FOCUS: Sberbank starts testing MVNO in Moscow, could compete with Tinkoff Mobile
By Yekaterina Yezhova
MOSCOW, Feb 5 (PRIME) -- Russia’s biggest bank Sberbank brought its mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) to the lucrative Moscow and the Moscow Region market on February 1 with a special tariff to test the product after its work in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region. Analysts say the operator will mainly compete with Tinkoff Bank’s virtual operator, rather than with traditional carriers.
“The notions of convenience and service quality change constantly depending on consumer perception. It is impossible to create a good client experience without consumer involvement. Their opinion, especially critical, is always the basis for a good product. It means listening to and hearing the client to create a product jointly,” said Ruslan Gurdzhiyan, general director of virtual operator Sberbank-Telecom, working under the brand Pogovorim, or Let’s Talk.
“This is what we want to do by inviting the first 10,000 subscribers to use and inform us actively of any criticism and wishes for connection packages. The tariff plan for the critics has a sufficient volume of services and is affordable not to restrain client opportunities,” he said in a press release.
The special tariff plan for Moscow costs 499 rubles and includes 1,500 minutes, 20 GB and 3,000 SMSs. Sberbank clients will also have access to Wi-Fi calling, free SMSs when communicating with the mobile bank service, and will be able to pay for communication services using the bank’s bonuses.
A Sberbank spokesperson said the special offer will be available to a limited number of clients, and sales of the tariff will stop at 10,000 customers, but service will continue to be provided.
“The approach to shaping a tariff policy in all regions is the same. It involves a high level of personalization. These are the clients’ expectations. This is why it will be in essence a construction kit, where a subscriber chooses the volume of communication services that best suits them. The tariff for critics is a special offer,” the spokesperson told PRIME.
In Moscow, subscribers can join the operator by submitting an application on the operator’s official Web site. SIM cards can be delivered to homes or offices.
Freedom Finance senior analyst Bogdan Zvarich said that the Moscow telecom market is highly competitive, accounting for 17% of the country’s market by subscribers, and its penetration is close to 230% same as in St. Petersburg, which along with the surrounding Leningrad Region has 8% of the country’s subscribers.
Analysts say that Sberbank-Telecom will be no rival for traditional mobile telecom companies by the number of clients, but would rather compete with the telecom operator of Tinkoff Bank, which launched its virtual operator Tinkoff Mobile in December 2017.
Sberbank-Telecom and Tinkoff Mobile both operate on networks of T2 RTK Holding, working under the Tele2 brand. Tinkoff Mobile provides a SIM card linked to a virtual banking card and the client’s current account. The tariffs are not fixed, and there are several options to choose from and create one’s own tariff. Tinkoff Bank forecasts the project to break even in 2019.
Zvarich at Freedom Finance estimates that Sberbank-Telecom had some 10,000–15,000 clients in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region as of the end of 2017. In Moscow and the Moscow Region, the virtual operator will have 40,000–50,000 by the end of 2018.
For comparison, MTS serviced 78.5 million clients in the country; MegaFon had 75.6 million; VimpelCom (Beeline) – 58.8 million, and T2 RTK Holding had 40.3 million as of the end of September 2017.
Investment company Sberbank CIB’s analysts said that 2018 is likely to be a good year for the local mobile market. “We do not think MVNOs represent a serious threat to the carriers this year,” they said in a research note.
Zvarich at Freedom Finance said, quoting Sberbank CEO German Gref, that Pogovorim fixes the bank’s internal problems as well. “The bank has designed a system of push notifications that cut payments to connection operators for SMS mailouts. Gref said the bank saves up to 25 million rubles per month,” the analyst told PRIME.
“The launch in St. Petersburg (in August 2017) could have been a test prior to expansion to different regions, including Moscow. As a result, the operator succeeded in testing in the competitive market of St. Petersburg and chances to rival the country’s big four operators.”
(56.0408 rubles – U.S. $1)