September 15, 1992 – registration
of VympelCom as a publicly
held company – the company’s birthday.

September 15, 1992 is the date on decree № 376 of the Communications Ministry, implementing the brilliant invention by V.B. Bulgak of a so called “regional standard.” The order permits an additional “regional” standard – AMPS, without changing previous resolutions which authorized only two “federal” standards on Russia territory – NMT and GSM. It differs from the federal standards in that it is plugged into national telephone networks, but on the local level. Another difference was that the license was issued regionally, under the recommendation of local authorities.
Soon enough, Yuri Mikhailovich Luzhkov on the advice of MGKNT (V.P. Yevtushenkov) made the right decision.
This letter is far from the end of the fight for a license. The thing was that, almost simultaneously with Luzhkov’s letter the Communications Ministry received a similar letter from the governor Tyazhlov of the Moscow region with a request to issue a license to the regional Communications administration, GPSI (God only knows what it stands for). The vehicle for the planned regional business was a company called Millicom, which controlled the recently created regional carrier company RSS (“Regional Cellular Networks”). Among its founders, apart from Millicom and GPSI was, oddly, Fyodorov’s Institute for Eye Microsurgery. This institute and MilliCom had already helped found another cellular company, MSS.
The Ministry refused to issue separate licenses for Moscow and the Moscow region, and suggested we (VympelCom and GPSI) create a single, unified carrier company. This seemed reasonable: the borders between Moscow and the Moscow region went not only along the outer ring road, but around such places like the Sheremetyevo, and Vnukovo airports, the city of Zelenograd and others. The Ministry worried that band separation down such elaborate borders would lead to perpetual conflicts.
Their condition was that we create a joint venture with a common license for Moscow and the Moscow region, or get nothing at all. No one took into account that the conflicts that could arise by merging such dissimilar companies could more than exceed the mere technical conflicts of frequency coordination. We were forced to agree and sign a “Preliminary Agreement on the Creation of a Joint Venture,” which was immediately followed by our getting an exclusive license for Moscow and the Moscow region for two legal entities – GPSI and VympelCom.
The telex and telephone numbers of VympelCom that are listed on the license are the same as those of the former RTI Party Committee.
A single license for two legal entities can easily become a marble tombstone over a common grave. And that’s where it was all going.
Months-long negotiations over creation of an actual joint venture led nowhere. Among other things, Millicom suggested we dump Fabela as one of the founders of the new company and that we forget about him and the equipment produced by his company, Plexsys, and sign an equipment contract for Moscow and the Moscow region with “a normal and globally recognized supplier, such as AT&T or Motorola.” Millicom offered to pay for the equipment contract and give operational money to VympelCom. Their investment would then be reflected in the size of their share in the future joint venture. In this case, of course, Millicom would hold controlling interest. There was a time when we came very close to this sort of agreement.
At the same time, Fabela reminded us of our promise to develop our carrier business using Euronet, the company he controlled.
The board of directors of Euronet easily took all the necessary decisions; however, it was legally impossible to transfer service rights from VympelCom to Euronet, at least while we were still tied to the Moscow region by a common license.
I short – total darkness. A time of turmoil. Our activity practically came to a halt. If in Moscow we were still sometimes on the airways, in the region there was nothing at all. The terms of the license weren’t being met. VympelCom had neither the equipment for developing the network, nor the money.

I am hardly up to the task of describing the ensuing several years of meetings, letters of intent, of searching for compromise and money. It would require Shakespeare’s talent, or even better – Eduard Radzinsky’s.
I will limit myself to just a few episodes.
Back in 1993, when we were still tied by a common license with the region and MilliCom, Fabela still wanted to sign a contract with VympelCom for the continued supply of equipment on credit to VympelCom, and to become an investor (wasn’t Fabela great?!). So, using equipment we were most familiar with, VympelCom began building a more or less serious network for that time.
In the Aerostar Hotel’s Taiga cafe we conducted weekly business breakfasts “of the unified team of VympelCom and Euronet,” as it was put in one of our protocols. The breakfasts were of course paid for by Augie and Euronet. We couldn’t afford this kind of cafe – Euronet was just starting to sell telephones (which no one could make calls on yet), and had already committed to start providing service in September – all of which wasn’t very legal, but at first no one paid much attention.
At each of these breakfasts a special bulletin was issued called, “Team Spirit.”
On the bulletin sheet’s left margin there was a thermometer with red mercury showing the progress being made in the construction of the system, and at the top of the sheet, cascading dollars, which would start snowing on us after the installation of the sixth and final base station. This was exciting.

On August 14, 1993 at one of these breakfasts, we adopted Bee Line as our trademark – with a bee on it.
Our official birthday.

September 22, 1993 – public presentation of the Bee Line network in the Trade Chamber building. The first ad of Bee Line opens on Ilyinka.

At the reception a toasting competition was held. The winner was the toast in verse of the good man Lev Glinkin, the deputy scientific director of RTI.
By that time, MSS was already selling the telephones for its NMT-450 network. As I’ve already mentioned, they were the size of a small suitcase and cost $5000. We set similar prices for our phones.
…But we were still sharing the license with the region…

…And on August 16, 1994 one of our base stations was stolen. A base station is a small cupboard stuffed with radio equipment. One person would have trouble picking it up. But it was stolen at night, along with the accumulators and the antenna. This got newspaper coverage, but here are some documents that weren’t in the papers, although one of them is called “press release.”
Note the logo on the company letterhead. Although we’d had a professionally drawn trademark logo for about a year by then, we continued to use letterheads with an old logo that Victor Maneshin had drawn long ago in only a few minutes. He, just like Goldin, the author of that press release (we had nothing like press service back then) was one of the first RTI people to join VympelCom.

Millicom was prompt to reply:

Veronica was writing the truth: the station has been stolen on the initiative of the director of RSS, without the knowledge of Millicom. At the time, a crisis atmosphere was brewing among the founders of RSS, and therefore within Millicom. Even before this episode several leading RSS employees switched to VympelCom. Soon RSS was no more.
And in the end VympelCom came out more or less on top: it obtained the license for both Moscow and the region, launched a network, and even took the leading position in the young Moscow cell phone market. The list of shareholders had noticeably changed, too. And, no less important, all the participants in these events are more or less happy now (perhaps with the exception of Millicom). Everyone got what they were striving for. And I have maintained with all of them either friendly or neutrally-positive relations, including people from the Millicom’s Moscow office.

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