In what was broadly a good set of Q2 figures posted by Amsterdam headquartered VEON, which reports results in US dollars, perhaps the most impressive performance was in Ukraine.
Not necessarily in hard financial numbers, perhaps – although they were still solid enough given the circumstances – but in helping to keep Ukraine connected since Russia invaded in February.
Kyivstar's mobile network, VEON said, is operating at 90% availability. Since February, more than 4,100 repairs of basestations have been performed, and more than 30 kilometers of broken fiber-optic cable has been replaced.
Network rollout also continues. Kyivstar upgraded 3,000 basestations to 4G and built about 230 new basestations across the country during Q2.
"As a result of the remarkable effort by the Kyivstar team, the transition to 4G continued to accelerate," added VEON in its earnings release.
The number of 4G users in Ukraine increased by 1.3 million through the quarter, which is an 11.9% year-on-year hike, and now accounts for 46.6% of the operator's total customer base.
Cooperation with competitors on network sharing also remains in force. In March, the country's three mobile network operators – Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine and Lifecell – implemented national roaming (covering voice, SMS and data at 2G and 3G base speeds) in places where fighting had broken out. If a subscriber network goes down, they get redirected onto another.
The increasing number of refugees leaving Ukraine impacted growth in the quarter, however, with more subscribers using local mobile providers in countries where refugees are sheltering. Kyivstar saw a 4.3% year-on-year decline in its overall subscriber base.
Kyivstar revenue increased by 3.9% year-on-year in Q22, to 7.37 billion Ukrainian hryvnia (US$200 million).
At Group level, VEON, which does most of its business in Russia, recorded a shade over $2 billion in total revenues, a 5.6% uplift year-on-year increase. EBITDA was $913 million, increasing 13% year-on-year (14.1% rise in local currency). Other markets it has a presence in are Bangladesh, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
"Our second quarter results demonstrate the resilience and the success of VEON Group companies, as our 4G focus and digital operator strategy continued to deliver growth despite unprecedented geopolitical challenges, said VEON CEO Kaan Terzioğlu in prepared remarks.
"This quarter, our 4G users reached 50% of our customer base, moving closer to our target of 70% 4G penetration."
Terzioğl asserted that VEON's liquidity position was "strong" with $2.3 billion in cash at the end of Q2, of which $1.9 billion was held at HQ level.
- VEON keeps the lights on in Ukraine
- Ukraine telecom commissioner calls for more support against Russian aggression
- Fresh VEON liquidity concerns as lenders 'review' relationship – report
- Ukrainian refugees phoning home boost voice traffic sevenfold
— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading