CEO at Ukrainian operator Kyivstar, Oleksandr Komarov (pictured), outlined an action plan to use a newly announced $400 million funding to rebuild the country’s telecoms infrastructure and purchase energy supplies to tackle blackouts.

At a media roundtable in London, Komarov explained the cash boost will be invested into Ukraine’s telecoms infrastructure and digital ecosystem from this year through to 2027, on top of an existing $600 million in funds it plans to use up to 2026.

According to Komarov, Kyivstar’s biggest challenge today is to make sure it can combine “a focus on resilience and development”.

“This is quite a big challenge for us, how to ensure this country will not be frozen because of the war and that it will develop. People are relatively mobile, so we need to ensure coverage is almost everywhere.”

On energy resilience, Komarov said it plans to invest in generators for electricity back-up during frequent, nationwide blackouts. “Before the war, Ukraine had a stable energy supply system, that’s why we never faced shortages.”

On its worst days during the conflict, Komarov explained 20 per cent of its network in the country went offline. “We’ve started investing in energy, the first layer is battery, and then generators.”

Potential collaboration with competitors Vodafone and Lifecell is also an option. “Our focus is to create a critical grid that consists of thousands of sites, and altogether with three operators, it will be around probably 5,000 sites, so we can continue supporting networks during massive, nationwide blackouts.”

Kyivstar has a total of 2,500 generators operating across Ukraine today.

A “significant share” of the additional $400 million investment will go to the recovery of infrastructure across de-occupied Ukrainian territories, and the CEO said it considered “how to do this as fast as possible, probably in cooperation with competitors, which I think is a very reasonable step – to build one strong network” instead of having three separate networks.

For this, the executive is thinking of infrastructure sharing model, which he said could be a “geographical sharing, or radio frequency sharing on top of the built infrastructure”.

On track
Despite the circumstances and ongoing war with Russia, now entering a third year, Komarov is proud of the progress it has made to mend the country’s network infrastructure and get people back online.

“I think we are right on track,” adding it invested more than $170 million in 2023 on its core business of mobile and broadband networks,

To date, Kyivstar has built 1,895 new base stations and upgraded close to 13,200 existing sites to 4G. It has also upgraded 70 per cent of its network to “gigabit capacity”, and from next year, it will start building a GPON network instead of FTTP.