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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Vimpelcom Launches First Local Mobile Net Service

Vimpelcom on Monday launched its General Packet Radio Service, the first Russian cellular operator to introduce the mobile Internet technology for commercial use.

The new service, which allows cellular users to stay online at all times, is available only in Moscow and the Moscow region.

"Introduction of GPRS technology as a commercial service is an important stage for Russia's entire cellular market," Nikolai Pryanishnikov, Vimpelcom's first vice president, said at a news conference.

GPRS can be used to access the web through the handset itself or by using the phone as a modem to connect to a computer.

Vimpelcom began testing GPRS last June and signed up 10,000 regular subscribers who had used the service for free. The company plans to triple that number by the end of the year.

"For this technology, it's an aggressive scenario," said Vimpelcom spokesman Mikhail Umarov, adding that the company does not expect high revenues from the service.

Vimpelcom's tariff plan offers GPRS for $3 a month and 25 cents for every megabyte of downloaded information.

The No. 2 operator's major competitors, Mobile TeleSystems and Megafon, are also planning to launch the service.

MTS spokesman Kirill Lubnin said the company plans to start commercial use of GPRS before the end of the year but declined to give further details.

Sonic Duo, which operates under the Megafon brand in Moscow, is ready to offer GPRS but sees little demand.

"On one hand, we welcome brave initiatives by our colleagues from Vimpelcom; on the other hand, we consider this step premature," Sonic Duo spokesman Roman Prokolov said.

Vyacheslav Nikolayev, an analyst at Renaissance Capital, said the service should be targeted at high-end clients.

"You can't expect significant revenues from this service," he said. "But as a marketing move, it's very good. Vimpelcom continues developing its image as the most advanced cellular company."