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Cellular operators again began to take money for SIM-cards

Rising costs will force operators to be more economical with SIM-cards.  / Alexander Korolkov

Rising costs will force operators to be more economical with SIM-cards. / Alexander Korolkov

Connection for new subscribers to the network will become paid from June 21 due to an increase in the cost of purchasing SIM-cards, the press service of Beeline told Rossiyskaya Gazeta. “This is a forced measure aimed at partially compensating Beeline’s costs for connecting to our mobile network. At the same time, the connection fee is included in the cost of the starting balance,” the company said.

MegaFon noted that the change in terms of service was caused by “an increase in the company’s costs for providing services and maintaining high quality communications.” “This allows you to partially compensate for the costs of the operator for connecting a new subscriber, including the costs of the SIM cards themselves, the cost of which has increased significantly in 2022,” the operator’s representative explained.

As expected, MegaFon’s subsidiary, Yota, also introduced a fee for a SIM card. “This happened in connection with the updated pricing for the production of SIM cards. If in the future we can reduce its cost or cancel its payment, we will definitely tell you about it,” Yota said. MTS and Tele2 did not answer questions from RG.

The Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) told Rossiyskaya Gazeta that such a one-time fee could affect consumer spending. “The Antimonopoly Service will assess the degree of its impact on the cost of tariffs and the grounds for its introduction,” the agency said.

Eldar Murtazin, a leading analyst at Mobile Research Group, was the first to pay attention to the introduction of a fee for a SIM card. “After I wrote that MegaFon had a fee of 50 rubles for a SIM card, messages from employees of other operators began to pour in. Someone takes the SIM card for the plastic, someone for the number, but the essence remains the same and the same one will have to pay 50 rubles for a new number,” Murtazin wrote.

The localization of the production of ready-made SIM cards, which is possible in Russia, could comprehensively solve the problem. “In particular, the Mikron plant tried to produce crystals for SIM cards, and Sitronics Smart Technologies rolled them into plastic,” recalls Aleksey Boyko from MForum Analytics. However, she, according to the interlocutor of “RG” in the telecom services market, It needs chips from companies such as Samsung, the Swiss STM and Infineon from Germany, as well as from friendly China, but on a much smaller scale.

“Localization of such production is possible with us, and it will be done,” Murtazin notes. According to him, historically, Western suppliers offered lower prices, so it was not in demand.

Today, operators face their own operational challenges. Their main problem, Denis Kuskov, the head of IA Telecom Daily, believes, is in those SIM-cards that are bought for one-time calls, after which they are thrown away. The bulk of users are already connected to tariffs, and there are practically no new long-term contracts. And if earlier, when a SIM-card cost 8-9 rubles in purchase, it was not critical, but today, when the cost has grown to 120-170 rubles, this is already noticeable. Especially against the background of the fact that about 80 million new SIM cards enter the market every year in Russia.

Another tangible effect of the current situation, according to the interlocutor of “RG”, will be that the number of SIM cards handed out at metro stations, markets and other public places will drastically decrease. In previous years, operators used this channel to increase the number of SIM cards, but now the cost increase will force them to rethink their approaches. On the other hand, the rapidly developing IoT (Internet of Things) market, where SIM cards are used in every device, may suffer. However, the expert concludes, perhaps this will make eSIM technology more attractive – electronic SIM cards that do not need physical media.

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