Starlink aids Ukraine, but worries remain over reliance on Musk

Starlink aids Ukraine, but worries remain over reliance on Musk

Ukraine flag

Starlink services were cut off by Musk during a planned drone strike, sparking fury from Ukrainian generals

Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister for digital transformation thanked Elon Musk for supplying 500 Tesla power walls and over 40,000 Starlink kits to Ukraine since February 2022.

While the Tesla power walls are helping “keep resilience of Ukraine's medical, social & energy infrastructure”, the kits allow users to connect to Starlink’s broadband satellite internet wirelessly.

“Starlink is indeed the blood of our entire communication infrastructure now,” Fedorov told the New York Times as part of a report on Starlink’s contribution to the war effort.

In addition to the thousands of lives Fedorov claims Starlink has saved, it has also cut the time from identifying to striking a target with a drone from 20 minutes to just one.

The same report however claims that some Ukrainian officials are worried by an over-reliance on Starlink, but acknowledged that other satellite connectivity providers fail to compare in terms of coverage or quality of service.

Furthermore, Musk has been accused of cutting of Starlink access at critical times during Ukrainian military operations, which have prevented them from targeting Russia in Crimea.

Adding to the naturally uneasy feeling that a civilian essentially has the power to veto a Ukrainian military operation, Musk was criticised by Ukraine for a peace-plan he floated last year that suggested Russia being handed territory.

The New York Times article suggests that Ukraine is not alone in its concerns over Musk’s influence, with world leaders and military officials reportedly worrying over his "erratic and personality-driven style."

Meanwhile, Dutch operator Veon today announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) Rakuten Symphony, a subsidiary of the leading technology conglomerate, Rakuten Group.

The two companies will start exploring cooperation in Ukraine, with the goal of accelerating the reconstruction of the country’s infrastructure, through collaboration on open radio access networks (Open RAN) and digital services.

VEON, operating in six markets with a total population of 510 million, is the parent company of Ukraine’s leading operator Kyivstar and has recently committed to investing $600 million to rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure.

“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 a shared priority” said Kaan Terzioğlu, Group CEO, Veon.

“Rakuten is honoured to support the ‘We Build Ukraine’ initiative through potential collaboration with VEON to boost Ukraine’s critical national telecommunications infrastructure,” commented Mickey Mikitani, Chairman and CEO, 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.”

Speaking with Capacity last month about the scope of the investment, Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov said ““Right now, we are mainly focused on how we can get the Ukrainian economy restarted.”

4G everywhere was a priority for Kyivstar, with Oleksander laying out plans to cover 98% of Ukraine (keep an eye out for the next issue of Capacity Magazine for more from Oleksander).

Veon were keen to highlight in its statement that the two companies also share a focus on digital ecosystems. Kyivstar owns and operates Ukraine’s leading digital services in health, entertainment, information and education, while Rakuten has deep international experience in messaging and financial services.

Rakuten’s instant messaging app Rakuten Viber is a leading digital communication app in Ukraine, with high adoption and engagement rates among Ukrainian nationals abroad.

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