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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

MTS Wins License for Key Samara Region

Russia's biggest cellular network, Mobile TeleSystems, said Monday it had won a license for the key Samara region, a major industrial center and healthy mobile market currently controlled by the firm's rivals.

"The license for the Samara region is a significant extension of MTS's license portfolio in the strategically important Volga federal district," the cellular operator said in a statement.

"The population under MTS's license coverage area in Russia has increased to 106.4 million, which is 74.3 percent of the country's overall population," it said.

The Samara region's population of 3.3 million people and cellular penetration of 19 percent make it the country's fourth largest cellular market.

Over half of the residents in MTS's home market of Moscow now use mobile phones, but little-tapped provincial markets are still growing at boom rates.

MTS's strategic partner Deutsche Telekom is in talks to sell part of its 40 percent stake to its Russian partner, Moscow City Hall-connected Sistema, but analysts have long discounted any possibility Deutsche Telekom would fully exit the fast-growing, high margin Russian operator.

Samara, in central Russia, is a large provincial capital and the surrounding province is home to giant carmaker AvtoVAZ.

The local market is currently controlled by No. 2 national operator Vimpelcom, under its Beeline trademark and a local powerhouse, SMARTS, which is Russia's largest regional operator.

The GSM-900/1800 license expires on Dec. 30, 2012.

(Reuters, MT)