Last year I had a devastatingly bad 3G experience in St. Petersburg and when returning this year I was a bit skeptical of how good my connectivity would be when not at the hotel or when using one of the almost ubiquitously distributed Wi-Fi hotspots in the city. So here's a little report of how it worked out this time:
Instead of a Beeline I went for Internet connectivity of MTS this time. Getting the SIM card took about 15 to 20 minutes of intensive interaction of the sales person with her computer terminal, still quite a different exprience compared to other countries where working SIM cards can be drawn out of machines at the airport in about 10 seconds.
Anyway, once activated I got reliable service inside the city and I saw sustained data rates of up to 6 Mbit/s in the downlink direction and around 1-2 Mbit/s in the uplink direction. That's solid service I would say. Thanks to Google's global APN lists in Android, there's also nothing to configure anymore on the mobile as the APN was set automatically to 'internet.mts.ru'.
Last year I came here with my Nokia N8 and could take great pictures but was a bit hampered distributing Internet connectivity to my other devices in the few cases I could get usable cellular connectivity. This year I had a couple of low- to mid range Android devices in tow and while Wi-Fi tethering capabilities made connectivity sharing easy, picture quality compared to last year visibly suffered. I just wished I could have it all in one (affordable) device. Next year perhaps.
Pricing for Internet is also quite affordable. I paid a total of 350 Ruble (around 7 Euros) for the SIM card including 300 Ruble balance on it. Out of those, unlimited Internet access for a month cost 250 Rubles, i.e. around 5 Euros. The daily cap is set to 100 MB after which the data rate is throttled. More than sufficient for my purposes. For the remaining 50 Rubles I sent a couple of SMS messages and made some local calls. Altogether a very positive experience!
P.S. While LTE seems to be available from MTS in Moscow and 4G is already printed on the SIM cards it's not yet available to the public in St. Petrsburg. However, there are already three LTE networks on air so it can't take long anymore now.