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BICS' Gatta calls on EU operators to lower Ukraine-EU voice costs

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Matteo Gatta, CEO of BICS has issued an open letter to EU mobile operators calling on them to unify and lower termination costs for Ukrainian citizens.

Specifically, Gatta says that EU mobile operators should "remove all charges on voice calls coming out of Ukraine and terminating into their networks" adding that BICS will support this by "carrying this traffic at no cost".

The open letter goes on to suggest that if nothing else, "operators should bring their termination costs in line with mobile termination rates (MTR) costs for calls within the European Union, which will still allow Ukrainian operators to reduce the cost of these calls for their subscribers.".

Speaking to Capacity on the call to action, Gatta explained, saying " The focus here is on the needs of people who need to stay close while they cannot be close. We believe in the power of voice and the ability to have conversations during this time."

He says that while many Ukrainians are being welcomed in other European countries at the moment, it is vital that calls from Ukraine are affordable.

"The best way to do that, is to ask the receiving side, meaning the operator in Europe to drop their termination charge. So that the operator in Ukraine have an incentive to lower their price for the end user," he says.

Gatta acknowledge's that many European operators like BT, Vodafone, TIM and Deutsche Telekom have been giving away free calls to European citizen calling Ukraine, but it isn't the same in the opposite direction.

"They come to us and they ask us to lower the cost of these calls, but we do not control the termination into Ukraine. So, the message is, the best way to keep people connected is to lower the entry barrier at the end user side on both sides."

With ongoing conversations at the 'political level' between the likes of the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and European Commission on potentially blocking Russian roamers and roaming services for Russian telecom providers in the EU.

Gatta says that his suggestion for EU operators "can happen entirely with the private sector" adding that while regulators are here to "shape the industry" these exceptional circumstances require quick action.

Speaking to us live from MWC Barcelona means that response to his open letter has yet to be seen, but Gatta says he 'expects to see a positive reaction" not just because it’s the right thing to do but because its "investing in customer value".

Still early days, there is no way to rule out the inclusion of other areas of the telecoms sector, including satellite players whose assets often become critical in war zones where traditional land-based infrastructure can become damaged. On their potential involvement in these plans, Gatta says he is "not ruling it out."

The next steps according to Gatta means that BICS "will not wait" and plans to formally inform its peers and customers "because we are enablers, to make sure this happen".

"We have the platforms this. These changes in prices can be implemented and the technology is there to make this happen. So, whether its one operator or one country that decides to do this, we will enable it to be done."