Difficult weeks and months are behind with significant challenges for all of us. Restrictions implemented because of the coronavirus epidemic clearly showed how important digital networks and tools are. As the country now re-establishes itself, what are the new priorities and how are companies like Vodafone going to evolve? We tried to answer these questions with Amanda Nelson, CEO of Vodafone Hungary.
DNH: Today Vodafone announced unlimited mobile data for their RED customers. That’s big news! Is it linked to the crisis situation or something bigger?
Amanda Nelson: I think all of us understand more than ever before now how critical high-speed networks and constant connections are – it’s what’s got us through the last few weeks and months. Immediately the crisis hit Hungary, we’ve been supporting our customers with extra allowances and free connectivity where required. However, it’s time to make a big step forward and unlock the freedom of connections for as many as possible, for the longer-term support of our customers.
So today we launched our updated RED tariffs which offer a truly unlimited experience. We want Hungarians to feel the freedom and security that comes from knowing you are able to connect at all times.
These are important weeks for building resilience and creating the new normal in our daily lives. Having access to affordable, unlimited mobile voice and data options will be critical to this.
DNH: When the crisis hit, what other actions did Vodafone take? How many of these are permanent?
Amanda Nelson: We always have been a purpose-led business – and as the crisis hit we turned our immediate attention to keeping Hungary connected at all times. We had a 5 point plan with immediate actions to support customers, partners, employees and the authorities during the difficult times of the epidemic.
We’re now focusing our attention on supporting Hungarians to get back to the normal life – adjusted for new habits learned during lockdown – and on providing ongoing solutions that will make sure we are even more resilient should further waves hit.
Today’s announcement is a permanent step forward. Of course, the continuous investment in and improvement of our fixed and mobile networks is another ongoing action that remains an ongoing priority
DNH: What did you do during the crisis period that made the most difference, do you think?
Amanda Nelson: While helping people and businesses stay connected remained our overall objective – there were many ways we could make this happen. Whether it was offering discounts or free extra services such as extra 15GB allowance – that was an immediate boost to people finding themselves in an unexpected crisis.
Securing children’s access to digital education and helping teachers learn and improve in how to do that was another clear priority. In order to do this – we allowed a lot of teacher training content to be available for free and made sure access to digital education websites was free for our customers.
We had already launched an excellent Life-Saver app as strengthening Hungary’s accessibility to digital healthcare services (even before the crisis) was an obvious way Vodafone could contribute. It was great that we could adapt the app for Coronovrius situation, with a special virus information button and the ability for push notifications about the most important information.
Hungary’s small and medium-sized business sector is clearly critical to this country’s growth – and we took emergency actions to support them as the crisis unfolded. Whether it was the need for urgent extra bandwidth – or some support on cashflow management by receiving our payments early – we put in place measures to keep our partner businesses able to operate throughout.
All of this, of course, is only possible because we continued to make significant investments in our network to ensure flawless and continuous connections. I’d especially like to thank the technical and other teams who worked 24/7 for an extended period to ensure the network operated as our customers would expect from us and delivered all the capacity required in such an unprecedented time
DNH: Vodafone announced many developments before the crisis – have your plans for this year changed?
Amanda Nelson: The period behind us was undoubtedly eventful and as a short-term response we clearly prioritised those crisis measures most needed by our customers and employees.
However, we have an ambitious programme of transformation ahead, and we didn’t stop that one bit.
One great example is the integration of UPC Hungary and Vodafone together – after our acquisition of their business last year, which delivered an important milestone in April when we became one legally merged entity.
And we continue with our 5G investments – having already launched commercially last October. In April, we undertook a spectrum auction and bought new frequencies to expand our 5G network for almost 39 billion HUF (EUR 112 million).
DNH: You’ve already mentioned 5G investments. What does the purchasing of the additional frequencies during the tender of the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) allow you to do?
Amanda Nelson: The frequencies we bought in April are the prerequisites for rolling out nationwide 5G and therefore are of high importance if we are going to ensure Hungary remains a leader with digital infrastructure and resilient in an uncertain world. The development of the 5G is still in an early stage but we expect to see acceleration.
5G provides better speed, minimal latency and additional capacity, however as with all new technologies, it needs time for other technological solutions that use the network to scale up in parallel.
We will be utilising these frequencies over the coming years – and launching more and more services that help people in their everyday lives make the most of what the technology can offer.
DNH: So back to your unlimited data and new RED tariffs… Is this the start of a new era for Telecoms?
Amanda Nelson: COVID virus experience has shown us that change doesn’t always happen incrementally – but sometimes we need to leap ahead. Our consumer and business customers’ needs for connectivity and highly increased demand will not go back to where it was before. As Hungary starts to unlock – we will truly see what the new normal is. And we are working hard every day to support our customers take those leaps – the new era is already here with data connectivity and let’s see what exciting new products and services we can develop to keep Hungary safe, connected and ever-growing in the future