updated 03:30 pm EDT, Thu May 21, 2009
Low Russian iPhone sales
Extremely low Russian iPhone sales may threaten the country's three biggest cellphone carriers, several regional reports suggest. MTS, Megafon and Vimpelkom all agreed to carry the iPhone in 2008, with the provision that each would sell a minimum quantity. MTS agreed to sell 1 million phones in three years, while Megafon agreed to the same amount in two years. Vimpelkom made the most dramatic pledge, hoping to sell at least 1.5 million phones in two years.
The problem is that while approximately 900,000 iPhones are now present in Russia, only 400,000 of these were delivered through Apple partners, the rest having been imported and hacked to work locally. Of the official iPhones, just 127,000 have allegedly been sold to the public, leaving vast numbers remaining in stock. No Russian carrier has ordered more iPhones from Apple during 2009, research is said to have uncovered.
Should iPhone sales not pick up dramatically over the course of the next 18 months, the carriers could thus be left in breach of contract, collectively owing between $500 million and $1 billion. The exact fines may be dependent on factors like retail prices; sources claim that two of the carriers have already told shareholders to prepare, though negotiations could defray costs. The companies are believed to be asking for either lower prices or smaller quotas, both of which Apple has refused.