Top Russian MNOs fined over roaming charges

Three Russian mobile operators – MTS, Vimpelcom and Mega- Fon – have been fined by the country’s Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) for charging excessively high roaming tariffs.

Each has been ordered to pay 1% of its turnover to the FAS, and will have to lower roaming charges in Russia and other CIS countries by up to 70%. The FAS has been investigating the basis on which Russian mobile phone services are charged since March, and says it may yet impose further tariff cuts.

Russian mobile operators Comstar-UTS and MTS, now merged into one operation, are to share 3G base stations in a bid to cut costs and avoid duplication of network resources. MTS said it will connect its base stations to Comstar’s multi-service transport communication network in the Moscow region, with the unified network promising transmission speeds of between 14.4Mbps and 21.6Mbps. Any savings made will allow expansion into new service areas and reduce the roll-out time for new transport infrastructure, says the merged operation.

Competition in the key markets of Moscow and St Petersburg is especially fierce, due to higher concentration of wealth in the two cities, says Paul Budde, founder of the Buddecomm consultancy: “Russia’s recent economic woes have impacted telecoms growth, although it is expected to pick up again in line with the overall economy. Mobile SIM card penetration has surpassed 100% although actual mobile user penetration is lower.”