Imagine setting up a 5G test site between 2 major cities in a war-torn country where a bomb could fall at any time.

This is the reality on the ground for Vodafone Ukraine, which has set up its first 5G trial between Ukraine’s capital city and a major city in the west of the country this month.

The Russians attempted to capture the capital, Kyiv, at the start of their “special military operation” in February 2022. The ongoing war, which has now lasted over two years, has seen over 30 bomb, missile and drone strikes against the capital and several raids against Ivano-Frankivsk, the other test site.

Kind of puts your complaints about dropped calls on the I-95 or not being able to connect to the internet on your phone in the subway into perspective, doesn’t it?

An indoor test

Ukraine’s initial 5G test is an indoor system set up at the Vodafone office in Kyiv that connects to the Promprylad business center in the city of Ivano-Frankivsk. This city in Western Ukraine is 370 miles (595 kilometers) – or 8 hours drive – away from the capital city.

The Vodafone test used Nokia’s 5G AirScale Indoor Radio with the AWHQA radio module, which supports the mid-band 3.5 GHz n77 band. “We’re still testing,” a spokesperson from Vodafone Ukraine told us.

Vodafone made the first tests during Action Forum 2024 held by the Aspen Institute Kyiv in May this year. The spokesperson said this was not publicly announced for safety in a country that is at war. The test was not announced to the press until two days after the initial tests were completed.

“We study how the network interferes with other networks nearby [and] how far can the real coverage reach,” the Vodafone spokesperson said. She said that Vodafone had chosen an indoor test specifically to avoid interfering with other spectrum users.

Vodafone Ukraine has chosen Nokia equipment for its initial 5G tests unlike near neighbor Hungary, which is all-in on using Huawei for its 5G infrastructure. Huawei has already built a private 5G network to cover the EWG Intermodal Terminal in Fényeslitke, Hungary.

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