Three, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom and other major European operators cut charges for calls to Ukraine amidst growing refugee crisis
Three, Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and other European telecommunications operators have agreed to cut roaming and wholesale charges between the EU and Ukraine for three months amidst a growing refugee crisis.
The move is aimed at enabling Ukrainians displaced from the country by the Russian invasion to maintain contact with family members, as well as to access information and resources online.
A joint statement announcing the move was signed by an initial 27 operators, including all three of Ukraine’s mobile network companies and an association representing mobile virtual network operators, MVNO Europe.
“In the face of this immediate and growing humanitarian crisis, it is essential that Ukrainian refugees have access to affordable connectivity, so that they can stay in touch with their family and friends and that they can use the Internet and have access to reliable information,” said the European Commission in a statement.
The Commission and the European Parliament facilitated the statement following a number of spontaneous voluntary initiatives, in order to establish a more stable framework for such moves going forward.
An estimated 4.2 million refugees have fled the conflict to countries such as Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, from which they are moving to other parts of Europe, the Commission said.
“We encourage more similar measures that can make a real difference in these extraordinary circumstances,” said Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager.
The operators are committing to lower wholesale roaming charges and termination fees levied to link international calls, while the Ukrainian operators are pledging to pass the cuts on to customers.
The operators said they would charge at the level of their costs, with the exact fees determined by the companies and their bilateral agreements.
Other companies signing the declaration include Bouygues, Fastweb, Iliad, Liberty Global, MasMovil, Polkomtel, Proximus, Telefonica, Telenor, Telia and TIM.
Ukrtelecom said last week that Russian hackers had disrupted its systems after accessing the account of an employee in a region “recently temporarily” occupied, without naming the location.
Once they gained access the hackers tried to disable Ukrtelecom’s equipment and servers, and to change the passwords of employees’ accounts and logins to access equipment and firewalls.
The State Service of Special Communication and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) said Cisco, Microsoft and Information Systems Security Partners (ISSP) were involved in remediating the incident.