Samsung poaches Apple’s last carrier in Russia

Russians wanting to purchase an Apple iPhone directly from a major mobile carrier are out of luck, with Samsung signing a deal with a major carrier that will see it abandon the iPhone.

According to Russian-language tech new site Hi-Tech Mail, VimpelCom, which operates in Russia under the BeeLine brand, has joined rivals Megafon and Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) in ending sales of the iPhone.

All three of the major Russian carriers originally signed up to distribute Apple iPhones in Russia during 2008. However, they have all since abandoned the company, citing demands for carrier subsidies and other costs.

VimpelCom, which is a joint venture of Norwegian telecommunications giant Telenor and the Russian-based Alfa Group, has signed a deal with Samsung, which will see the carrier purchase smartphones directly from the carrier, which will be promoted through its retail network.

In response, Apple has signed up independent mobile phone retail chain Svyaznoy as a distributor of its phones, with its devices also available in Russia through its Apple Stores.

However, Apple’s marketshare in Russia has fallen to 8.4% during the first quarter of 2013, down from 9% for the same quarter a year earlier.
According to the Seattle Times, news of VimpelCom’s deal with Samsung comes after a similar deal was struck between Microsoft, Nokia and MTS in November last year.

“Apple wants operators to pay them huge money, subsidising iPhones and their promotion in Russia,” MTS chief executive officer Andrei Dubovskov said at the time.

“Now it’s not beneficial for us. It’s good we stopped selling the iPhone as these sales would’ve brought us a negative margin.”

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