Telcos support Ukraine as Russian operators face blocks

Telcos support Ukraine as Russian operators face blocks


As the world sanctions Russia for its actions in Ukraine, Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine and lifecell on Saturday all suspended access to their networks for subscribers in Russia and Belarus.

The news broke the day before a request was made via BEREC to disconnect Russian operators from roaming in EU countries.

Both developments were reported by Ukraine news agency Interfax.

On the network blocks, Kyivstar has disabled subscriber registration in Russia and Belarus in its network, while Vodafone Ukraine PR Director Viktoria Ruban said Facebook: "The possibility of registering Russian and Belarusian subscribers in the Vodafone Ukraine network has been blocked."

Side note: Vodafone Ukraine is owned by NEQSOL Holding via Bakcell following a $734 million acquisition in 2019. NEQSOL took on the regulator in Georgia almost two years ago, when it expropriated assets and tried to reverse its acquisition of Caucasus Online. The firm has been contacted by Capacity for further comment.

On Sunday, Oleksandr Zhyvotovsky, chairman of the National Commission for the State Regulation of Communications and Informatization requested that BEREC disconnects Russian operators from roaming in EU countries.

"In order to protect Ukraine, Europe and the entire democratic world and hold Russia accountable, I urge you, [Annemarie Sipkes] as Chair of BEREC, to take action, together with the national regulators of EU Member States, to block Russian roamers and roaming services for Russian telecommunications service providers within the framework of the European Union," stated the National Commission in a message in the official Telegram channel of the State Service for Special Communications and Information Protection.

Zhyvotovsky went on to say that, in the digital age, high-tech and information and communication technologies are perhaps the best answer to tanks and missiles.

Supporting civilians

For those affected and displaced by the conflict, dozens of telcos in Ukraine and beyond have donated data and call minutes.

This morning, Capacity has received confirmation from Ukrtelecom, Telecom Italia, Nova, Cosmote and Deutsche Telekom, with news from many others breaking over the weekend. In fact, the list gets longer by the hour.

Vodafone Ukraine has announced packages for pre-paid and business customers, deferring bill payments for the latter until 15 March and giving 1,000 minutes for calls within Ukraine and 10GB of data to those "unable to make calls or access the internet due to an unconnected package".

The top of Vodafone Ukraine's homepage states: "There is information disseminated on the Internet on the possible disconnection from mobile communications and the Internet. This information does not reflect the actual situation. The operators and providers will continue to provide services to citizens. The operational and technical management systems of communication networks are switched to the emergency management mode."

Over at TIM, customers of Ukrainian nationality in Italy have been granted one week of complimentary access to unlimited data and minutes, effective as of Monday (today).

In the UK last week, VMO2, Three, Sky, TalkTalk and BT all committed to waive various fees for those inside and outside the country including roaming and international call charges. Vodafone UK made a similar announcement, backed up with a donation from the Vodafone Foundation.

It will donate €500,000 from its humanitarian fund to "assist NGOs supporting people on the move from Ukraine. This includes a donation to our long standing partner @Refugees", Vodafone announced on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Telekom along with its subsidiaries in Poland and the US – T-Mobile Polska and T-Mobile US – are making calls and text messages to Ukraine free of charge. Via Twitter the firm said it had "no words" for the situation in Ukraine.

And as far away as the Philippines, Globe – which alongside PLDT owns Ukraine's Vega Telecom – said the day before the invasion started that it was "providing assistance to Filipinos in Ukraine through free roaming calls, texts and data to keep in touch with their loved ones back home amid tensions between Kyiv and Moscow".