Operators collaborate to keep Ukrainian refugees connected

Russia and Ukraine war, conflict, confrontation. Fighting between Russia and Ukraine, symbolized by national flags stained in blood, 3d illustration

European and Ukrainian operators have signed a Joint Statement in collaboration with the EU to nail down continued measures to make sure people fleeing the war in Ukraine have mobile connectivity.

The statement points out that operators started taking measures to ensure connectivity was maintained for refugees and those in Ukraine as the invasion began, such as distributing millions of SIM cards free of charge, offering free or heavily discounted international calls and test to Ukraine, setting up free outbound roaming for EU customers in Ukraine, providing charging points where refugees gather, and offering donations of equipment to Ukrainian operators required to maintain service.

What is being pledged now is further coordination on efforts by the operators, facilitated by BEREC and the Ukrainian National Regulatory Authority NCEC, which will be reviewed in three month’s time.

Some extracts from the statement are below:

In the face of this immediate and growing humanitarian crisis, EU and Ukrainian operators share the conviction that Ukrainian refugees should continue to have affordable access to connectivity to stay in touch with family and friends and to access the Internet and reliable sources of information.

In light of this devastating war, the signatories of this Joint Statement from the EU side stand in full solidarity with Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. Recognising the importance of connectivity, in particular in times of crisis and under these exceptional circumstances, EU and Ukrainian operators stand ready to continue making these unprecedented voluntary efforts to alleviate the consequences of the humanitarian crisis by providing connectivity support on a collaborative basis to those fleeing their home to safety in the European Union. At the same time, the Ukrainian signatories of this Joint Statement commit to pass on the full benefits of the voluntary measures applied by their EU counterparts to Ukrainian end users.

Operators in EU and Ukraine, including those providing transit where relevant, would agree to voluntarily and bilaterally lower wholesale roaming charges and lower the wholesale charges for terminating international calls through commercial agreements, to enable the sustained provision of affordable connectivity to refugees from Ukraine. That coordinated approach would minimise additional costs for both EU and Ukrainian operators, while enabling each to cover their respective costs, in order to enable as best possible communication for those fleeing the horrors of war. In this respect, it is important that operators on both sides of the border do their utmost to ensure that charges for Ukrainian consumers are kept at the minimum.

In essence the document says that European operators are committing to reduce wholesale roaming charges and termination rates, while Ukrainian operators are committing to reduce international termination rates for calls to Ukraine originated by EU numbers and calls to Ukraine originated by Ukrainian numbers roaming in the EU, to a level that allows EU operators to offer reduced wholesale roaming charges and affordable international calls.

Looking beyond the opaquely legal and technical language of this, the spirit of it all is try and make sure those fleeing or within Ukraine maintain mobile and internet connectivity, which could of course be the difference between life and death for some.

Current Ukrainian signatories are Kyivstar, Lifecel, VF Ukraine, and Euopean signatories are BICS, Bouygues Telecom, Colt Technology Services, Deutsche Telkom, Enreach, Fastweb, Iliad Group, KPN, Liberty Global, Grupo Masmovil, Neterra, Orange, Play, Polkomtel, Proximus, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia Company, Three Group, TIM, Transtel, Vodafone, MVNO Europe, Nuuday and Plume.

“For this coordinated approach to be efficient, as many EU and Ukrainian operators as possible, should be part of this joint initiative. This Joint Statement remains open for all operators willing to sign at any time in solidarity with Ukraine,” continues the statement.

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