s GDRs are also traded in Europe. The free float of the Company’s shares is approximately 46.7%. MTS is 52.8% majority-owned by Sistema, the largest private sector consumer services company in Russia and the CIS.

As of December 31, 2012, the Group serviced over 95 million mobile subscribers in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Turkmenistan and Belarus, a region that boasts a total population of more than 220 million. The Group’s fixed business, as of September 30, 2012, had a total of 11.761 million households passed, 2.224 million broadband Internet and 2.949 million pay-TV subscribers.

In 2008, MTS became the first and only Russian company to enter BRANDZ™ Top 100 Most Powerful Brands, a ranking published by the Financial Times and Millward Brown, a leading global market research and consulting firm, and has stayed on the list for five years now. In 2012, MTS value was estimated at  $9.55 billion.

In April 2020, the consulting company Brand Finance recognized MTS as the second strongest telecom brand in the world according to the brand strength index (BSI), and in August 2020 - the most expensive Russian telecom brand for the third year in a row, assessing its value in 2020 year of 147.96 billion rubles (+21.8% by 2019).

VimpelCom (BeeLine)

VimpelCom JSC considers 15 September to be the birthday of the company, as that is the date when it was officially registered. The next year the Beeline trade mark was created. VimpelCom was the first Russian Company to list its shares on the NYSE in 1996 after a 90-year-long break, under the VIP symbol. In 1997 BeeLine built the first dual band GSM-900/1800 cellular network in Russia.

Today, the VimpelCom Group includes cellular companies operating in Russia, Italy, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Laos, Algeria, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burundi, Zimbabwe, Central African Republic and Canada. VimpelCom’s operations around the globe cover a territory with a total population of approximately 780 million people.

As of 2012, the company provided services for 212 million mobile subscribers worldwide.

The Beeline brand provides services of cellular (GSM, UMTS and LTE) and fixed communication, wired (FTTB) and wireless (Wi-Fi, Beeline WiFi) high-speed Internet access, IP-television (Beeline Home Digital TV and Mobile TV). In August 2019, the company launched a service based on artificial intelligence "BeelineAI-Search", which will help find missing people more quickly. The service is designed specifically to support search tasks "Lisa Alert."


MegaFon is the first all-Russian mobile network operator using dual band GSM-900/1800 cellular network. The company was formed in consequence of renaming and reorganization of North-West GSM and integration under one name with Sonyc Duo (Moscow), , Mobicom-KAvkaz, Mobocom Novosibirsk, Mobikom-Khabarovsk, Mobocom-Kirov and several other companies in May 2002.

MegaFon is the first operator in Russia that has successfully tested an experimental network of the 4G, LTE protocol. By fall 2012, 4G networks have been rolled out in the regions accounting for more than 20% of the population - Moscow, Moscow Region, Novosibirsk, Samara, Vladivostok, Ufa, Krasnodar Territory, Sochi, Saint-Petersburg, Kazan, Kostroma. MegaFon seeks to provide 4G connection to 100,000 subscribers in Russia. 
The development of 3G and 4G networks is a priority for the company in the upcoming years. 
The company floated 15 percent of its stock during the IPO on November 28, 2012 at the Moscow Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. The mobile operator sold its shares for 20 dollars, raising some $1.7 billion.
Estimated at $11.7 billion, the company became the last of the three biggest operators to go public. 

Tele 2

Over its 10 years in the country, Tele2 Russia has transformed from a small regional company into a federal network. With 22.9 mln subscribers, Tele2 is Russia’s fourth largest wireless operator, providing services in 42 Russian regions. Since 2003, it invested more than $3 billion into the Russian economy.

In spring 2012, VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, bought Tele2 Russia for $2.4 billion. VTB is reportedly planning to sell the new asset to Rostelecom to keep the fourth strong competitor out of the hands of the big troika.

As of September 2020, Tele2 operates in 68 constituent entities of the Russian Federation. It functions as a group of companies, the full name of the holding's parent structure is Limited Liability Company “T2 RTK Holding”. The headquarters is in Moscow. Now the Russian company Tele2 Russia is associated with the Swedish Tele2 only by the common corporate values ​​of Tele2Way, which both companies preach. 

Legal advice on Russian legislation


Olga Pletneva (updated by Mikhail Vesely)

Tags: Russian business Russian mobile networks    

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