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Russia's three largest cell phone operators have struck
Russia's three largest cell phone operators have struck a deal with Apple which could see the U.S. company's hugely popular iPhone 3G go on sale in Russia in October, a business daily said on Friday.

Vedomosti said that according to unnamed sources, Russia's top operators - Vimpelcom, MTS and Megafon - have committed to selling some 1.8 million iPhones in the country per year.

Unofficial sales of the handset, considered a must-have item by Russians, including President Dmitry Medvedev who is rumored to have one, have boomed on the country's so-called gray market since the iPhone was first launched in 2007.

One of the biggest hurdles for Russian operators to signing a deal was agreeing how much the "big three" were prepared to hand over to Apple for distribution rights for the iPhone.

Although the main players in the deal declined to comment, Pyotr Semenov from Maczone, Apple's official dealer in Russia, told Vedomosti that talks were ongoing to sell the handset through their outlets with all three operators.

One source said the iPhone, retailing for $199/$299 with a contract in the U.S., would go on sale in Russia for around $1,000 on a non-contract basis or for a $200 down payment under contract.

Global sales of the new iPhone 3G hit over 1 million in the first three days of its July launch. Analysts predict unofficial and official sales of the handset in Russia could reach 700,000 alone in 2008.

Apple launched its new 3G iPhone in July, which offers improved and faster Internet access, e-mail and GPS, and company CEO Steve Jobs pledged that the phone would go on sale in Russia, one of the world's fastest growing mobile markets, by the end of the year.


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