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From Smart Lamp Poles to new SME Tariffs

Awards

István Király, director of the Enterprise Business Unit at Vodafone Hungary, talks to the Budapest Business Journal about the IoT and smart cities, helping municipalities and businesses and 5G roll-out.

István Király

BBJ: For those who may not know, what is your unit responsible for, and how long have you been its head?

István Király: I have been heading the Enterprise Business Unit of Vodafone Hungary since 2014. Our division is responsible for selling mobile, voice, data and fixed-line services to business customers, and we also help businesses with various services and digital solutions in becoming more competitive and to reach the results they need to advance further. More specifically, this could take the form of mobile payments or a fleet tracking service. Alternatively, if required, in view of the given business’ level of development, we can help find the most suitable smart solution that supports work processes best. In addition, we also regularly work with municipalities; just recently, we supported them with our latest smart parking solutions.

BBJ: What are the most interesting projects you are working on right now?

IK: We are continually working on new, innovative ideas, and in this spirit, we are participating in a number of forward-looking projects running in tandem. Last August, we commissioned Budapest’s first group-connected smart poles used for public illumination, in cooperation with the electricity company ELMŰ-ÉMÁSZ, as a pilot project in front of our head office. We installed five electricity poles with different functions, which are connected to the internet by Vodafone.

In addition, a few years ago, we set the target of accelerating the digitalization of SMEs, and we are continually working in this field. Our most recent innovation is a pool of six entirely new business tariffs, which will launch on April 15 and are offered specifically to this sector.

BBJ: What were the highlights in Hungary for your unit in 2018?

IK: In 2018 we doubled the number of customers using fixed-line internet and VPN services. We shifted our virtual database to a new technical platform, and completed numerous custom-made IoT [Internet of Things] developments for our customers.

Another important milestone we reached last year was the implementation of Vodafone’s smart parking system in the inner city of Budapest and in Székesfehérvár. With this, in cooperation with the municipalities, we have taken a huge leap towards the modernization of city parking by improving its efficiency. Sensors that use NB-IoT technology and are inserted into the ground continually check the occupancy of parking spaces, and the system provides real-time date via an online platform for use by the company running the car park.

BBJ: How close are we now to mainstream 5G rollout?

IK: According to the current plans, by 2020 the fifth generation network will be available for commercial use Europe-wide. It’s important to understand that 5G will not just appear in our lives overnight. It will bring about gradual transformation, leaving room for revolutionary innovation in the field of user experience or in the digital transformation of industries or even cities, and Hungary will be no exception to this trend.

Vodafone Group is one of the key players in the development of 5G technology worldwide. As the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) was one of the first players in Europe to put this spectrum in use, by obtaining this frequency spectrum Hungary could, in principle, become one of the first markets where Vodafone could introduce its most up-to-date 5G services.

BBJ: How would you describe the Hungarian market, overall?

IK: There is a well-developed market with ambitious plans for digitalization. The strengthening of the economy seen in the past few years is also reflected in the workings of the business sector. Our experience shows that businesses, like households, have a higher investment appetite, whether they be one-man-bands or large corporations employing thousands of people. In general terms, it is perhaps digitalization that poses a challenge to us in addition to labor shortages. Last year, vast numbers of long-standing and new customers contacted us, asking for help in launching their new business or requesting support for further digital advancement. I expect this enthusiasm to continue and gain further momentum with the launch of the 5G network, as we believe that businesses trust digital devices more and more, and can see their benefits for business.

BBJ: What is Vodafone’s share of that market, and how do you hope to grow this?

IK: We are very proud that the M2M Hungary research conducted by IDC Hungary shows that with a 37% market share, Vodafone remains the market leader in Hungary in the field of mobile data supply to connected electronic devices. I’d like to emphasize this result because I believe M2M communication to be one of the most dynamically developing segments of the telco sector. We are, by the way, global market leaders in this field: in its survey looking at managed M2M services, Gartner has named Vodafone as the global leader for the fifth consecutive year running.

BBJ: What changes would you like to see to the regulatory framework?

IK: In 2016, we acquired frequency usage rights for the 60 MHz spectrum, for a period of 18 years, at a cost of HUF 648.6 million, in a tender invited by the NMHH in the lower, 3400-3600 MHz part of the 3400-3800 MHz spectrum.

We trust that when it comes to the sale of the 700 MHz spectrum, the government will choose a solution that will ensure the fast launch of 5G, which, in turn, could be beneficial for operators, consumers, the entire Hungarian market and therefore, ultimately, also for the state.

BBJ: How do you cope with the region-wide labor crisis?

IK: I believe we are in a lucky position, as we have a strong employer brand that makes us an attractive workplace. Like every other company, we are also trying different platforms and approaches, and what we see is that digital solutions work best in this field too. In our experience, recruitment through employee referrals is still very effective, and we recently introduced a new platform for this, which offers awards in a playful way: points for referrals and, of course, a monetary award for successful placements. In our company, the most sought-after positions are those focusing on the sale of technology, so we are looking for colleagues with solid technological knowledge plus a sales vein.

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