Telenor tries to transcend typical telcos

Retail

The second largest telecom in Hungary, with roughly one-third of the market, Telenor Hungary is a leader in many areas, such as mobile wallet services. When it comes to standing out in Hungary’s competitive scene, Telenor Hungary CEO Christopher Laska says the people who work for the firm are the most important factor. He spoke with the Budapest Business Journal about his company’s current activities and future plans.

Telenor Hungary CEO Christopher Laska.

Would you say your firm’s main activities in Hungary are in the area of phone services and internet subscriptions?

If you look at our recent activities and communications, you will realize that Telenor Hungary has gone beyond the traditional telco roles. Yes, we do provide mobile internet and we do transmit voice calls, but a large part of our operations today are connected to digital services. We were the first to introduce media content services in the music segment (Deezer) and in TV streaming (MyTV) and also play a pioneering role in mobile finance through our Wallet application, and we were the first mobile company globally to launch MasterPass. Like our customers, we are very much on a digital path and offer and develop services matching the expectations of the digital natives.

What level of penetration does the Telenor 4G internet network have in Hungary? Are you seeking to expand that network? How is that going?

Our customers do not distinguish between 3G and 4G, and thus we decided to refrain from talking about technology: our claim is that Hipernet is superfast and provides for seamless customer experience – whatever the technology behind it. Hipernet covers today 97% of the Hungarian population allowing for download speeds of up to 150Mbps. This is an internationally exceptional result: according to a recent independent analysis conducted by OpenSignal, Hipernet is among the fastest networks in the world putting Hungary at the forefront of the mobile broadband speed contest. However, we would not like to stop here and are now gradually introducing an even faster version of Hipernet (in tech language, LTE Advanced) in certain areas of Budapest and some major cities to improve deep indoor coverage and become a real alternative to fixed-line connections.

What other types of activities are you involved in here in Hungary?

We are continuously developing digital services for our customers with our partners. I would highlight MyTV, which is a locally developed service combining the advantages of TV streaming and video-on-demand: as a subscriber of this service you can watch live or catch up to 51 TV channels and have access to thousands of films anytime, anywhere on any of your smart devices and TV.

Are there any particular partnerships or case studies you would like to highlight?

One of our recent B2B customer wins was based on the fact that we could offer cloud services and thus a complex service package to a large corporate client. We are very proud that, with the right partners, such as Microsoft, we can now offer services distinguishing us from the competition and allowing for solutions going far beyond the traditional mobile telephony role.

Telenor was a pioneer in the MasterCard-enabled mobile wallet. What are the possibilities for that system here? How big is your mobile wallet business in Hungary?

Mobile payment services are very popular in Hungary when it comes to paying parking tickets or buying motorway stickers. We encourage our customers to go beyond the traditional SMS-based payment and try our mobile payment application, Telenor Wallet. We have now over 52,000 customers who use this app for various payments and transactions. Recently, we were the first mobile company in the world to launch MasterPass, a safe online payment solution. This service is very easy to use and provides excellent security: Registered customers only have to type in their phone number when paying online and then they can approve the transaction on their mobile. No credit card credentials will ever appear on the computer or will get to the retailer, and the phones themselves are only storing parts of the credit card details – the missing parts are stored on remote servers and encrypted.

Where is Telenor regarding development of a 5G network, in Europe in general and in Hungary in particular?

As I said, most people do not really care about the tech terms, so I would put an emphasis not on the technology, but on the quality of life that it enables. Further network development will allow for more connected devices and higher download speeds: Not only people and companies will be connected, but all sorts of devices, such as home security cameras, smoke, moisture or carbon monoxide sensors, intelligent heating controls – to name only the privately used devices. Besides these smart home appliances, the industrial use of connected devices will also be widespread. Our lives will become safer and more convenient, and our productivity will increase thanks to the connected devices that the new technology will enable. With networks such as Hipernet, Hungary is well-positioned to be a leader with respect to future generation networks as well.

How would you characterize the telecoms market in Hungary? Developing? Competitive?

Hungary is a unique market in the sense that you have three global players competing with each other, thus Hungarian customers can benefit from the know-how of international companies, i.e. innovative services backed by strong brands. In recent years, further global players entered this market, offering OTT services for communications or media content, which inspire us to be even more innovative and simpler to be able to compete with these services. There are two further features of the Hungarian mobile market: first, the special taxes levied on calls and text messages that you do not find anywhere else in the EU; and second, the large number of corporate or organized fleets who have substantial bargaining power and make pricing more challenging.

What makes Telenor stand out in the telecoms market in Hungary? What are your firm’s unique features and special strengths?

Our people and their mindset. First and foremost we hire for attitude, and put integrity first. We take an active stance against corruption, and have several layers of training, as well as a compliance function that reports directly to me. We are very proud to have hundreds of innovative, customer centric colleagues with a can-do attitude. They developed our unique, completely customizable tariff plan, MyTariff, and they developed customer centric solutions such as the “device freedom” scheme under which customers can upgrade their phones even within the loyalty period. When it comes to the development of tailor-made B2B solutions, this type of innovation is even more important. Our steady growth and customer feedback are the proofs that we are on the right track.

What are the future plans for Telenor’s activities in Hungary?

More innovative digital services are in the pipeline, whether we will launch them on our own or with the involvement of some talented local startup companies. As you can see, the Telenor Group has recently made some significant acquisitions in the field of digital services, which inspires us to work more closely with global and local digital partners to develop the services that our customers will need tomorrow.

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