In perhaps the lowest-key announcement of a new iPhone territory yet, Russian telco MegaFon this morning said merely: “MegaFon today announced it has signed an agreement with Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) to bring the iPhone to Russia later this year.” It’s the second Russian carrier to be unveiled, following Vimpelcom last week; a deal has also been rumored with MTS, meaning carrier exclusivity has pretty much gone out the window.
But then, Russia is a rather large country, with plenty of demand for unlocked, black-market iPhones. One Moscow telecoms analyst recently estimated about 20,000 iPhones come in to the country each month, making an estimated unofficial users 300,000 – each selling for around $1,000, a $600 premium. That’s not the only reason the time is right for Apple – 3G is being rolled out in 20 Russian cities this year, so users will get to take advantage of the newest model.
The operators had been holding out over what one called Apple’s “disadvantageous conditions“, before Steve Jobs retracted the requirement to hand over 10 percent of handset sales and 10 percent of monthly subscription income.