Veon eyes Open RAN for Ukraine rebuild

now open sign neon

Kyivstar parent Veon has brought in Rakuten Symphony to assist with the reconstruction of its infrastructure in Ukraine.

To support the Ukrainian State Agency for Reconstruction and Development of Infrastructure’s ‘We Build Ukraine’ initiative, the two firms have signed an MoU under which they have agreed to work on rolling out Open RAN-based 5G networks that Veon says will underpin a new generation of digital services.

Veon, which operates in six markets in total, announced in June that it will spend $600 million over three years on its Ukrainian unit. The bulk of the funds are being ploughed into fibre and 4G – it has set a target of covering 98% of the population with the latter.

Veon said at the time that this investment paves the way for the deployment of 5G. And on Wednesday it said that Open RAN technology represents a “compelling choice” when it comes to 5G network architecture.

As one of the more active proponents of Open RAN, Rakuten Symphony is a safe pair of hands when it comes to its commercial deployment.

Veon also drew parallels between Kyivstar’s and Rakuten’s respective activities in Ukraine. The former offers a range of online health, entertainment, information and education services, while the latter operates one of the most popular messaging apps in Ukraine – Rakuten Viber – and has deep international experience when it comes to messaging and financial services.

Veon reckons this shared focus on digital ecosystems puts their partnership on a solid footing. Rakuten will certainly hope so, because under the MoU, the two have agreed to explore potential partnerships in Veon’s other markets – this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

“Veon and Rakuten share a similar vision: we are both highly customer-focused, digital experience-oriented companies which redefine communications in our respective markets,” said Veon CEO Kaan Terzioğlu, in a statement. “We are very excited to partner with Rakuten to explore the opportunities in Veon’s markets, with a combined population of 510 million. I am also delighted that we will start this work in Ukraine, where the country’s reconstruction is also a shared priority.”

Veon said Kyivstar and Rakuten aim to deploy “robust and future-proof telecommunications infrastructure.”

Indeed, robust is unfortunately – given the invasion of Ukraine by Russia – the operative word.

When spoke to Kyvistar CTO Volodymyr Lutchenko last September, he said 35% of his company’s mobile sites had been completely destroyed. He said that Kyivstar had focused on core network redundancy to ensure continuity of service to sites that were still operational.

Catching up again with Lutchenko at this year’s Mobile World Congress, he explained that with the liberation of occupied areas underway, Kyivstar had reconnected more than 800 cities and villages in these locations, restoring approximately 90% of all damaged infrastructure.

Far from simply rebuilding what was there before, Wednesday’s announcement demonstrates that Kyivstar is determined not to allow the ongoing war to let it fall behind its global peers.

“Rakuten is honoured to support the ‘We Build Ukraine’ initiative through potential collaboration with Veon to boost Ukraine’s critical national telecommunications infrastructure,” said Mickey Mikitani, CEO of Rakuten Group and chairman of Rakuten Symphony. “We look forward to bringing our technological expertise from Open RAN telecom solutions and a broad range of digital services including Rakuten Viber to support Ukraine in transforming its digital landscape, as well as exploring further joint opportunities in other Veon markets.”

Get the latest news straight to your inbox. Register for the newsletter here.

  • Open RAN Ecosystem

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.