Ukrainian telco Kyivstar plans to procure and deploy Rakuten Symphony's Open RAN technology in its network.

Although 5G is yet to launch in Ukraine, a letter of intent has been signed by the companies which means that Rakuten is the preferred partner for Kyivstar's eventual 5G rollout.

The companies are currently "collaborating to define the scope of their initiative," which will involve both 4G and 5G Open RAN technology.

According to Kaan Terizoglu, CEO of Kyivstar's parent company Veon group, the operator is in the implementation phase of a $600 million investment which will see it rebuild infrastructure damaged during Ukraine's war with Russia.

Kyivstar is Ukraine's largest telco, counting 24.3 million mobile subscribers, plus 1.1 million fixed-line users on its books.

During the war, the operator has provided its services to the wider Ukrainian population through measures including infrastructure sharing with other operators, and providing free Wi-Fi to shelters and new settlements.

"I share the excitement of our Kyivstar team, under the leadership of Kyivstar CEO Oleksandr Komarov, in working with Rakuten to rebuild the country’s infrastructure with Open RAN as a part of this commitment," said Terizoglu. "We have a shared passion for building Ukraine’s digital future and I’m glad to see the progress in our joint effort.”

Rakuten Symphony, a subsidiary of Rakuten Group, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Veon to explore cooperation in Ukraine in August.

The main aim of the MoU is to speed up the rebuild of Ukraine's infrastructure through Open RAN adoption.

Since Russia's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, CSIS (Center for Strategic and International Studies) estimates that Ukraine's ICT infrastructure has been hit by more than $2 billion worth of damage.

The war has led to the destruction of more than 4,000 base stations across all operators, plus 60,000 kilometers of fiber optic lines, while 12.2 percent of households have lost access to mobile services.

Last year, Stanislav Prybytko, director general of the directorate for mobile broadband for Ukraine's Ministry of Digital Transformation, told DCD the country's 5G buildout has been put on hold due to the war.

"Our government adopted a plan in 2020, to launch 5G technology in 2022. But due to the full-scale invasion, we changed this," he said.

"It's currently not safe to carry out scientific research, so we need to wait until the end of the war, and only then will it be practical to start. But still, we don't want to waste this time. We are in the process of negotiations with our military services to launch a 5G pilot next year."