Starlink helps Vodafone Ukraine reconnect battle-scarred towns

Using Elon Musk's satellite constellation as a transport network, the operator restores 2G/4G services in Irpin and Romanivka.

Ken Wieland, contributing editor

April 4, 2022

2 Min Read
Starlink helps Vodafone Ukraine reconnect battle-scarred towns

In collaboration with LEO satellite broadband provider Starlink, an Elon Musk SpaceX company, Vodafone Ukraine says it has reconnected the towns of Irpin and Romanivka (located near capital city Kyiv).

A basestation not far from Irpin and Romanivka has been equipped with Starlink equipment, which enables a satellite-based transport network. Both 2G and 4G configurations, said Vodafone Ukraine, are supported by the setup.

The operator points out that technology convergence of this sort, where operation of a mobile network operator's network is backed up via satellite, is only the second of its kind in the world. The first was apparently deployed by Japanese operator KDDI.

Figure 1: A SpaceX Starlink Internet terminal installed in Odesa, Southern Ukraine, March 15, 2022. (Source: Abaca Press/Alamy Stock Photo) A SpaceX Starlink Internet terminal installed in Odesa, Southern Ukraine, March 15, 2022.
(Source: Abaca Press/Alamy Stock Photo)

"Thanks to this scheme of work," said the operator in a brief statement, "Vodafone was able to quickly restore mobile communications in areas with damaged nodes."

Irpin was badly hit by Russian firepower but has put up fierce resistance, helping to repel an advance on the capital city.

Starlink there from the start

SpaceX activated its Starlink service in Ukraine and dispatched more terminals to the country on February 26, two days after the Russian invasion, in response to a tweeted request from Ukraine's vice prime minister Mykhailo Fedorov.

"Starlink–here. Thanks, @elonmusk", Fedorov wrote on February 28, after the first shipment arrived. He added the connectivity "will save a lot of lives."

An unofficial map of Starlink satellites shows its constellation of 2,000 normally has several satellites over Ukraine, and there are gateway ground stations in nearby countries for broadband.

SpaceX is working on software updates to reduce power consumption, to allow Starlink dishes to run from automobile cigarette lighters, while also enabling mobile roaming so dishes can stay connected while on a moving vehicle, said Musk in a tweet.

He also suggested solar panels and battery packs as better power sources than generators, since solar power lacked "heat signature or smoke and doesn't run out of fuel."

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— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Ken Wieland

contributing editor

Ken Wieland has been a telecoms journalist and editor for more than 15 years. That includes an eight-year stint as editor of Telecommunications magazine (international edition), three years as editor of Asian Communications, and nearly two years at Informa Telecoms & Media, specialising in mobile broadband. As a freelance telecoms writer Ken has written various industry reports for The Economist Group.

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