Following the signing of a letter of intent, Ukrainian telecom operator Kyivstar will work with Rakuten Symphony to deploy an open RAN proof of concept to test hardware and the full chain of cooperation.

Tereza Krásová, Associate Editor

February 29, 2024

2 Min Read
Kyivstare shop.
(Source: Igor Golovnov/Alamy Stock Photo)

MWC24 – BARCELONA – Veon-owned operator Kyivstar signed a letter of intent with Rakuten Symphony about the next stage of their partnership, which will see them deploy open radio access networks (RANs) to rebuild Ukraine's digital infrastructure, with first steps to be taken later this year. 

Speaking to Light Reading here in Barcelona, Kyivstar CTO Volodymyr Lutchenko stressed that open RAN isn't the only area where the companies are partnering. He pointed to Rakuten's digital solutions for telcos as well as the importance of Rakuten's subsidiary Viber, which is currently installed on nine out of ten devices in Ukraine.

Regarding open RAN, Lutchenko specified that the first step will be to launch a proof of concept (PoC), which will consist of a real network deployment in one of Ukraine's cities. The goal will be testing not only the hardware, but also what he called the full chain of cooperation, which includes contract preparation, price negotiation and working with local partners, as well as logistics aspects like delivery to Ukraine.

Asked about how big a role open RAN could play in Kyivstar's network, Lutchenko said: "Let's say we have a strategic plan for that, but right now it's too early to say what the scope of that is." He added that once the PoC is complete, Kyivstar will decide how to move forward.

Pioneering project

Veon CEO Kaan Terzioglu, meanwhile, told Light Reading during a separate interview that the goal remains to rebuild Ukraine's network with open RAN once the war with Russia is over, relying on both terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks.

Terzioglu called the field trials a "pioneering project" for the rest of Veon's operations. He added that the deployment will serve as a basis for learning more about the technology.

While the scope of the Kyivstar-Rakuten partnership covers both 4G and 5G, Lutchenko said the focus will be on 4G first. This is because 5G has not yet been rolled out in Ukraine, with spectrum still to be allocated. That process was expected to start in 2022, but it was put on hold due to Russia's full-scale invasion of the country.

Last year, Kyivstar's CEO Oleksandr Komarov said that 5G would not be a focus while the war is ongoing. This week, Lutchenko said that Kyivstar is currently in discussions with the Ukrainian government about testing the technology in select cities. The scope, specific locations and frequencies of any such project have not been defined yet.

Part of the consideration, Lutchenko noted, is the expected decommissioning of legacy networks, with Kyivstar already starting the process of sunsetting 3G in select cities.

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About the Author(s)

Tereza Krásová

Associate Editor, Light Reading

Associate Editor, Light Reading

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