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Latvia agrees to help Ukraine rebuild telecoms network, accelerate 5G launch

The Latvian government has agreed to help rebuild the Ukrainian telecommunications network, accelerate the launch of 5G and promote the integration of the country's telecoms sector into the European Union.

A memorandum signed between the government of Latvia and Ukraine at the 5G Techritory forum in Riga also commits Latvia to helping improve the quality of mobile communications in Ukraine and improving Internet access on Ukrainian railways and roads, the Ukrainian government said.

“Ukraine needs more innovation to remain resilient during the war and keep up with global trends. In particular, the introduction of 5G technology," said Mykhailo Fedorov , Ukraine's minister of Digital Transformation. "We will work together to restore broadband infrastructure, support Ukrainian mobile operators and accelerate the launch of 5G in Ukraine."

Fedorov added that "Latvia’s expertise in EU regulations and experience in building the first public 5G network in Europe are very valuable for our country” as Ukraine prepares to start talks in the coming months meant to lead to its accession to the EU.

In the memorandum, Latvia also commits to helping integrate Ukraine into the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF), which would allow the country to access EU funding to help streamline its digital infrastructure with that of the EU.

A World Bank study released in March, based upon the first year of the full-scale war with Russia, estimated that the war inflicted $2 billion in losses on Ukraine's telecoms infrastructure, including the destruction of more than 4,000 base stations and 60,000 kms of fiber-optic lines.

In August, Stanislav Prybytko, director of Ukraine's Department for the Development of Mobile Communications of the Ministry of Statistics, said 5G could be launched in Ukraine within a year of the war ending.

The reconstruction of Ukraine, as envisioned by international bodies such as the World Bank, EBRD and many foreign governments, calls for digitalization of many sectors in the country in a push to “build back better” than before. 5G is seen as an important part of that drive.

Veon, which owns Ukraine’s biggest telecoms operator, Kyivstar, pledged in June to spend $600 million over the next three years in network expansion, in part to prepare for a “5G-focused reconstruction.” It also agreed with Japan’s Rakuten Symphony early this month to consider collaborating after the war to rebuild and upgrade Ukrainian infrastructure and to push for open radio access networks (ORAN) that can deliver 5G.

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