MegaFon Signs Deal to Sell Apple's iPhone 3G

MegaFon, the country's third-largest mobile phone company, said Tuesday that it signed an agreement to sell Apple's iPhone 3G in Russia.

Sales will begin this year, MegaFon said, without providing further details. Tatyana Zvereva, a spokeswoman for MegaFon, said the company agreed with Apple not to comment on the details of the accord.

Apple is choosing its first authorized distributors in a country that already is one of the world's biggest markets for the device because of illegal imports. Retailers estimate that there are more than 400,000 iPhones in Russia, said Nadezhda Golubeva, a telecoms analyst at UniCredit Aton.

"We believe most consumers who wanted iPhones already have them," Golubeva wrote in an August report. "We only expect the 'Big Three' stepping in to cause a material acceleration of iPhone sales if they start pricing them below gray-market sales." Illegal iPhones sell for about $1,000, she said.

Irina Osadchaya, a spokeswoman for Mobile TeleSystems, the country's biggest mobile phone company, which has yet to announce a deal, declined to comment.

VimpelCom, Russia's No. 2 mobile service provider, said Aug. 28 that it signed an agreement with Apple to bring the iPhone 3G to Russia this year.

Apple shares rose $3.01, or 1.8 percent, to $172.54 in Nasdaq trading as of 10:30 a.m.

The iPhone has become a status symbol in Moscow, with users including President Dmitry Medvedev, billionaire Alexander Mamut and Boris Yeltsin Jr., grandson of the former president, according to the Kommersant. VimpelCom chief executive Alexander Izosimov also has one