No matter if you are a Russian citizen or a tourist you will be using your mobile phone once you are here. And there might be a situation once you need port your number from one network provider to another. It will be useful for you to read until the end if you are going to use mobile communication in Russia.
Russia was always an outsider in term of microelectronic developing since USSR collapse. No wonder why the cellular communication which was invented by Russians was implemented in the ugliest capitalistic way possible. In the early era of mobile communication in Russia, the call in the same city on the same network provider in NMT-450 standard cost $3.75 per minute. It was 1992. The time when mobile phones were the symbol of success and well-being, a device of people of authority and power, and enterprise owner. Later when the GSM standard arrived the situation was not much better. High cost of calls in the same network provider, for instance, MTS company in 1997 (whose largest investor was T-Mobile Germany) charged $3 per minute. This was a great time for all these scam companies, sometimes they made up to 600% profit, and take it in account that that was the time the taxes authorities were almost dead, so all this profit was almost pure. This after USSR era called “Bloody 90’s”.
There were many steps in bringing the mobile connectivity in Russia to the proper western standards, like stop charging for incoming calls, charge per day for stop using your number. Can you imagine? You pick up your call and you charged $2 per minute even if you said few seconds replica “I will call you from the landline”. Or try think about forgetting the sim card and you will be charged like $500 at the end of the year.
Slowly, extremely slowly, these greedy enterprises like Beeline, MTS, and Megafon were moving toward the customer-oriented way of making business. Only in 2007 and only due to the government push incoming call was declared free of charge. I took almost another 10 years to bring the mobile number porting (MNP) to let people move there number from one network to another. For people from outside of Russia, it was a logical step and they call it “free from network number slavery”, the joy was not long. Once MNP was announced in 2014 it took 2 years to implement it, why telecom companies resist this option until the last breath, it’s appeared that this was only castrated MNP option. Imaging that biggest country in the world like Russia consists of 89 districts, and all you can do is to move your number within in the borders of this district. You cannot even mover the number in the same network but from a different district.
Add here that all mobile providers charged people who going abroad $0.5 for every 40 kbytes of internet data (KILOBYTES!). Sometimes people are charged from $100 to $ 65000 (kind of best record) and lose their property in the court to pay these scam companies.
It 2019 now, and imaging, only now the government pushing to drop roaming on the territory of Russia, once you go from one district to another – you are in the roaming. The promise was to end this until end of June 2019. Compare it with UK O2 or TalkTalk companies whose customers enjoying home rates in New-Zeland.
In general- there is still no MNP in Russia, you have to monitor each of your step in dealing with the mobile operator or you be in real troubles. Do never relax when you got a Russian SIM card in your phone or in your pocket, as your passport will be required for purchase.