There is a complicated situation with mobile telephony in the Ukraine: The country has these GSM-based providers:
- Kyivstar (Київстар, Russian-owned)
- Vodafone, MTS (MTC, Russian-owned)
- lifecell (Turkish-owned - formerly called life:)
- 3mob (by Ukrtelecom, U'tel - 3G only)
The first three (Kyivstar, Vodafone/MTS, lifecell) are the principal GSM providers. 3mob runs a limited 3G-only network. Another provider called Intertelekom runs a quite extensive CDMA network that is not compatible to GSM. That's why it's not mentioned any further
Up to 2014 all three providers only offered 2G up to EDGE (236 kbps) speed. Back in 2007 the first 3G/UMTS licence was given to state-owned Ukrtelecom and its subdivision U'tel that has marketed its 3G offer under brand name 3mob in some towns.
Things changed in 2015: the president ordered to free frequencies previously blocked by the military to be used for 3G and 4G. The three networks finally received licenses to operate 3G on 2100 MHz and all major providers started their 3G/UMTS networks in addition to 3mob. In 2016 MTS is trying to buy 3mob pending administrative approval. 4G/LTE is in testing stage and announced for 2017, but operators still await licensing.
The 3G coverage of all 5 operators can be checked on this updated map. Fast internet is still rare outside of towns. In 2016 Kyiystar has the best 3G coverage at 40% of population, followed by lifecell and Vodafone/MTS roaming on 3mob.
Crimea and Eastern regions
Due to the ongoing conflict in the Eastern part (= Luhanzk and Donezk regions) of the country, the operators haven't been able to deploy 3G there and can hardly maintain their mobile service. Some stations in the region that is not under the control of the Ukranian army are reported to be down, others have been restored in the meantime.
Russian-owned Kyivstar is Ukraine’s largest mobile operator by subscribers and owned by Russian Vimpelcom (for coverage scroll down here). In 2016 it covers now more than 40% of population by 3G in 614 cites, towns and villages so far and 99% by 2G.
Their SIM card is available at airports and lots of shops and their service centers (locator in Ukrainian only). It costs 25 UAH or less depending on shop.
Top-up vouchers are available in many more places starting from 50 UAH. To top-up type *123*<Voucher PIN>#. Internatl. Visa and MasterCards can be used to top-up on their website. Check balance by *111#.
Data feature packages
The default rate on Talk plans is 50 MB at 5 UAH. These new monthly base packages are offered:
- Talk (Розмови): 35 UAH - no data included, unlimited on-network calls, 30 mins to other networks, data at default rate
- Talk+ (Розмови+): 55 UAH - unlimited 2G data, 100 MB 3G data, unlimited on-network calls, more data on default rate
- Online (Онлай): 70 UAH - 1 GB data, another 1 GB for 3 months, unlimited on-network calls, 60 mins to other networks, more data: 1 GB add-on: 40 UAH - activation: *230#
- Online+ (Онлай+): 110 UAH - 4 GB data, unlimited on-network calls, 100 mins to other networks, more data: 2 GB add-on: 60 UAH - activation: *230#
- Online Extra (Онлай Екстра): 170 UAH - 6 GB data, unlimited on-network calls, 300 mins to other networks, more data: 3 GB add-on: 80 UAH - activation: *230#
To activate or change base plan call 477*1. Check data balances by *112#.
All packages include free Wikipedia use. All Online-branded packages include free use of Facebook, VKontakte, Odnoklassniki, Twitter, Viber and WhatsApp.
These add-on packages can be booked:
- 10 GB nighttime use (midnight to 8am): 10 UAH - activation *529*15# to all plans
- 1 GB day pack: 15 UAH - activation: *263*1# only to Online plans
This Tablet+ (Планшет+) plan is their cheapest rate for data right now: 50 UAH including 2 GB data for a month. It has voice and text too. You can add more data with an 1 GB add-on: 30 UAH - activation *230#. The 1 GB day pack and 10 GB night pack (see above) can be added too. Free social media like on Online packages is included too.
If you've chosen Tablet+, but don't use the mobile internet every day, you can activate “payment in a day of use” option. To use the option, you don't need to top-up your account first monthly subscription fee. Under the terms of the options, you can get 5 packages of 500 MB per day at 10 UAH each. When this amount of megabytes is over, the internet will work for free, but at reduced speed of 32 Kbps.
While connecting “Payment in a day of use” option, subscription fee under the terms of the tariff plan isn’t charged, and the package's 2 GB aren't debited. If you have unused data from this volume, it will be cancelled as soon as you connect the option. Additional package of 1 GB is also deactivated. This option can be activated an unlimited number of times by *477*1#. To check data consumption, enter *252#, to deactivate option, dial *229*0#. After deactivation you'll get 2 GB under your regular plan conditions and your account will be charged a monthly fee. Check status of plan by *229*2#.
They give out roaming data on a daily basis in all European countries and some more countries beyond. Per day 35-60 UAH (€ 1.25-2.14) are charged in 100 MB increments up to max. of 2 GB based on Kiev time (UTC+3). This is one of the cheapest option for Europe and the rest of the world. For details check our featured site Euro9.
- APN for prepaid: www.ab.kyivstar.net
- Website in English: http://www.kyivstar.ua/en/
Vodafone, MTS Ukraine (MTC Україна)
Russian-owned MTS Ukraine used to be on par with Kyivstar. They started with an own 3G coverage in 2015. In 2016 already more than 40% of the population are covered by their own 3G (3G coverage map)
MTS and 3mob (see below) signed a national roaming agreement to take in effect in 2015. This enables MTS users to get access to 3mob's 3G network in another 50 cities.
In 2015 MTS signed a strategic partnership with Vodafone to use their label for some products. This is mainly to conceal the Russian origin of the ownership, which is unpopular in parts of the Ukraine. MTS is re-branded into Vodafone in major parts of the Ukraine at the end of 2015. It includes the transition of MTS’ retail outlets and the majority of its dealerships. The Vodafone brand won't be used in territories currently not under the direct control of the Ukrainian government in the east of the country.
Vodafone/MTS SIM cards are available at airports and lots of shops (locator) and their service centers. Refills are available in many more places. Vodafone SIM cards are mainly sold in the Western, MTS in the Eastern part of the country.
In Odessa, MTS/Vodafone agents sell SIM card packs outside the main train station. They will also do top-ups and activate SIM cards on the spot and help you set them up as activation can require calling a Russian speaking phone number or following the instructions on Russian language text messages. As long as they are wearing their uniforms they are legitimate and will help you.
Note, that you can book Vodafone plans on MTS SIM cards, but no MTS plans on Vodafone branded SIMs.
MTS Data Rates
MTS has 3 different prepaid starter packs on offer:
- First 3G Smartphone (Смартфон 3G Первый): for 30 UAH you get 500 MB, data: see promotion below, to change to this plan: *365#. Additional data 15 UAH for 500 MB by *101*501#
- Simply Super First (Просто Супер Первый): this rate gives you 200 MB per day at 5 UAH, to change to this plan: *365#. You can add the same package as on First 3G Smartphone
- Tablet 3G (Планшет 3G): for tablets, but has voice and text too, no base rate, data: 1 GB per day at 5 UAH, only charged in days of use
If you want to roam on the more extensive 3Mob network for data too, roaming data needs to enabled by typing *888#. To opt out dial *888*0#. They charge for 2.5 GB roaming on 3G 3Mob 50 UAH per month.
Data speeds on MTS' own 3G network are up to 42 Mbps, on 3Mob roaming up to 7.2 Mbps.
Vodafone Data Rates
For their Vodafone branding, they sell new starter packs (which will probably be not available in the Eastern Regions). MTS prepaid SIM cards can be changed to Vodafone plans, but not the other way round. All MTS promotions will loose validity after this change. The only prepaid tariff is their monthly Red plan:
- Light+: 20 UAH - 100 MB 3G, then unlimited 2G internet, unlimited calls to MTS/Vodafone, usual excess rates apply, change to this plan: *250*20#
- XS: 35 UAH, 1 GB, unlimited calls to MTS/Vodafone, 30 mins calls, change to this plan: *250*350#
- S: 50 UAH: 2 GB, unlimited calls to MTS/Vodafone, 50 mins calls, 50 SMS, change to this plan: *250*50#
- M: 70 UAH: 4 GB, unlimited apps, unlimited calls to MTS/Vodafone, 70 mins calls, 70 SMS, change to this plan: *250*70#
- L: 150 UAH: 6 GB, unlimited apps, unlimited calls to MTS/Vodafone, 150 mins calls, 150 SMS, change to this plan: *250*150#
All plans are for 30 days. Unlimited apps include WhatsApp (only txt msg), Viber (only txt msg !!!), Facebook, Instagram, VKontakte and Twitter. There are no ways to upsize, but excess fees at UAH 10 for 500 MB remain low.
Starter packs are on the XS, S or Lite+ plan, but can be changed to other plans for the price difference. If you don't have enough credit on your account for the monthly pack, a daily rate is charged: on XS plan 3 UAH per day for 100 MB, on S plan 5 UAH per day for 200 MB, on M plan 9 UAH per day for 500 MB and on L plan 15 UAH for 600 MB. The same overuse fee of 10 UAH for 500 MB is charged. To check consumption in your plan, type *101*4#.
European roaming rates
Vodafone in the Ukraine gives out reduced roaming rates in so-called "Vodafone countries": Poland, Italy, Germany, Czech Rep., France, Spain, Portugal, Hungary, UK, Greece, Netherlands, Malta, Ireland, Albania, Romania, Turkey. Be sure to stick to Vodafone networks in these countries only and Free mobile in France (except in Poland).
By typing *600# you can activate these roaming packages valid for 7 days in the countries mentioned above. For roaming these monthly rates come on top of the domestic base rates mentioned above:
- Light+ and XS: 35 UAH per 100 MB
- S: 100 UAH - 100 MB data, 100 roaming SMS
- M: 140 UAH - 140 MB data, 140 roaming SMS
- L: 300 UAH - 300 MB data, 300 roaming SMS
Unlimited incoming calls are included, outgoing roaming calls are charged at 10 UAH per min. Overuse data fees are at 35 UAH per 100 MB.
A new very rigid FUP is enforced (see here). You need to stay on their home network from time to time to use roaming and top-ups can be only done by vouchers sold in the Ukraine or through a few top-up agencies from abroad. A Vodafone SIM card needs to be topped up at least every 12 months to avoid suspension.
- for the 3G network of 3Mob, you need to switch manually to 3Mob/Ukrtelecom
- APN: internet (or on roaming: 3Mob's APN)
- MTS website in Ukrainian or Russian: http://www.mts.ua/
- Vodafone website in Ukrainian, Russian and English: https://www.vodafone.ua/en
lifecell (formerly called life:))
Turkish-owned lifecell by Astelit Inc. is the 3rd provider in the country, In 2015 it was fully acquired by Turkcell and was rebranded from life:) in 2016. It has a lower 2G coverage compared to the two big ones, but at the lowest rates. Its 3G has started in 2015 and covers 617 cities, towns and centers in 2016 so far (for 3G coverage map: scroll down).
Their SIM card is available at airports and lots of shops and their service centers (locator in Ukrainian only) for 15 UAH. For activation call 111 for free. Refills are available in many more places.
They offer these starter packs, all sold for 20 UAH or 15 UAH if you change to/from another plan:
- Tariff 'Calls Abroad' (Дзвінки за кордон) with discounted foreign calls
- 3G+ Smartphone (3G+ Смартфон) with combo plans
- 3G+ Gadget (3G+ Ґаджет) with data-only plans
- 'Premium' with business plans
Calls Abroad (Дзвінки за кордон)
This is their default tariff line without any allowances. Pay-as-you-go-data is at 5 UAH for 50 MB per day. Up to 10 packages per day can be bought, until speed drops to 120 kbps.
You can add one of their internet packages instead:
- 500 MB for 30 days: 25 UAH - activation: *305#
- 1 GB for 30 days: 29 UAH - activation: *311#
- 2 GB for 30 days: 49 UAH - activation: *312#
- 4 GB for 30 days: 79 UAH - activation: *314#
- 8 GB for 30 days: 129 UAH - activation: *318#
- unlimited 2G speeds (@128 kbps) for 30 days: 20 UAH - activation: *211#
- 15 GB for 30 nights (midnight-8am only): 30 UAH - activation: *123*1#
- 500 MB for 7 days: 15 UAH - activation: *123*7#
To check balance, type *111# or *121#.
3G+ Smartphone "3G+ Смартфон"
Aimed at smartphones, they have these combined packages called 3G+ Smartphone "3G+ Смартфон":
- S: 60 UAH - 2 GB data, 100 domestic mins, 100 domestic SMS - activation: *404#
- M: 100 UAH - 5 GB data, 200 domestic mins, 200 dom. SMS - activation: *405#
- L: 150 UAH - 8 GB data, 350 dom. mins, 3500 dom. SMS - activation: *406#
From the start, the S package is enabled. Change to other packs by USSD code. All packages include unlimited calls to life:). Overuse data is at 5 UAH per 50 MB. Some social media like Vkontakte, Facebook and Odnoklassniki are free of charge. Better buy add-ons (see below). As a promotion the S pack is given out for free for the first month.
3G+ Gadget (3G+ Ґаджет)
Aimed at tablets and modems, these monthly data-only packages called 3G+ Gadget (3G+ Ґаджет) are offered:
- 2 GB: 49 UAH, activation: *141*402#
- 6 GB: 89 UAH, activation: *141*406#
- 14 GB: 149 UAH, activation: *141*414#
Overuse is 5 UAH per 50 MB.
Unlike in other countries, their Premium tarif is prepaid too, valid for 30 days:
- Premium: 400 UAH, 15 GB, unlimited lifecell calls, 1500 mins to other providers, 1500 SMS
- Premium Exclusive: 800 UAH, 40 GB, unlimited lifecell calls, 3000 other mins, 3000 SMS
- in English from any landline: 0800 205 433
- in English from life:): 5422
- Website http://www.lifecell.com.ua/ (only in Russian and Ukranian)
- APN: internet
3Mob (aka U'tel, Ukrtelecom)3Mob (spelled as "TriMob") used to be the only provider of 3G/UMTS internet in a limited area of the country. Make a network scan. In 2015 3Mob and MTS signed a national roaming agreement giving 3Mob users free access to MTS 2G network effective Feb. 2015.
3G/UMTS is up to 7.2 Mbps in their limited coverage area: green: 3mob - 3G, red MTS - 2G
Some users found problems getting hold of a SIM card, but they have expanded their presence a lot. A starter pack costs 30 UAH, for Green tariff 20 UAH in their stores: Store locator in Ukranian.
You can top-up your SIM card on the main page of their website using a credit card.
Data feature packs
They offer various monthly packages with free roaming on 2G MTS outside its own 3G coverage:
- S: 53.13 UAH: 100 MB per day up to 3 GB per month, 50 dom. minutes, 50 dom. SMS
- M: 79.69 UAH, 250 MB per day up to 7.5 GB per month, 100 dom. minutes, 100 dom. SMS
- L: 159.38 UAH, 500 MB per day up to 15 GB per month, 200 dom. minutes, 200 dom. SMS
- Standard: 132.82 UAH, 10 GB per month, 150 dom. minutes, 250 dom. SMS
- Unlimited: 382.50 UAH, unlimited data, 500 dom. minutes, 500 dom. SMS
In 2016 they introduced the Green plan. You need to buy a new starter for UAH 20 with UAH 15 credit. Or you can switch all other plans by sending a SMS to 2209. For the Green plan, the sell data-only packages:
- 1 GB for 30 days: 20 UAH, activation: A
- 5 GB for 30 days: 50 UAH, activation: B
- 10 GB for 180 days: 120 UAH, activation: C
Overuse is charged with 0.20 UAH per MB. For activation text code letter to 2209. Packages can be booked multiple times. Check data balance by *121#.
- APN: 3g.utel.ua
- Website, partly in English: http://3mob.ua/?lang=en