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Fifth-generation Service Arrives in Hungary

Fifth-generation cellular network technology is already a reality in about 20 other countries, so it was only a matter of time before Hungary would adopt it too. On October 17, Vodafone officially launched its first 5G service.

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán takes the wheel to remotely drive a BMW i3 test car, courtesy of 5G technology, this summer. Photo courtesy of Vodafone.

Just two days before the official announcement and launch party with an official customer party also attended by politicians such as Péter Szijjártó, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and selected journalists, telecom experts turned on the commercial 5G mobile service of Vodafone Hungary so customers could try the fifth-generation mobile phone. The service was first noticed by the HWSW IT Newsletter.

Vodafone can now say that it was the first company in Hungary to introduce a 5G mobile service, grabbing a head start on rivals, T-Mobile (Magyar Telekom), Telenor, and Digi.

Vodafone has been able to turn on the 5G service now, despite the fact that National Media and Communications Authority is still handling 5G auctions, because the telecom giant already won the 3600 MHz tender back in 2016.

Earlier this summer Vodafone already switched on some of its base stations. One is at Zalaegerszeg, near the ZalaZone vehicle test track, allowing Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to try out the remote control driving of a BMW i3 to demonstrate the advanced capabilities of the new 5G technology.

While Orbán was sitting in a remote seat, he could see the picture from the camera fixed on the car, broadcast in HD quality and real-time. He was thus able to drive and steer the car remotely, via the 5G system, without delay.

Vodafone was also able to present its 5G technology at the Internet Hungary event which took place at Siófok on October 1-2. As the main sponsor of the event, Vodafone Hungary opened its 5G truck to the professional public, where they could try out fifth-generation mobile network service.

On October 15, Vodafone, without announcing the launch of the service, posted a 5G service coverage map on its website.

Opening the Door

“Next-generation mobile and fixed-line networks are opening the door to opportunities that could revolutionize the way the entire economy works,” Vodafone’s press department told the Budapest Business Journal.

“The potential lies not only in speed but also in embedded network intelligence and the ability to interact with other technologies. Thanks to all this, 5G will bring many new solutions to the energy industry, agriculture, transport, healthcare, education and almost every aspect of life,” the press department added.

Although users have to pay an extra charge for the use of the 5G service in Germany, according to tech magazine HWSW, the Hungarians do not have to fear this; all customers with a Vodafone RED tariff and 5G capable devices can join the new network for free.

It is quite another issue that, for the time being, relatively few people will have the privilege of the new service, as 5G-capable phones are not yet widely available in stores.  Vodafone has, however, already put two 5G mobile phones in its stores: the Huawei Mate 20 X 5G and the LG V50 ThinQ 5G.

Vodafone says it can provide download speeds of 150 to 600 megabits per second in 5G-covered areas, but this may vary depending on reception conditions and network congestion.

The 5G mobile technology is not only faster, but the response time is also significantly lower, resulting in a better customer experience, which can be great for real-time gaming and other applications. More importantly, thanks to the multiplication of the capabilities of the 4G technology used to date, even tens of millions of devices will be connected to the fifth-generation network.

The significance of 5G solutions is that with the advancement of technology, applications that require very low latency, real-time data exchange across many devices, such as self-driving cars and remote sensing, can also accelerate mobile internet data transmission and the reliability of networks can also be significantly increased.

Progress rolls relentlessly on, however. Even though 5G is only just arriving, Digitrendi.hu has announced that next generation 6G network research, is already underway in the world.

Digi Threatens NMHH With Legal Action

While the 5G tender was a success for Vodafone, it was an entirely different story for Digi in Hungary. Indeed, NMHH excluded Digi from the Hungarian 5G mobile network tender altogether, a fact Digi insists was based on unfair and unfounded assumptions.

An article on Media1 alleges that Győző Drozdy, the CEO of the rival Telenor Hungary (which Népszava, for one, has suggested could be in line to become 25% state-owned), may have leaned on NMHH to exclude Digi due to an earlier sanction by the Office of Economic Competition (GVH) in connection with the merger of Digi with Invitel.

At the time of the exclusion, the NMHH only said that one of the applicants did not meet the eligibility criteria, without mentioning the specific problem.

When asked by the BBJ about the reasons behind the exclusion, the NMHH Communication Directorate said, “According to the General Administrative Procedure Act, the authority may not disclose details of the procedure to any third party, only the client or interested party. There are two reasons for this: on one hand, the procedure is still ongoing and, on the other hand, the decision about the exclusion is not a resolution (not a decision on the merits) and is therefore not subject to the disclosure requirement. Of course, an unregistered service provider has the right to seek legal help through a suitable forum.”

The BBJ also asked Digi about the tender exclusion and whether it really does plan to go ahead with the lawsuit it has threatened, but the company had not responded by the time we went to press.