A joint press release from Ukraine’s three largest mobile network operators (MNOs) Kyivstar, Vodafone and Lifecell confirmed that on 19 June 2020 they ‘began joint actions’ in redistributing and utilising 900MHz frequencies for 4G LTE network expansion, noting that thanks to the spectrum redistribution each MNO will operate contiguous bandwidth allocations sufficient for providing high quality LTE-900 services alongside existing GSM-900 coverage. During summer 2020, the trio are exchanging 900MHz frequencies in eight western Ukrainian regions – firstly Zakarpattia oblast – with other regions to follow, targeting national completion of the spectrum swap-over project by the end of the year.
The LTE-900 programme is in accordance with Presidential Decree No. 497 of 8 July 2019 (‘On some measures to improve access to mobile internet’) approved by the regulator NCCIR’s ‘Roadmap for reform measures’. Under the terms of their new 900MHz licences, which take effect on 1 July 2020, the MNOs are obliged to cover 90% of the population with 4G including all settlements with 2,000-plus residents in two years, plus all national/cross-border roads by the end of 2024. Kyivstar currently claims 4G 1800MHz/2600MHz coverage of 80% of the population, compared to Vodafone Ukraine’s claim of ‘over 71%’, while TeleGeography estimates that Lifecell’s LTE footprint has reached about 73% population coverage. According to Ukrainian government figures, at end-May 2020 4G LTE networks collectively operated in 16,205 settlements – or 57% of all settlements nationwide – with the figure increasing by 723 settlements in that month alone.