MTS blog


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

For decades, people often were described as being “glued to the TV set.”  Today, they say the same about mobile devices.  But what happens when the mobile device becomes the TV?  And what happens if that mobile TV has picture-in-picture?

We’re about to find out.

MTS has just launched commercially MTS Mobile TV  For eight rubles a day ($0.30), subscribers get eight national channels and over 100 channels from 17 countries spanning 26 languages, including Disney, National Geografic, MGM, MTV, France 24, Deutsche Welle, MCM Top. The service is available on Windows Mobile, Symbian, iPhone/iPad, BlackBerry, Android, Bada and delivered via 3G and WiFi networks, and there won’t be any charge for data traffic.

With 570 million mobile TV users projected by the end of 2013 (RNCOS, “Global Mobile TV Forecast to 2013”), the market growth potential is vast. Further down the road, additional features and channels could be offered, as well as new mobile advertising opportunities for businesses.



Monday, July 18, 2011

As communications is our business we get to answer tons of questions from our customers. More than 4000 employees in seven contact centers across Russia handle 8 million customer calls a month.  We sat down with Tatyana Rodionova and talked about her experience in managing operations of the MTS contact center in the macro region “Center”, located in Ryazan.

How long have you been working with MTS? How did your career evolve?

I joined MTS ten years ago – in July 2001 – as a specialist of the contact center in Ryazan. Back then, we had small call centers with five to twelve employees scattered across the country. In 2006 the call-centers were consolidated.  Now we have seven call-centers and one center of outgoing contacts – that doesn’t receive incoming calls. As the contact centers were being reorganized, I was promoted to lead the call-center located in Ryazan which covers 16 regions.

How many employees do you have? What is the typical profile of a customer service representative?  What are the requirements for working in the contact center?

We have 640 employees – the majority of which are young university-educated women (with the most popular name being Lena). To work here we require a higher education, PC literacy, excellent communication skills, and articulate speech. Experience, however, is not required; employees receive a month and a half of training once they start working.  Advanced courses and training are also available to those looking to further their careers at the call center..

What is the inflow of inquiries?  Do you process phone calls only?

We handle around 1.8 million inquiries a month. We receive SMS, emails and questions via web-chat, but 99% of customers call us. I believe this is county specific, as Russian customers enjoy talking to customer service.  They would rather speak to a Customer Service Representative than look up the information on the website or use IVR. The customers sing songs, joke and some even flirt with our employees! Of course we have a policy that provides guidance for these situations. Also, we train our employees to reduce the talk time. At MTS, the average talk time is 143 seconds while in the call-centers of Vodafone, with which MTS is a partner network, the conversation on average lasts much longer – maybe as long as 450 seconds.

How have you seen shifts in call volume? Is it cyclical? Are there particular seasons/days/hours that experience higher levels of volume?

The peak hours for us are in the morning on weekdays and in the evening when people are on their way home from work – they often call us from cars or public transport. Days before holidays are very hot, especially before the long New Year’s holidays. As they plan their travels clients call to check their balance, subscribe to services and inquire about roaming prices. Then during the actual holidays and on weekends call volume falls.

What are the main reasons subscribers call the contact center?

Around 35% of the customers call when they have questions about a specific service, terms of usage, or want to understand how to subscribe or unsubscribe to an MTS product.

Customers are increasingly calling us to inquire about the GPRS settings. 12% of the calls are about payments, while 10% of the subscribers call to inquire about the charges to their account. Calls to block/unblock the phone number account for about 9%. 7% are about voice and data plans. Our contact center also handles calls of fixed broadband and pay TV customers (about 45,000 a month).

What are the KPIs for employees?

We strive to provide a superior customer experience and aim to do so as expeditiously as possible. Employees are evaluated based on their ability to provide excellent customer service with a portion of their compensation tied to the successful sales of products and services. We’ve taken a page from Vodafone and leverage their experience on how to most effectively sell our products via the call centers. To evaluate customer satisfaction, our system offers every third customer the opportunity to evaluate the quality of the service they received from 1 to 5. Ranking of the employees is based on the customers’ assessment. We show the ranking of each employee on the screens in the contact center. This establishes a game-like dynamic and inspires healthy competition.

Can you recall an amusing question or story from a customer?

Well, we certainly have a lot of them! One time a woman called and our employee asked her to introduce herself in order to identify her in our database. She says, “Svetlana Lebedeva,” but the search in the database yielded no results. “Try Svetlana Matveeva,” suggests the customer – again no person with such a name. “OK, try Svetlana Kryuchkova. I’ve been with MTS so long that I’ve been married three times!” 

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Today we are issuing a report on mobile retail in Russia during Q2 2011, based on the estimates from our mobile retail network. 

Highlights from the report:
- During Q2 2011, the number of phones sold in Russia is set to increase by 20% compared to Q2 2010 with around 8.8 mln devices sold
- During Q2 2011, the mobile handset market in Russia has expanded by 16% in sales compared to Q2 2010 to reach 36.8 bln rubles
- The average price of mobile phones during Q2 2011 decreased by 3.2% compared to Q2 2010 to reach 4172 rubles
- Sales of smartphones in the sales mix in the MTS retail network during H1 2011 reached 17%
- The market share of MTS retail network grew to 15.2% in Q2 2011 up from 13.7% in Q2 2010 in terms of handests sold (including wholesale sales) 
- MTS-branded handset MTS Basic 140 was the most popular device sold through the MTS retail network, accounting for 4.9% of total units sold  

Please download the complete report
Mobile retail report_H1 2011 ENG_final.pdf (271.97 kb)

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Thursday, July 14, 2011


On July 13, 2011 IR Magazine Russia & CIS held its annual awards ceremony at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Moscow. Joshua Tulgan, MTS Director of Investor Relations and the Acting Director of Corporate Finance, won in the prestigious "Best investor relations officer, large cap" category. MTS was also honored with a second place in the "Grand prix for best overall investor relations, large cap" category.

Winners of the 2011 awards were chosen as a result of an independent survey of buy-side and sell-side professionals. The survey was conducted between March 7 and May 6, 2011 by Thomson Reuters Extel, working in association with the IR Magazine Russia & CIS. Responses were received from 312 individuals at 149 asset management firms or brokerage houses.

You can find more details about the event at the IR Magazine Russia & CIS website.

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Monday, July 11, 2011


Transformers 3 quickly conquered the box office this weekend but the battle against Decepticons isn’t nearly done in Russia. Through Red Quest, MTS’s award-winning interactive game, over 1.8 million young Russians are finding themselves in the middle of Michael Bay’s latest metal fest.


What's Red Quest? It's an alternative reality game in Russia developed by MTS to promote its youth oriented Red Energy tariff plan with unique unlimited options (unlimited calls, unlimited sms and mms, unlimited mobile internet). A scavenger hunt lies at its core, driven by clues and riddles.. In this year’s adventure, participants are tasked with battling the Decepticons, and a critical clue in this battle is contained in the Transformers 3 film. By serving up clues online, offline, through games and now a blockbuster movie, Red Quest may be the largest and most interactive marketing effort in the world.


Red Quest is designed to appeal to the critical youth demographic that’s inherently suspicious of traditional marketing. There are 16 million 14 to 25 year-olds in Russia, and MTS has long catered to this valuable customer segment. MTS launched Red Quest in 2010, and its first iteration attracted over 1,040,000 registered users online and offline in 10 cities throughout Russia. Now we’ve got nearly 1.8 million participants registered and the Red Quest app has been installed more than one million times on Vkontakte, our country’s most popular social network, making it #1 among all branded apps.


The plot of the first season was simple. The world is in danger. Fraught with natural and man-made disasters, there's a surplus of negative energy. Only the mysterious Source of Unlimited Energy can provide a solution. By joining up as a "Seeker," you complete tasks and gain points to learn the location of the Source of Unlimited Energy. There are two challenges a day and only your mobile phone can unlock the codes needed to get to the next level. In 2011, Seekers are faced with a new threat – Decepticons. On April 12, 2011, the day when Yuri Gagarin made the first human flight in space, Decepticons declared war on the human race. The war is being fought on five fronts:


  1. Urban quests in the streets of nine Russian cities with an objective to find Decepticons’ emissaries and seize their “metal hearts.”
  2. Website where new tasks are added every week Tuesday – Friday. The tasks have to be completed offline and the results (confirmation), i.e. photos and videos are submitted to the web site
  3. Red Quest Application in social networks VKontakte and Moy Mir, a social online game where the goal is to stop the online spread of Decepticons
  4. Geolocation app for iPhone and Android phones that enable Seekers to locate and destroy Decepticons
  5. A unique interactive TV show on the national TV channel NTV


All these activities are linked by a unified user account. Every participant can gain points for their activities in the project – be it completing online tasks or fighting Decepticons in the online social game. The points received for various actions can then be exchanged for prizes and gifts in a specially designed Red Store, a loyalty tool. And of course, anyone can play Red Quest and gain points but only MTS customers can use these points to receive presents.


Two winners of this year’s season will go to Cape Canaveral on a critical mission – they will witness the launch of a spacecraft that will send all of the defeated Decepticons sparks back to space. ..


Red Energy users spend 30% more time talking on the phone as other similar users, a key factor in instilling greater loyalty. These subscribers also consume almost 2,5x more data than other subscribers. All of which translates to higher revenues per user (almost +15%).


Other interesting stats:


  • - 4,250,000 unique visitors to the Red Quest web and mobile sites
  • - More than 1.8 million registered players
  • - Red Quest is the most popular branded app in social network Vkontakte with more than 1,1 mln installations
  • - 85% of the target audience was aware of Red Quest
  • - More than 63% associated Red Quest with MTS


Picture from the "teaser phase" where unbranded posters were put up in five cities.



Commercial for Red Quest Teaser]


An example of an offline game in one of the cities (Moscow):


TV Show teaser:

The web site of the project:

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Friday, July 01, 2011


Last week I attended Telecom World Congress 2011, where I was invited to speak about infrastructure investment. There are few countries in the world where the topic takes higher priority than Russia, and given that we cross nine time zones, probably no nation where the challenge is more daunting. So it was a privilege to share with global telecom leaders which technologies we’re finding most cost effective, and how we’re managing network capacity through fair usage policies and traffic optimization (see presentation below).

The conference lasted three days, and regrettably I was only able to attend the last one. But I attended some informative sessions and thought I’d share my favorites.

Monetizing Broadband
Karl-Michael Henneking and Jochen Dinger from Detecon gave their insights on the options telcos have to capture shares of the “over-the-top” business. They have highlighted mobile video calling, telepresence services, video game streaming and IPTV as services with a significant revenue potential for telcos. One approach they suggest is locking in customers with a convenient to use platform of services, e.g. with a single set top box supporting a broad range of applications from IPTV and video on demand services to gaming, which eventually establishes a smart hub in customers’ homes. This is an option MTS has already started exploring with a launch of online media portal with a unique portfolio of thousands of movies from Russian and major Hollywood studios. As demand for the legal video content in Russia grows, we are improving Omlet’s infrastructure, having recently enabled users to store purchased content in the cloud and stream it to devices including PC or Mac computers, smartphones, set-top boxes and TV-sets.

Telecom Operators Role in Convergence
The panel discussion with Portugal Telecom’s Manuel Rosa da Silva and Level 3’s Daniel Sjoberg focused on how telecom operators are becoming key players in the converged world. It echoed the main theme of the conference of how telecom operators are moving away from traditional voice services towards new revenue growth streams. Manuel was very optimistic about our function here. He showed how telecom operators can become more than “dumb pipes” by launching innovative content offerings and leveraging customers’ demand for non-linear multi-screen experience. Again, very much like what we are trying to achieve with

Presentation: Looking at the roadmap for future infrastructure investment

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Today, we have released our subscriber numbers for the month of May 2011. Below is a table outlining the dynamics of our customer base.

Subscribers (mln) May 31, 2011 Apr 30, 2011 Growth
May 31, 2010 Growth
Total consolidated subscribers, eop 103.98 103.87 0.11 0.1% 98.98 5.01 5.1%
Russia 71.37 71.45 -0.08 -0.1% 69.85 1.53 2.2%
Ukraine 18.48 18.38 0.10 0.5% 17.44 1.04 6.0%
Uzbekistan 9.24 9.14 0.10 1.1% 7.48 1.76 23.6%
Turkmenistan 2.38 2.38 0.00 0.0% 2.10 0.28 13.4%
Armenia 2.51 2.52 -0.01 -0.4% 2.11 0.39 18.6%
MTS Belarus1 4.76 4.75 0.01 0.2% 4.56 0.20 4.3%

Subscriber data for Russian mobile operators is compiled by Advanced Communications and Media, a management consulting and research agency specializing in telecommunications and media. You can view their May subscriber report here.

1 MTS owns a 49% stake in Mobile TeleSystems LLC, a mobile operator in Belarus, which is not consolidated.

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Global telecoms business selects Mikhail Gerchuk for its 2011 40 under 40 list

Thursday, June 23, 2011


We are happy to announce that Global Telecoms Business, one of the most respected telecom publications, has included Mikhail Gerchuk, MTS Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer, in its annual list of the most promising telco executives under forty. Mikhail is included in the list for a second year in a row. Previously, Mikhail Shamolin, former MTS President and CEO, and Dr. Michael Hecker, MTS Vice President for Strategy and Corporate Development were listed in this prestigious selection of young industry leaders. The list of the 40 executives under 40 is compiled from submissions made by the magazine’s readers since the beginning of 2011.

Here’s what Global Telecoms Business had to say about Mikhail’s achievements:

"Mikhail Gerchuk holds the responsibility for the development and implementation of the Russian company’s marketing, sales and customer service strategies, as well as realization of overall revenue targets. Gerchuk was promoted to his current role in December 2008 and has developed the commercial and marketing initiatives that enabled MTS to increase market share and maintain growth, and has helped to implement the company’s strategy in the increasingly competitive Russian market."

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Today, we have released our subscriber numbers for the month of April 2011. Below is a table outlining the dynamics of our customer base.

Subscribers (mln) Apr 30, 2011 Mar 31, 2011 Growth
Apr 30, 2010 Growth
Total consolidated subscribers, eop 103.87 103.79 0.08 0.1% 98.65 5.22 5.3%
Russia 71.45 71.46 -0.01 0.0% 69.73 1.72 2.5%
Ukraine 18.38 18.28 0.10 0.6% 17.37 1.01 5.8%
Uzbekistan 9.14 9.11 0.03 0.3% 7.43 1.71 23.1%
Turkmenistan 2.38 2.39 0.00 -0.2% 2.01 0.38 18.7%
Armenia 2.52 2.55 -0.03 -1.3% 2.11 0.40 19.0%
MTS Belarus1 4.75 4.75 0.00 -0.1% 4.57 0.18 4.0%

Subscriber data for Russian mobile operators is compiled by Advanced Communications and Media, a management consulting and research agency specializing in telecommunications and media. You can view their April subscriber report here.

1 MTS owns a 49% stake in Mobile TeleSystems LLC, a mobile operator in Belarus, which is not consolidated.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We are pleased to announce that MTS recently received a GSM 900 MHz license in the Penza region giving the Company full 2G coverage in Russia. The license was awarded on April 19, 2011 by the Russian Federal Service for Supervision in the Sphere of Telecom, Information Technologies and Mass Communications (ROSKOMNADZOR) as part of the tender for the GSM 900 frequencies. It is expected that the Company will begin construction of its 2G network in the near future following receipt of the necessary approvals.

MTS already provides mobile voice and data services in the region under its IMT-2000/UMTS (3G) federal license using the HSPA+ standard in the city of Penza, the region’s administrative center, following full commercial launch on December 21, 2010 The first segment of the 3G network was launched in the city of Penza in May 2010. The network currently supports data transfer speeds of up to 21 Mbps, which can be increased to 42 Mbps, and is one of the most advanced mobile networks in Russia. During the first half of 2011, the Company plans to expand coverage to additional five cities and along main transportation arteries.

We also have a fixed-line presence in the region after our acquisition in June 2010 of Penza Telecom, the leading local alternative operator offering broadband internet and cable television services in the cities of Penza and Zarechny. Combined our mobile and fixed assets provide us with a great opportunity to offer convergent products to our subscribers be it voice telephony, internet access, cable television or content, as well as unified billing and centralized customer care. The ability to offer 2G services will benefit both the mass market and the corporates though provision of universal intranetwork roaming and greater coverage of the Penza region. We currently have 15 own stores and around 100 points of sale in the region. MTS will be expanding its retail presence to further stimulate demand for the Company’s products and to better engage existing and prospective subscribers.


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