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Tech firms provide free internet for Ukrainians

April 6, 2022

Tech companies have been quick to mobilize in support of Ukrainians. One of the initiatives, Airalo, an eSIM company, makes sure refugees are kept connected wherever they are. 

Ukraine Krieg l Vitali Klitschko, Bürgermeister von Kiew,  und sein Bruder Wladimir Klitschko
Staying connected matters — not just for the Klitschko brothersImage: Efrem Lukatsky/AP/picture alliance

Since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, tech companies and refugee support initiatives have mobilized to support Ukrainians, both at home and abroad. One of those initiatives, Airalo, a US-based eSIM company, ensures refugees and their families are kept connected wherever they are in the world.  

Airalo started a Help Ukraine Connect Fund in early March, with the aim of giving Ukrainian users of Airalo free data connectivity during the conflict. 

"Ukraine was home to a thriving tech ecosystem, including over 250,000 software developers and its people were responsible for tech products that have become household names. We also have valuable team members from Ukraine at Airalo," Abraham Burak and Bahadir Ozdemir, Airalo’s founders, told DW in a statement. 

"So far, we have raised thousands of dollars from all around the world so those affected by this dreadful event can remain connected with their families in their new countries," they added.

"However, we are really hoping to do more due to the sheer number of people who were forced from their homes. The more donations we can collect, the more refugees we can connect."

Airalo's Bahadir Ozdemir
Airalo's Bahadir Ozdemir hopes the Help Ukraine Connect Fund will be a valuable contribution to keep Ukrainians hooked up to the internetImage: Airalo

Donated money is credited into the accounts of Ukrainian Airalo users who want to access the fund, allowing them to purchase an eSIM. 

The Airalo service, which offers eSIM for the internet without a phone number, offers free SIM cards with internet in any country in the world for Ukrainians. 

The company promises to replenish accounts of Ukrainians with $10 (€8.75) to use the internet in any country. Users need only install the app and register to receive the $10. 

Burak and Ozdemir say their mission is to "create the gateway to instant travel connectivity worldwide ... eSIMs enable a smooth and seamless solution where people do not need legacy roaming systems or physical SIM cards anymore."

Man using internet on his smartphone
Airalo has raised thousands of dollars to aid in keeping communication in Ukraine openImage: Bernadett Szabo/REUTERS

Global players

Free SIM cards for Ukrainians are also offered by one of the largest mobile operators in Germany, Deutsche Telekom, under the T-Mobile brand. Such SIM cards are available in all branded communication stores. The card allows the user to receive unlimited calls and mobile internet for free. The company has also promised to supply a large number of SIM cards to refugee reception centers in the largest cities of the country.

Mobile operators Proximus and Orange (Belgium), Vodafone (UK), Telecom Italia (Italy), Telefonica (Spain) and Vivacom (Bulgaria) offer free communications for Ukrainian refugees.

Skype allows you to call Ukrainian numbers abroad for free. Viber Messenger provides 60 free minutes of calls via the Viber Out service. Zoom has opened premium access for Ukrainians. Slack is free for three months.

Airalo's Abraham Burak
Airalo's Abraham Burak is hoping for a steady flow of donations to keep the free service aliveImage: Airalo

Ukraine operators also in

Ukrainian mobile operators have also introduced free roaming abroad for Ukrainians forced to leave their homes.

For example, the Kyivstar operator announced that subscribers traveling abroad or already there will get a free bonus of 250 hryvnias ($8.50, €7.50) for roaming communications. They can be used for 30 days in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova, Hungary, Germany, Italy, Lithuania and the Czech Republic.

Megabytes are not deducted from Kyivstar subscribers in roaming in 10 mobile applications either when texting or calling, including in Viber, Facebook Messenger, Telegram and WhatsApp messengers.

Edited by: Hardy Graupner

Head shot of a man (Jo Harper) with grey hair and brown eyes
Jo Harper Journalist and author specializing in Poland