* Vimpelcom signs direct sales contract with Apple
* MTS to purchase iPhones from distributors
* Carriers had sought softer contract terms
MOSCOW, Oct 22 Russian mobile phone operators
MTS and Vimpelcom said they would start selling
Apple Inc's new iPhone models on Oct. 25, with
Vimpelcom the country's only carrier to sign a direct sales
contract with the U.S. company so far.
MTS and Vimpelcom as well as their peer Megafon -
which account for 82 percent of all Russian mobile subscribers
between them - earlier this year failed to renew their contracts
on direct sales of iPhones in Russia as Apple would not soften
its contract terms.
The operators were deterred by the fact that Russia does not
allow subsidies for handsets, making the phones too expensive
for the average customer, while market sources say the U.S. firm
required the carriers to guarantee certain sales volumes and
Of the three carriers, only Vimpelcom has so far signed a
direct contract with Apple to sell the 5s and 5c iPhone models.
The company did not disclose the terms of the deal, which was
announced on Tuesday.
Unlike Vimpelcom, MTS will purchase the smartphones from
distributors, MTS said in a statement, although it did not rule
out the possibility of signing a direct contract in the future.
Its previous contract with Apple ended in September 2012.
One of the market sources said that signing contracts with
distributors rather than Apple itself allowed MTS to be flexible
in terms of sales volumes and avoid the U.S. firm's control over
its marketing spend on the iPhones promotion.
Megafon declined an immediate comment when asked if it
planned to sell the new iPhones. Megafon said previously that it
had not sold iPhones since 2009.
According to MTS, Apple had a 8.7 percent share of the
Russian smartphone market in terms of units sold in the first
half of 2013. It also sells in Russia through its online store
and other electronics retailers.