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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sovintel, Vimpelcom Offer FMC

Alternative fixed-line operator Sovintel and cellular communications provider Vimpelcom have teamed up in an attempt to boost their share of the corporate market, unveiling the Fixed Mobile Convergence service that unites fixed-line phones with mobile handsets.

The service, which is available only to corporations, allows customers to establish a virtual personal network with a single number for mobile and fixed phones. The service also puts both mobile and fixed-line calls on one bill, and clients will be able to call from their mobiles to their office using short dialing.

The companies are the first in Russia to launch the service, already popular in the United States and Japan, and are offering an attractive price of 9 cents for incoming calls, which is two to three times lower than competing plans. The service also works internationally.

Vimpelcom is hoping the service will boost its share of the corporate market to 50 percent from its current 15 percent.

"Many companies before the crisis didn't count costs," said Nikolai Pryanishnikov, vice president of Vimpelcom, "but now that they have started to count their money, there is a different generation of managers … who pay attention to cheap services."

The companies already have their first client, said Mikhail Murayev, first deputy general director of Sovintel, declining to reveal the client's name. Vedomosti newspaper reported that it is a large Moscow brewery.

Analysts, however, think that Vimpelcom is unlikely to realize its goal of capturing 50 percent of the corporate market. "An increase from 15 percent to 50 percent is a little ambitious," said Alexander Braginsky of Renaissance Capital.

Braginsky said, however, that the partnership is a good move, and he hopes that MTS, Vimpelcom's main competitor, will make a similar move in the future. MTS has a greater share of the corporate market, but declined to give exact figures.

"FMC can be a powerful marketing tool," said Ari Krel of United Financial Group. He said the new service could help Vimpelcom attract clients of Sovintel and Combellga, which have about 10,000 corporate subscribers between them.

Norwegian telecom operator Telenor owns 33 percent of Vimpelcom and last year took a controlling stake in Combellga's parent company Comincom.

Sovintel is looking to earn new clients in Moscow's business centers, said Alexander Rozanov, director of business development for Sovintel. He said that some other companies have already shown interest in the service.

The two companies are working on other projects, but declined to name any specifically.