According to Prime Tass news agency Moscow-based telecoms operator Central Telegraph is poised to launch as an mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in the capital this summer. Citing comments by commercial director Kirill Karasyov, the report indicates that the service will become available between June and August and be offered under the ‘Qwerty’ brand that Central Telegraph currently markets its ISP activities under. According to Karasyov, the telco received an MVNO permit in 2011, and is obliged to launch commercial services no later than September 2012.
In order to introduce the service Central Telegraph will piggyback on CDMA-450 operator SkyLink’s network.
Established in 1852 as Moscow’s very first telegraph station, Central Telegraph currently offers fixed voice telephony, broadband access and IPTV in Moscow and its surroundings, with the telco expected to target its existing subscriber base with its new MVNO service. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Central Telegraph was one of the few telecoms assets not consolidated by national operator Rostelecom during its April 2011 ‘mega-regional merger’. 51% of the company was acquired by state holding company Svyazinvest in late-2010, but previous attempts at integrating the lucrative unit into Rostelecom’s central operation have proven unsuccessful. In October 2011 Rostelecom made a renewed approach to secure Central Telegraph’s shares in a deal valued at RUB1.2 billion (USD38 million), but the deal stalled, with no further progress reported at the time of writing.
According to recent industry estimates, the Russian MVNO market was home to approximately 1.1 million users at end-11, up from around 600,000 one year earlier. Of that figure, as many as 995,000 are believed to live in Moscow.