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Carriers see inbound Ukraine calls increase seven-fold

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More than 30 carriers have collectively witnessed a seven-fold increase in inbound international voice calls to Ukraine in a single month.

The carriers, all members of not-for-profit industry body i3forum, include BICS, BTS, iBasis, Orange, Tata Communications, Sparkle, Telefónica, and Telstra. Collectively they saw inbound international voice minutes rise from 10 million to 70 million in March 2022.

They attributed the sharp increase to the more than 6.8 million refugees that the UN says have evacuated the country since Russia’s war of aggression started.

“Voice services have been vital for creating personal, close communication between friends and families separated due to the Ukraine crisis. i3forum Insights brings this data and critical market trend to light,” said Cedric Godin, interim chairman at i3forum.

“There’s just no substitute for the human voice, and in times of stress when we want to stay connected to loved ones, telephone calls have a very important role to play. We’re proud to be part of an industry that is keeping people connected during these difficult and unforeseen circumstances," he added.

i3forum said its insights "demonstrate the power of these telecommunications services, which are indispensable during times of crisis". The increase was recorded via i3forum's market database, i3forum Insights, which is operated by TeleGeography.

The volume and cost of calls to and from Ukraine has been closely followed by Capacity since the war started more than 100 days ago.

In early March, BICS' CEO, Matteo Gatta, wrote an open letter to European operators, urging them to unify and lower termination costs for Ukrainian citizens. Then in April, 27 telcos pledged to drop roaming fees for calls between the EU and Ukraine.

The decision by the 27 operators saw all volunteer to lower wholesale charges for roaming as well as termination charges with Ukraine to minimise expenses and enable both parties to cover their respective costs. all benefits from this are passed to consumers.

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

"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.”

Russian operators, on the other hand, have faced blocks on their services.