Mobile customers have a vast array of products and services to choose from and as such mobile operators need to adjust the way they think about their customers, Russia's Vimpelcom stated this week.

"A customer relationship is not something you own...a customer relationship is something you earn," said Vimpelcom CEO Jo Lunder, speaking at a conference session at Mobile World Congress.

"We have defined ourselves...as a company that will provide smart connectivity," said Lunder. "The only way to develop is to partner with the right companies around us," and to create our own services on the platform we provide, he said.

The operator has 40 partnerships in place with Internet players, Lunder explained. It operates a centralised hub for partners to access its customer base and sells a smartphone app through its billing system every eight seconds.

"Partnerships are good," Lunder insisted, before moving on to complain that these partners, the Internet companies, have an advantage over telcos when it comes to the regulatory environment.

"Mobile operators are heavily regulated," Lunder said. Their business models are largely local in scope, while the newcomers to the market are global players that are not regulated.

Discussions need to take place to "make sure this becomes a level playing field," he added.

"There is enough growth for everybody here."