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Polish mobile networks handled the impact of the influx of Ukrainian refugees in 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 forced millions of Ukrainian refugees to flee their home country, leading to the biggest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The majority of Ukrainian refugees crossed the Ukrainian-Polish border following the outbreak of war and 1.6 million of them applied for asylum or temporary protection in Poland.

In this new analysis, Opensignal investigates how the sudden influx of Ukrainian refugees in February and March 2022 impacted Polish mobile networks. We observed a clear drop in 4G Download Speed in the first few weeks following the Russian invasion, although this was temporary. A year later, speeds have rebounded and are now higher than they were before the refugees’ arrival. Looking at the change in 4G Download Speed scores across major Polish cities in March and April 2022, those in the southeastern part of the country, close to the Polish-Ukrainian border like Rzeszów or Lublin, were generally more affected than big cities in other parts of Poland.



4G Download Speed reached its peak value of 34.3Mbps in the 30 days ending on February 24-25, 2022, just before the outbreak of the war. However, after Russia invaded Ukraine, and refugees started to cross the Ukrainian-Polish border, with the majority of new arrivals happening between February 24 and March 24. These dates align with the 4G Download Speed 30-day rolling average scores gradually decreasing over time, down to 31.5Mbps on the last day of April 2022, dropping by 8.1% within a month and a half.


The decline in 4G download speeds in 2022 is against the seasonal trends that we observed in the first four months of both 2021 and 2023. In both of these years, we saw substantial upwards trends for 4G Download Speed scores starting in the first half of April, contrary to the situation in 2022.


Looking at the 4G Download Speed results in 2023, we also observe that 4G networks in Poland have recovered, with daily scores in April 2023 significantly higher in the second half of the month than 12 months earlier.

Polish mobile operators have responded quickly to the refugee crisis. Within a day of the invasion starting, operators introduced free one-time voice and data packages and lowering prices for international calls to Ukraine to the level of domestic rates. .These initiatives likely contributed to the decline in 4G Download Speed in the first weeks after the war outbreak due to greater network usage.



As large urban areas were the main initial destinations for refugees, the population of Polish cities increased substantially — and with more users connecting to mobile services to stay in touch with their families in Ukraine or look for help and work opportunities available locally, mobile networks in Polish cities experienced heavier than usual data traffic. 

In early 2022, cities in the eastern and southeastern part of the country close to the Polish-Ukrainian border were generally more affected than big cities in other parts of Poland. For example, Rzeszów’s population increased by 53% in the first weeks after the war outbreak, with the influx of refugees from Ukraine — and 4G Download Speed score fell for a short time by 34.7%. Białystok and Lublin also observed drops in their 4G Download Speed scores, by 30% and 22.6% respectively. The capital city of Warsaw (Warszawa) saw an increase in its population by 15% at that time, while 4G Download Speed in the city decreased by 12.8%. In 2023, the mobile experience has returned to normal.

Opensignal data demonstrates how millions of people forced to leave their homes and connecting to mobile networks in another country can briefly affect the mobile network experience due to increased usage. However, this is a conscious decision as Polish society has been welcoming and hospitable to refugees. Polish mobile operators have also shown their support — on top of free one-time voice and data packages and lower prices for calling Ukraine, they offered cheap devices and free starter packs with Polish SIMs for Ukrainian citizens as well. Polish operators, along with their Czech counterparts, have also declared the readiness to act as backup networks in the hybrid system to support Ukraine’s mobile connectivity, in case the core of Ukrainian mobile infrastructure gets destroyed during warfare. These short-term initiatives to support Ukrainians have likely strengthened Poland’s mobile networks and made the mobile experience more resilient and better able to handle any future crises.