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27 telcos to drop roaming fees for EU-Ukraine calls  

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27 telecoms operators have inked a joint statement enabling free roaming and international calls between the EU and Ukraine.

Facilitated by the European Commission, the European Parliament, Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC) and the Ukrainian national regulatory authority (NCEC); the agreement follows a number of individual initiatives launched a number of companies and aims to "establish a more stable framework" with a coordinated approach that will enable displaced Ukrainians to stay in touch with family and friends.

“The possibility to have contact to those who are dear to us and access to information is a lifeline in times of crisis," said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age.

"This is why, together with the European Parliament, we are supporting the initiatives of telecom operators to facilitate affordable mobile connectivity for people who have fled the war. Also, we encourage for more similar measures that can make a real difference in these extraordinary circumstances.”

Specifically, the operators are volunteering to lower wholesale charges for roaming as well as termination charges with Ukraine that will minimise expenses and enabling both parties to cover their respective costs. At the same time, both EU and Ukrainan operators will pass on the full benefits of the reduction of termination rates to customers calling from the EU to Ukraine and Ukraine to EU.

“In this emergency situation many telecom operators have shown exceptional solidarity with the people fleeing Ukraine. Today they make an additional important step, " said Thierry Breton, Commissioner for the Internal Market.

"We welcome the joint statement by European and Ukrainian operators to make it easier for those suffering from the Kremlin war to stay connected. This engagement will make it possible to have voluntary measures apply as widely as possible throughout Europe. People displaced across Europe will be able to phone home, and people in Ukraine will be able to phone loved ones abroad at affordable conditions.”

Signatories include Ukrainian telcos, Kyivstar, lifecell and VF Ukriane. While EU telcos include BICS, Bouygues Telecom, Colt Technology Services, Deutsche Telekom, Enreach, Fastweb, Iliad Group, KPN, Liberty Global, Grupo MÁSMÓVIL, Neterra, Orange, Play, Polkomtel, Proximus, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia Company, Three Group, TIM, Transatel, Vodafone, MVNO Europe On behalf of its members, Nuuday and Plume.

“I welcome today's important step towards true free roaming for Ukrainian refugees. Our joint efforts have paid off and as the rapporteur for the new roaming regulation, I am particularly grateful that we could facilitate this joint statement," added Angelika Winzig, European Parliament rapporteur (EPP, Austria).

"By lowering the wholesale caps Ukrainian operators can more readily offer free roaming within the European Union to their customers, making it easier for them to stay in contact with their family and friends back in Ukraine. This way, no additional financial burden is placed on them during these challenging times. I look forward to building on this”.

The statement, which remains open to all operators who wish to sign at any time, follows on from the open letter issued by BICS CEO Matteo Gatta in March calling on EU mobile operators to unify and lower termination costs for Ukrainian citizens.

“We believe telecommunications is a critical infrastructure and that communication is a right," said Gatta in response to the joint statement.

"With today’s Joint Statement the European communications community is rallying together to support our neighbours during this crisis, and we are proud to play our role, in addition to the other measures we have already taken.”

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