With the Ukrainian refugee crisis continuing to grow, 27 telecoms operators are taking part in a joint initiative to enable affordable or free roaming between the EU and Ukraine for the next three months
The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused an enormous humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recording that, as of April 9, over 4.5 million refugees have left Ukraine for neighbouring countries.
Now, a group of 27 European operators have announced their intention to jointly offer affordable or free roaming and international calls between EU and Ukraine.
The operators are committed to lowering the wholesale charges and other fees they typically charge one another when enabling international communication with Ukraine. In turn, the cost savings from this arrangement will be passed directly to customers.
In some markets, this will allow consumers to roam for free.
These terms will remain in place for the next three months, with other longer-term measures to be considered if the situation in Ukraine does not improve.
The joint statement was supported by the European Commission, the European Parliament, Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC), and the Ukrainian national regulatory authority (NCEC).
“The possibility to have contact to those who are dear to us and access to information is a lifeline in times of crisis," said Margrethe Vestager, executive vice-president for a Europe Fit for the Digital Age. "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.”
The agreement builds on a number of voluntary roaming initiatives from European operators, aiming to provide a more structured and coordinated roaming structure for refugees across the continent.
Additional operators are free to join the agreement if they so wish.