Russia’s leading mobile operator, Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), has partnered with Vodafone, the world’s largest operator in terms of revenues, to bring the Big V’s brand to Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Armenia.

On Thursday, Voda announced that it has struck a strategic, non-equity partnership with MTS, giving the Russian operator access to products, services and devices from Vodafone.

MTS will also draw on Vodafone’s know how for building and developing 3G networks and mobile broadband products, as it rolls out its own HSDPA networks. MTS launched its first 3G services in Russia in May, and plans to 3G-enable 14 cities during 2008 and a further 40 cities through 2009.

Last month the operator extended coverage of its 3G network to Siberia and the Russian Far East. MTS plans to invest around $1.6bn in 3G network development over the next three years to provide high speed data services to its customers in Russia and the CIS. The company also holds 3G licenses in Uzbekistan and Armenia, where the networks are scheduled for launch in 2009.

The Russian deal will also give Vodafone valuable insight into the Russian and CIS markets, which are among the fastest growing in the world. Vodafone-branded products will be made available to a further 87 million subscribers, including more than 60 million MTS customers in Russia.