Only the owner of the apartment can make arrangements for a landline to be installed. Most apartments are rented with a landline already installed; typically provided by Moscow City Telephone Service (MGTS). In some newer apartment developments the owner may have made arrangements for another provider. It costs about 5800 RUR to install a new landline, and long wait lists to get someone to come install it are common.
If your lease stipulates that you pay the bill for the phone, you will pay the flat fee for all local landline calls (ca. 135 RUR); and you will pay additional fees for calls to mobile phones, long distance and international calls. These are usually billed through the trunk provider, Rostelcom, but are added to the MGTS bill. A call to a cell phone costs no more than 1.5 RUR per minute.
For long-distance and international calls, it’s best to use a calling card. There are many different cards available, which can be purchased online or at any kiosk or phone store.
If you pay your own landline bill, or the Rostelcom surcharges, you can pay the bill in one of hundreds of bill payment machines available in stores, metro stations, underpasses, or simply in the street. Most accept cash only, although you can visit a bank branch to find a machine that accepts credit cards.
Mobile Phone service is provided by three main operators: MTS, Beeline and Megafon. There is little difference in quality of service, cost and range between them, although any one of them may have a special offer available that happens to best meet your own individual needs.
Prepaid options are by far the most popular, although postpaid contracts are also available. Rates of 0.5 – 3 RUR per minute are common, although the specifics will depend on your plan. You can also purchase subscription plans, in which you pay a monthly fee, which can reduce your per-minute costs. Subscriptions are available both pre- and postpaid.
Your company may have a corporate agreement with one of them, in which case they will provide you with a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card, or even a phone. The advantage of all company employees using the same provider is that calls between these phones are free or at a reduced rate.
To secure service individually, you should visit any of hundreds of branches (look for small kiosks in malls, shops, and on the streets) with your passport, including registration and migration card. It may be easier to get a prepaid plan in a Russian-citizen friend’s name, if you have someone willing to help out – the branches are often staffed by young and inexperienced staff, who may be hesitant to accept an international passport.
A service agreement is required for both pre- and post-paid plans. In both cases, you can then purchase a SIM card programmed with your plan. The cost of the SIM card is usually immediately available as a balance on your phone (making it effectively free).
Cell phones are usually sold separately at full price (instead of included in a contract postpaid plan at a discount, as is common in the United States).
http://www.vis.mtsgsm.com/ (in English)
http://www.beeline-moscow.ru/ (Russian only)
http://english.megafonmoscow.ru/ (in English)
Cell phone bills (pre- and post-paid) are also paid in bill payment machines available in stores, metro stations, underpasses, or simply in the street. Most accept cash only, although you can visit a bank branch to find a machine that accepts credit cards.