Russian telcos to launch BlackBerry in Q1 2008

MOSCOW, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Two top Russian mobile firms, MTS MBT.N and Vimpelcom VIP.N, said on Tuesday they would start selling Research In Motion's RIM.TO BlackBerry phones in Russia after reaching a compromise with state security services.

The New-York listed firms said they had received approval from regulators, including the powerful FSB, the successor of the Soviet Union’s KGB, to begin shipping and operating the BlackBerry smartphones in the first quarter of 2008.

The permission was granted for one year.

MTS and Vimpelcom have not been able to bring the BlackBerry to Russia for several years as FSB required that RIM provides codes it uses to encrypt traffic. The companies did not say on what basis the compromise had been reached.

In October, MTS launched the BlackBerry in Ukraine, first among the twelve former Soviet Union states. In Russia, corporate clients are able to use the BlackBerry devices with foreign SIM-cards via roaming.

A Vimpelcom spokeswoman said the company had been cleared to ship 1,050 smartphones of the 8700 model, which RIM RIMM.O has been selling for several years.

Vimpelcom will start shipping the handsets after they are certified by Russian regulators, the spokeswoman said.

The BlackBerry is a wireless handheld device available on about 300 networks in 120 countries. It supports push e-mail, mobile telephone, messaging, web browsing and other wireless communication services. (Reporting by Maria Kiselyova and Anastasia Teterevleva; writing by Maria Kiselyova)