Kyivstar's Komarov outlines Ukraine pledge

Kyivstar's Komarov outlines Ukraine pledge

Alexander Komarov 1.png

As the Russia-Ukraine war rages on, Oleksandr Komarov, CEO of Kyivstar met with Capacity earlier this year to discuss the network rebuild and the battle to keep the country connected.

After Veon announced that it would plough US$600 million into the recovery of Ukraine over the next three years through its subsidiary Kyivstar, Capacity joined Oleksandr Komarov, CEO of Kyivstar for a chat in London.

The investment will cover Kyivstar’s infrastructure projects, delivering essential connectivity and 4G services across the country, as well as the development of digital services accessible to all Ukrainians and community support projects.

The announcement was made as a part of the international Ukraine Recovery Conference that was held in London in June.

During this event, Veon unveiled its 'Invest in Ukraine, Now!' campaign, inviting all international and national stakeholders to invest in Ukraine to support the country’s reconstruction efforts.

Komarov says that this investment is related to “urgent needs rather than the economy” as a whole.

“The past 16 months have shown the world that communications are indeed the lifeline of Ukraine,” Komarov said.

“With the dedication of our 4000-strong team, and the support of our parent company VEON, Kyivstar has been central to Ukraine’s resilience and recovery since the very morning of February 24th, 2022.”

“[The] sizeable investment commitment signifies not only a continuation of our track record but also an acceleration of our investments."

“At a time when many others are refraining from making future plans, we proudly commit to ‘building back better’ in partnership with public sector counterparts and other national and international stakeholders."

Komarov capped off his message by urging other companies to contribute to investing in Ukraine.

Prioritising the network

Speaking to Capacity, Komarov says that it is of utmost importance for the operator to keep its network running, in spite of catastrophic damage to some areas of its network infrastructure.

This update by Komarov comes shortly after the firm said that it had carried out 150,000 repairs, reconnected 800 settlements, upgraded and deployed nearly 10,000 4G base stations and installed 32,000 new batteries to ensure continuity of communications during energy blackouts as of June.

In spite of that, Komarov says 93% of its network remains functional despite areas that are “almost regularly under attack”.

“Right now, we are mainly focused on how we can get the Ukrainian economy restarted, and of course, there are a lot of limitations,” he said.“We are looking for a way to ensure development in very difficult circumstances.”

Moving forward, Komarov insists that “recovery, repair and resilience is priority number one” for the operator in Ukraine.

The second priority, he says, is development which he describes as “necessary for survival”.

While the hope would be that Kyivstar could soon switch off its 3G network, this is currently difficult given the number of people still relying on 3G connectivity.

Therefore, he predicts that 3G will not be switched off until 2025 at the earliest.

But even as the war rages on, Komarov hasn’t waned in his optimism regarding 4G services across the country.

He references Kyivstar’s 4G everywhere service, citing plans to reach 98% coverage of the population with 4G.

That number currently stands at around 93% and Komarov is aware that progress will be slow. The operator, though, managed to maintain approximately 90% of its 4G coverage last year – representing a virtually unchanged figure from the end of 2021.

Kyivstar claimed that 13 million subscribers regularly used 4G internet at the end of 2022, with mobile internet usage per subscription reaching 12GB per month.

As for 5G, this is not on the agenda as the war continues. Ukraine’s regulator did have plans to conduct a 5G spectrum auction last year, but this was put on hold.


With that said, the CEO insists that the primary concern is not money but rather resources. He cites Kherson, a port city in Ukraine as an example where resources are key.

That city had no electricity or water, but a temporary engineering team, with workers from across the country, was needed there in order to rebuild its network despite the difficulties.

While withdrawing from Kherson in November of last year, Russia had intensified air strikes and missile attacks on other key cities such as Kyiv and Lviv, destroying more infrastructure.

When pressed on potential security concerns of the networks that Kyivstar are rebuilding, Komarov remained relatively unconcerned.

This is because he considers the operator to be “advanced in this area”.

Kyivstar is International Organisation Standardization (ISO) certified, meaning it has received a seal of approval from a third-party body that it complies with one of the international standards developed by the group.

“We are focusing heavily on a global cybersecurity framework, audited by an external organisation,” Komarov says, adding that the operator is well prepared for potential attacks.

Investment plans

With regard to continued investment, Komarov states that the operator remains “opportunistic” in the market.This includes work on the fibre-to-the-premises network as well as consolidation in the fixed market.

Komarov says that the company aims to invest in areas where the operator can make real change.

This, he adds, has already been highlighted by its investment in the country’s largest medical information system Helsi Ukraine last year.

Helsi has been on the market for over six years and has more than 23 million patients. It is known as a provider of SaaS solutions for medical systems for 1,300 public and private clinics.

“Since the beginning of the war, we decided that our primary objective was to keep network and services running, but where can we make social change?”

He adds that education is another area that Kyivstar is keeping a close eye on.

“Education is not about receiving information, it is also about networking, socialising and direct interactions,” he says.

“With a large number of people displaced, we have to ensure that everyone has access.”

Moving forward, Komarov foresees a hybrid model of both face-to-face and digital interactions as becoming the new norm.

Alongside this, Komarov believes cloud services and big data will also receive investment from the company.

Yet even despite several limitations, Komarov is confident that Ukraine can and will sustain itself.

“We will have a chance to be a part of one of the biggest development projects of the 21st century,” he says.

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