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Russia's Dedicated Mobile Conference and Exhibition

31 июля 2006
With over 350 participants, the 2006 GSM > 3G Russia conference was a notable success as the 2-day event assembled leading Russian and international speakers to explore the current state of the Russian market and the vast opportunities that lay ahead.

The conference was preceded by a high level 3G Strategic Leadership Seminar hosted jointly by the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), the UMTS Forum and 3G Association of Russia. This seminar provided in-depth perspectives on technical and standardization issues from the assembled associations as well as case studies from MTS, MegaFon and the Japanese powerhouse NTT DoCoMo, outlining their visions for 3G service deployment.

The main 2-day conference kicked off on the 6th June with an interactive panel led by Jean-Pierre Bienaimй, Chairman of the UMTS Forum and Andrey Skorodumov, Executive Director of the 3G Association, who were joined by Ricardo Tavares, Senior Vice President of Public Policy at the GSM Association, John Visser, Chairman of the ITU-T Mobile Telecommunication Networks Study Group and Alistair Angwin, the Vice Chair of Technical Plenary at the OMA. Covering a range of issues such as harmonized spectrum, effective regulation, and the interoperability of standards, the panel session projected that the success of 3G in Russia could be built upon the benefits of standardization, and attractive services that will ensure rapid growth and take up such as Mobile TV and multimedia convergence.

This session gave way to the keynote interviews with esteemed representatives from Russia's 'Big 3' - MTS, Vimpelcom and MegaFon. Alexander Krupnov, President of the 3G Association led this noteworthy session with Yuri Gromakov, Vice-President for Technical Development for MTS; Sergey Avdeev, Executive Vice-President for Business Development in the CIS and Chief Technical Director with Vimpelcom; and Alexey Nichiporenko, the First Deputy General Director for MegaFon. The key theme to emerge from this session was that according to these industry leaders, the prerequisites for 3G networks and services in Russia are present for licensing to begin in 2006. All three industry leaders were confident that the introduction of new technologies and services will help promote economic growth while helping to battle declining ARPU in the market.

Following lunch, the conference split off into two separate tracks, allowing delegates to focus on best practices relating to 'Strategies & Services' or attend the 'Technology Symposium' for in depth analysis of the evolution of 2G to 3G and IP/NGN strategies from the likes of Huawei, Motorola and Pyramid Research. There were also case studies from Vodafone Germany, Globe Telecom Philippines and Teliasonera Finland, giving Russian delegates a chance to consider the valuable experience of other leading markets around the world.

Day Two of the conference began with high-energy keynote addresses from two leading international consultants - Karl Johannesson, Managing Partner of J'son & Partners and Martin Venzky-Stalling, Director of Consulting with Ovum. Mr. Venzky-Stalling notes that the future direction of mobile will not be built with a single 'killer app', but rather lots of successful little things that will help create strong services portfolios. He added "As mobile operators develop their non-voice services, they must not overlook the substantial opportunity to grow their voice usage and revenue by fixed-mobile substitution."

Ultimately, it was felt that services will help revive ARPU and drive revenues for Russian operators, and 3G will herald a new era for the mobile market. Therefore the session dedicated to Billing & Customer Care and Driving VAS Revenues and Usage became extremely relevant. Russian operators Dmitriy Bagdasaryan, Head of New Technologies and Services Division for SMARTS and Vasiliy Kuzichev, Deputy Commercial Director for Business Development, Sonic Duo MegaFon, outlined the key components of their VAS portfolios and strategies for success. Chief among these strategies, according to Kuzichev, are promoting existing services with greater growth potential and increasing the speed of data transfer with technologies such as EDGE, which should cover 100% of Moscow by January 2007.

The technology session remained near capacity on Day Two as executives from Orange France, Eurotel Praha Czech Republic, 3 Italy, Vodafone Italy and ERA GSM Poland shared launch case studies and experiences for implementing 3G whilst considering future evolutionary technologies such as HSDPA. Marco Narduzzi from 3 Italy offered insight into their wide portfolio of innovative multimedia and mobile TV products which leverage the 3G/HSDPA network speed, which has made 3 the largest and leading European 3G and mobile pay TV player. Meanwhile Camilla Budelli, Head of Terminal Strategy and Management from rival Vodafone Italy, outlined the importance that multimedia terminals will play for the Russian market in boosting usage beyond voice service and text messaging. Handsets that provide a richer mobile experience for the customer will facilitate the success of 3G services once they are deployed. Budelli warns that operators will need to push suppliers to optimise devices to be consistent with market requirements with a strong focus on terminal user interface improvement and customization.

As the second day of the conference came to a close a number of key findings and themes were apparent. The common refrain from industry associations and the Russian operators on hand was that the Russian market is 'ready for 3G'. However, Russian operators will do well to follow the advice and experiences from the international guests on hand to ensure that mobile data will be successful once millions are spent on building 3G networks. A carefully selected portfolio of rich multimedia services, high speed data access and affordable multimedia terminals offer the Russian market the best possible chances for success.

In February, Russian Telecommunications and IT Minister Lenoid Reiman reportedly told a news conference that the country will auction 3G licenses this year. In the end however it seems another year may pass without the 3G licenses being issued as the bidding process and spectrum allocation remain unclear. We look forward to following up on these discussions and monitoring the market at next year's conference. Jordan Stone, Research Director - GSM>3G Russia

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