Sunday, November 17, 2019, 00:27
Hungarian telco providers face a market that is on the brink of major changes at its core: emerging new technologies such as 5G and AI will upturn the industry, as much as the advent of mobile phones and connectivity on the go did previously. The Budapest Business Journal discusses current sentiment and the near future with market players.
The global telecommunications sector has been rapidly changing since the introduction of the mobile phone and internet. These technologies has not only transformed how companies operate, but are also shaping how consumers behave. Although the mobile phone in itself brought bigger flexibility for consumers, the overall game-changer was the advent of connectivity on the go.
Consumer behavior started changing; customers were not only connected to each other but they could connect to different services on the road in 24/7. This transformed environment put immense pressure on telecommunications service providers, BBJ learns from Telenor Hungary’s chief commercial officer Mohamed ElSayad.
Telco firms had to compete in finding alternative revenue sources that were relevant and useful for consumers, yet profitable to operators, he adds.
Market transformation, building up competition and quickly shaping consumer habits are the chief factors in the Hungarian market, Magyar Telekom tells the BBJ.
“With the spread of new mega trends and technologies, such as the Internet of Things, big data, artificial intelligence and 5G, the vertical will drastically change in the upcoming years,” a Magyar Telekom spokesperson says.
“We believe that companies can only be successful in the upcoming years if they are quick and flexible enough to adjust to the rapidly-changing environment and continuously changing habits of consumers,” the spokesperson adds. As such, providers have to offer seamless partnership for their customers, which Telekom says it has kept its focus on.
Content consumption has also been changing. In Telekom’s experience, customers expect services that give them access to the same content, regardless of whether they are using linear television channels, or on-demand services. Therefore, product portfolios need to change.
Considering Western European trends, the Hungarian telecommunication infrastructure fares well in international competition. The mobile network of Hungary is, in fact, the 11th fastest in the world, and the sixth fastest in Europe, according to the most recent survey by OpenSignal, the independent mobile analytics company, which looked at 87 countries, Magyar Telekom says.
Additionally, fast upload speeds and 4G coverage in Hungary has placed the country in eighth position globally, while mobile video experience bagged second place for Hungary, according to the OpenSignal survey.
The robust infrastructure appears to be fertile soil for the tech solutions in the pipeline. Cloud-computing, for instance, is becoming a determining factor in the lives of telcos.
The globally-competitive local infrastructure has well been leveraged by companies, ElSayad of Telenor says. He cites areas such as network virtualization through cloud-computing, developing IoT solutions and innovation at elevated speeds. Telenor Hungary sees the possibility of a myriad of solutions emerging in business propositions for automating operations, as well as mining big data in order to tap into new revenue sources, he adds.
AI is also stirring waters. Although its initial phase has not, perhaps, delivered what the public may have imagined (or even feared), the potential is enormous. The AI buzz has caught the world by storm, and while some people might tremble in thought of robots turning against humanity, in reality, artificial intelligence-based solutions are already in our lives, helping social media platforms curate our news feeds, ElSayad says.
For the time being, the most-marketed AI solutions are chat-bots and virtual assistants that can be clumsy, but are increasingly helpful. For instance, as of July 2018, calls running into Magyar Telekom’s 1414 helpline are answered by Vanda, a virtual assistant based on artificial intelligence.
Still Telenor’s ElSayad says that AI will deliver robotic automation to our production world that will be able to manhandle complex yet dull workflows. Eventually, this could lead to operators being forced to slowly re-adapt their own processes as revenue growth will not be the only important key performance indicator, ElSayad explains.
Blockchain and 5G
With the arrival of blockchain and distributed-ledger technologies, which also come with immense promise, albeit few actual solutions for the time being, operators are shifting toward serving such solutions to businesses and governments in need of a decentralized platform.
Blockchain at this point seems like little more than worldwide hype; evangelists claim it will be the new internet, while sceptics claim the same results can be achieved with attentive and more cautious programming. Nevertheless, such technology might enable mobile network and service providers to interact securely and directly without any complex integrations or intermediaries and that, ElSayad says, could establish ecosystems with powerful reach.
Fifth generation technology is similarly putting service providers and developers under disproportionate pressure: expectations are at stellar heights. Industry insiders and tech aficionados discuss 5G as it was the Holy Grail of telecommunications.
“Earlier technologies all centered around a service or area of use: 2G focused on voice and SMS, 3G focused on mobile internet, while 4G was all about fast data transfer; nevertheless, development stayed linear in these cases. Compared to these, 5G brings such additional opportunities to applications on the network that are revolutionary in reality,” Magyar Telekom’s spokesperson says. “Inevitably, 5G is the future.”
This new technology will impact every industry, to a greater or lesser extent, pundits predict.
ElSayad expects that, with the spread of 5G, IoT technology and related solutions will become mainstream. Essentially, telcos will join forces with IoT providers to create solutions that go well beyond the widely-discussed smart cities and self-driving cars, expanding into predictive maintenance and fleet management, for example.
Beyond the obvious super speed and wide coverage 5G promises to deliver, the extreme-low latency inherent in the system will create opportunities that never existed before.
“We can’t even start to imagine what those use cases are, but we can start dreaming of what this will bring. What really differentiates 5G is that it comes at the crossroads of what we call ‘intelligent connectivity’ which is intersection of three important technologies coming into play together; 5G connectivity, IoT and AI which should change the industry as well as the future of customer experience,” Telenor Hungary adds.
Editor’s note: The BBJ also contacted Vodafone and Digi to comment for this article, but they had not responded by the time we went to print.