Operators have been quick to take voluntary measures in solidarity with the people fleeing the war.
In July 2023, the Commission, together with the NCEC, the Ukrainian national regulatory authority, has facilitated the twelve-month prolongation of the agreement between 23 European and seven Ukrainian operators, which was first signed in April 2022, to mutually lower the rates they must sustain to connect calls across borders. Affordable calls allow those seeking shelter in Europe to reach family and friends in Ukraine, and vice versa.
Calls across borders significantly increased
Thanks to the joint statement, the agreement has been widely applied throughout Europe facilitating communication in different ways. Ukrainian operators are able to provide free or affordable roaming to their subscribers in the EU. The number of countries covered by the agreement has been increasing as more operators adhere to the joint statement. On average, the three Ukrainian operators offer either roaming at domestic prices, affordable roaming or mobile data across borders in 25 EU Member States and even beyond – in about 32 countries.
The gist of the agreement is to lower inter-operator wholesale charges for cross-border calls which use different mobile networks. The lowered charges are then reflected in lower prices for end users and facilitated communication across borders. It means that some 4,5 million Ukrainians roaming in the EU can call back home to Ukraine and use mobile internet at free or affordable rates.
Refugees can use affordable data and make free or affordable calls with their Ukrainian SIM cards, as well as make affordable calls to Ukraine with their EU SIM cards, distributed by EU telecom operators. The impact of the Joint Statement on the refugees as reported by BEREC has been considerable with 80 EU mobile operators offering free international calls to Ukraine and 44 EU mobile operators offering calls at lower price. All three Ukrainian operators have also offered free roaming or roaming at domestic prices for their subscribers currently in the EU and they also offer free and reduced-charge international calls to EU. More so, operators are offering free or low-cost calls to travelers in Ukraine, supporting the many aid workers engaged in helping out on the ground. More information on the impact of the agreement can be found on the BEREC webpage.
All of this was possible because operators decided to lower the fees they charge each other for the use of different networks that allow them to provide communication services across borders. The impact of the Joint Statement on the downward trend in wholesale prices between EU and UA operators is confirmed by the BEREC report. For example as a result of the voluntary commitments of the operators the termination rates that UA operators pay to EU operators signatories of the JS has lowered, and are about 70% less than the EU average. In addition according to UA operators the wholesale rates for data roaming that UA operators pay on average to EU operators decreased by 30% and are already significantly below the maximum wholesale caps to be applied in the EU based on the Roaming rules and are therefore facilitating free roaming offers for Ukrainian refugees using their UA SIM cards.
This Joint Statement remains open for all operators willing to sign at any time in solidarity with refugees from Ukraine. Note that a physical signature is not required, but a company that wants to join should send an email, indicating willingness to sign the Joint Statement and attach a company logo to: CNECT-B2@ec.europa.eu.
Find below the Joint Statement signed by EU and Ukrainian operators on connectivity in support of refugees from Ukraine and the prolongation of the Joint Statement.
Updated on 02 February 2023