mobile communications

Crimea deprived of Ukrainian GSM communications

Crimea deprived of Ukrainian GSM communications
Faceless attackers gradually deprive the Crimean mobile subscribers
Photo: Ivan Chernichkin

On October 1, the only Russian GSM communications operator K-Telecom Win Mobile will stop servicing subscribers of MTS Ukraine in Crimea in its network. The subscribers have already received text messages with such a warning. Capital confirmed this information in the MTS contact center.

Evil clone

Subscribers of the once largest telecom operators in Crimea will have only one possibility to obtain services – to register in the Trimob network (Ukrtelecom) and be provided roaming services. As a representative of the contact center specified not all devices will be able to operate in the new network. They must support 3G (UMTS) standard. This means that old phones that operate only in the GSM network will not be able to detect the network of the roaming partner.

Coverage is another disadvantage. The Trimob network does not have wide coverage. It is available in nearly all cities of the peninsula and resort villages. However, a large part of the Crimean steppe with its many villages will be left without MTS communication.

CEO of Ukrtelecom Oleksandr Barinov assured Capital that Trimob is capable of servicing hundreds of thousands of roaming subscribers in its network. To let all subscribers into roaming or only part of them is for MTS to decide, he added.

Prior to the first disconnection of the MTS Ukraine network in August (coincided with the appearance of K-Telecom in Crimea), the company had around 1.7 mn subscribers on the peninsula (57% of the market, according to iKS Consulting). By September, there were slightly more than 1 mn. Provision of services in August practically in full volume was continued thanks to the roaming agreement with K-Telecom. The latter miraculously turned out to be practically a clone of the disconnected MTS Ukraine network. Both companies have 1,000 base GSM stations on the peninsula, Ekonomicheskaya Pravda recently reported. If MTS Ukraine loses the entire subscriber base in Crimea, including summer tourists, it stands to lose around 10% of its revenues.

life:) without Crimea

Not a single Ukrainian GSM network has been in operation in Crimea since the end of last week. On Friday, Astelit network (life:)) was gradually disconnected in different cities on the peninsula and in the end disappeared altogether. Almost simultaneously with that the wire Internet access of many subscribers disappeared, both from Ukrtelecom and from local providers.

“There is a global problem on the main channel to Crimea. FarLine temporarily operates through the reserve direction, which could influence the speed of Internet access. Many Crimean operators were totally disconnected. Mobile operator life:) has been partially disconnected,” the Simferopol telecom company Saifer informed last Friday. “Provision of services in the life:) network in Crimea has been suspended for the reasons beyond our control. We are working on rectifying the situation and putting the network back into operation,” commented Head of the PR Department at life:) Oksana Rudyuk.

Over the weekend practically all local providers managed to restore Internet connection, while life:) remained inoperable on Sunday. According to iKS Consulting, as of April life:) serviced 475,000 SIM cards in Crimea. As a reminder, Kyivstar operations were suspended on the peninsula on August 11. The company announced that it became impossible to provide services in Crimea as the local special forces demanded access to the network, which posed a threat to national security. PEOPLEnet (Telesystems of Ukraine), which provided CDMA communication (3G) was the first operator to leave Crimea in June.

Thus, there are only two Ukrainian mobile operators left on the peninsula: Trimob operating in the UMTS standard and Intertelecom (CDMA, 3G). The Ukrainian networks do not have the most popular GSM standard (2G). Their alternative is the Russian K-Telecom, which rates calls to Ukraine as international calls, charging RUR 9.5 (nearly UAH 3) per minute.

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