Ukrainian cellcos work to restore signal in occupied regions; Starlink has ‘150,000 users’ in the country

4 May 2022

Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communications & Information Protection reported that mobile operator Vodafone Ukraine has restored 71% of mobile communications coverage in the Kherson region ‘thanks to traffic rerouting’, having previously confirmed that mobile services were cut off on 30 April in the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions – both partly occupied by invading Russian military forces. It was subsequently disclosed that the network failures were due to breaks in the fibre-optic trunk lines and disconnection of operators’ equipment from power supplies in both regions. Other, unconfirmed, reports claim that in the city of Kherson – which fell to the Russian army in early March – internet connections are being rerouted by the occupiers to Russian networks.

Another Ukrainian cellco, Kyivstar, reports that it has amplified its network signal in Ukrainian-controlled settlements to provide coverage in nearby occupied territories of the Kherson and Zaporizhia regions. 20% of Kyivstar’s base stations are out of service in Zaporizhia region, a figure rising to 70% in Kherson region, and a company message on Facebook noted: ‘Unfortunately, technical specialists do not have access to the temporarily occupied settlements for repair work … Kyivstar engineers are working to strengthen the network signal in controlled settlements in Ukraine in order to increase the coverage area.’

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Starlink satellite broadband internet service now has around 150,000 active daily users in Ukraine, according to the country’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mikhail Fedorov, citing data from Apptopia. As reported by Liga.net, Starlink terminals are being utilised by various social infrastructure facilities including schools, hospitals, village councils and fire departments, while at the end of April Starlink Ukraine was registered as a representative office of the US-owned group. In late February amidst the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, SpaceX began sending Starlink terminals to the country following government requests, and the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite service was swiftly activated for all categories of end users.