Telecom operators based in the EU and in Ukraine today signed a joint statement on coordinated efforts to secure affordable or free roaming and international calls between the EU and Ukraine.
The European Commission and the European Parliament facilitated the joint statement and welcomed its signature by 27 operators (with more joining) in the EU and Ukraine, including several EU-wide groups, and the association representing several mobile virtual network operators (MVNO Europe). Coming in the wake of a number of spontaneous voluntary initiatives, the joint statement aims to establish a more stable framework to help Ukrainians displaced throughout Europe to stay in touch with family and friends back home.
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has disrupted the lives of millions of Ukrainians, with more than 4 million refugees fleeing to neighbouring countries. In the face of this humanitarian crisis, it is essential that Ukrainian refugees have access to affordable connectivity, so they can stay in touch with family and friends and can use the Internet and have access to reliable information.
Margrethe Vestager, EU Executive Vice-President for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age, said: “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.”
European Parliament rapporteur on the new roaming regulation Angelika Winzig said: “I welcome today’s important step towards true free roaming for Ukrainian refugees… 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.”
Joint action by EU and Ukrainian operators
Recognising the importance of connectivity under these exceptional circumstances, the joint statement aims to establish a coordinated approach to ensure that both EU and Ukrainian operators can continue providing affordable connectivity to refugees from Ukraine.
The operators are committing to implement voluntary measures, namely to lower wholesale charges for roaming and other charges to enable international calls with Ukraine. This will minimise additional costs for both EU and Ukrainian operators, enabling each to cover their respective costs.
The joint statement has already been signed by 24 operators based in EU, including several EU-wide groups, the association representing several mobile virtual network operators (MVNO Europe) and all the 3 mobile operators based in Ukraine. A list is available here.
Other actions undertaken by operators
From the first days of the crisis, the signatories of this joint statement have taken many actions to ensure connectivity across the board. Telecom operators based in the EU have distributed millions of SIM cards free of charge to refugees from Ukraine. A large and increasing number of refugees using such SIM cards are also benefiting from free international calls to Ukraine. Some EU operators have also enabled free roaming and provided free WiFi and charging in border areas or shelters. In parallel, Ukrainian operators, who keep the connectivity within Ukraine and with Ukraine functioning despite military aggression, have from the early days of this crisis ensured national roaming within the country and offered free international roaming to refugees who fled the war.
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