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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

1.6M New Cell Users in August

About 1.6 million Russians signed up for mobile phone services in August, with more than half of new subscriptions in the capital going to No. 2 operator Vimpelcom, AC&M consultancy said Wednesday.

No. 3 operator Megafon, a TeliaSonera joint venture that sharply lags Vimpelcom and Mobile TeleSystems in Moscow, also had a higher share after it launched new tariff plans promising to pay users to make some types of calls.

"There is a huge mass of subscribers that moves from one operator to another and back [in Moscow]," AC&M analyst Anton Pogrebinsky said. "MTS leads for awhile, then Vimpelcom. There might be a reverse effect later in the year.

"Megafon's growth in Moscow is tied to new tariffs and hype. They brought in a tariff that never existed in Russia; it is interesting and subscribers took the bait."

The largest operator, Mobile TeleSystems, which also operates in Ukraine and Belarus, had nearly as many clients as Vimpelcom and MegaFon combined after it acquired two regional firms during the month.

The total number of mobile phone users in Russia reached 28.48 million people, up nearly 60 percent from the beginning of the year.

That put mobile penetration at 19.6 percent of the population, said AC&M, whose subscriber estimates are widely cited by analysts and operators.

"In Moscow we have almost 60 percent penetration. If you look at Moscow as being on the same footing with some European states, we are almost even. In Russia penetration is 20 percent, which is a fairly impressive number," Pogrebinsky said.