Vodafone Hungary: New Technologies Demand ‘New Business Reality’

Interview

Mátyás Dobó

Industry 4.0 and fifth-generation networks are part of the “brave new world” of commerce. They have prompted the local unit of British-based multinational telco Vodafone to make the “new business reality” a core value, as enterprise business unit director Mátyás Dobó tells the Budapest Business Journal.

BBJ: Vodafone has made what it calls the new business reality one of its fundamental corporate values. What do you mean by “new business reality,” and what does its adoption as a core value mean for your business customers.

Mátyás Dobó: The new business reality is about everything we make possible for our customers through our technology solutions. In this sense, we are not just delivering a tech solution; we are also providing expertise and a specialist to make sure the adaptation will have an effect on our customers’ business as a whole, creating a new reality, a new standard, which, in turn, will significantly boost the competitiveness of the company.

BBJ: We have been talking about 5G for what seems like years. What percentage of the country is covered by Vodafone, and when will we have full coverage?

MD: I’m proud to say that we have been at the forefront of 5G network development since the beginning. In 2019, we were the first operator in Hungary to launch our outdoor commercial 5G service for all in downtown Budapest. After the capital, we introduced the next-generation mobile network in the Balaton region, in line with the results of a preliminary survey, followed by several towns in the countryside, including Zalaegerszeg, Székesfehérvár, Miskolc, and several smaller towns and villages. As in the past years, we will continue to emphasize the development of the 5G network: we will continue to switch on base stations, and we will also pay close attention to the development of our 5G roaming service and 5G mobile private network investments.

BBJ: More recently, there has been much talk about private 5G networks. How do these differ from public coverage, and what are their advantages?

MD: Private networks can be used to build unprecedented industrial and logistics business models that contribute to the development of domestic companies and job creation. The fifth-generation mobile private network, the most advanced mobile technology solution currently available, is essentially a private network separate from the public network. Here, the hardware is on the premises, allowing devices to connect to the network, meaning that data never leaves the site. Therefore, the network can meet the most stringent data security requirements. In addition to security, another key advantage is latency-free communication and the fact that, when combined with AI or AR solutions, data can be collected without the need for an on-site presence, and machinery can be operated remotely. For example, a possible fault on a production line can be detected without someone having to check the plant in person. It is also always possible to see precisely what machine is working in which location at the plant, and people can track the route of a package live. The technology can help train and educate staff more efficiently and potentially more interestingly, and it can also significantly boost safety levels. Another significant aspect is that the network is powered by 100% renewable energy, another way of encouraging our customers and partners to operate sustainably.

BBJ: Vodafone has been running case studies with East-West Gate in Fényeslitke and Foxconn in Komárom. Can you give us more details and outline what you have learned and how that might be transferable.

MD: Both investments are an excellent example of how 5G mobile private networks can bring extraordinary breakthroughs in the way companies operate, significantly improving their competitiveness and thus creating a new business reality.

The East-West Gate Intermodal Combi Terminal in Fényeslitke is Europe’s largest smart rail logistics terminal, the first on the continent to use its own 5G network for internal communications and the operation of its technology devices. This is particularly important because the uniquely designed, high data security 5G mobile private network allows the entire container terminal to operate wirelessly and remotely in real-time. It will also be the first globally to use 5G technology to remotely control the fully automated giant cranes of the land terminal with very fine movements. Its significance is that it will change and improve working conditions; crane operators in Fényeslitke will, for example, no longer have to sit on the cranes all day. The terminal, which uses 90% green energy from the outset, is currently in pilot operation, but it is already clear to see the amazing potential 5G holds for business operations, including logistics.

In terms of Foxconn’s investment, we can report similar results, as well as more efficient and innovative operations. Foxconn’s factory in Komárom has been running a 5G mobile private network since last summer, after a six-month pilot period. The private network has several advantages: besides information security, one of its key features is network customizability. These private networks offer extremely high capacity and device connectivity with very low latency, thus meeting the needs of Industry 4.0 solutions and ensuring that companies can adapt to changing market needs and keep their business processes optimized. Although the scarcity of client devices means that 5G is still in its infancy for industrial use, there are areas where its practical benefits are already apparent. In the case of Foxconn, these include 5G-based mobile units used to test newly manufactured PCs before packaging. The wireless solution has dramatically increased the flexibility of testing, optimizing the utilization of time and space.

BBJ: Along with 5G, the other great perennial seems to be the Internet of Things. Can you give us concrete examples of the IoT in Hungary today and what we might expect to see in the near future?

MD: The IoT is undoubtedly the technology of the future. It will make a real difference in the competitiveness of companies in the financial sector, medicine, smart cities, agriculture, and tourism. In recent years, Vodafone has built up significant experience in the IoT space, and solutions available from the company also support customers’ sector-specific solutions. Our smart parking system is in successful operation in Székesfehérvár and Budapest, enabling road users to access accurate, live information about available parking spaces. This not only helps them find a parking space faster but also reduces the need to keep driving around in the city unnecessarily, thus reducing the volume of exhaust fumes in the air. IoT also helps make buildings safer; for example, by offering smart access systems that allow people and vehicles to be checked and let in using an automated system. We also provide innovative solutions for those working in agriculture: farmers can use sensors to monitor environmental changes or even model the cultivation environment in “micro-farms” to produce the highest quality crops possible.

BBJ: What is next for Vodafone in Hungary from a corporate solutions perspective?

MD: As a technology company, we have a vast responsibility in the digitalization of SMEs and large corporates, as well as in bringing them the most modern, efficient, and “friendly” solutions for our planet, alongside classic mobile and fixed-line services. In line with the new business reality, we will continue to focus on thinking with our customers to understand better their business processes and the specificities of their sector. This will help us offer enhanced responses to the challenges they face, thereby improving efficiency and boosting competitiveness. Our goal is to help more Hungarian SMEs go digital and support even more of our large enterprise customers in becoming familiar with today’s critical (and soon-to-be essential) technological innovations, including 5G, IoT and CAT-M technologies. It is important to highlight that we are also trying to encourage our partners and customers to operate in sustainable ways, thus creating a green and innovative business community.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of June 17, 2022.

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