The bite of DIGI Mobil hurts the market less than expected

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A year ago, the mobile service of DIGI Távközlési Kft. Operated on its own infrastructure, DIGI Mobil, was launched on this day – precisely the test service of the mobile service, which provided mobile voice and data services to the existing DIGI subscriber practically free or at minimal cost. For many years, the three major Hungarian mobile companies were not afraid of the appearance of DIGI Mobil, but the new market player eventually bit into the cake, but so far this has not hurt Magyar Telekom, Telenor Hungary and Vodafone Hungary as much as


DIGI Mobil's launch can safely be described as one of the most significant market events of the decade, and at least that much anticipation preceded the appearance of the fourth mobile operator. The company, which is owned by Romanian owners, applied for the legal predecessor of the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) in 2008, in the frequency tender of the National Media and Communications Authority (NHH), but in 2009, citing the effects of the economic crisis.

The expansion of the Hungarian mobile market was finally removed from the agenda until 2011, but a consortium of state-owned companies was launched at the frequency tender of NMHH, which was already operating as a media authority, which seemed to be the absolute favorite of the authority. All the more so as two other start-ups, DIGI and Viettel, were excluded from the procedure, DIGI has already failed in two successive frequency sales procedures to obtain the frequency needed to launch a mobile service. In the 2011 NMHH tender, the state player, MPVI, did indeed triumph, but due to the successful legal action of the incumbent mobile operators, the concept of the state mobile operator then failed.

Ryszka sambor and dr. monika karas at the signing of the official contract in 2014

The year of DIGI may finally come in 2014, when the service provider took the “F” package for HUF ten million in NMHH's new tender, this time specifically for the expansion of mobile broadband services, which 1 covered 5 MHz paired base blocks in the 1800 MHz band. The authority concluded the official contract with the service provider in October of this year, and on October 29 it also received the radio license, ie all legal obstacles to the service provider building and operating a mobile network suitable for voice and data transmission in Hungary were removed.

authority in its 2014 announcement praised the emergence of DIGI as a fourth mobile operator:

International examples also show that a new entrant mobilizes, invigorates the market, increases price competition and generates the emergence of new services. The diversity of service providers and services contributes to increasing consumer welfare and the competitiveness of domestic businesses, and new services are emerging throughout the country. Market competition for consumers could also lead to lower prices for services.

NMHH said in a statement, while DIGI immediately announced that it would begin building a nationwide, reliable network providing competitive voice and data services in the acquired frequency band.

The goal is to follow the strategy applied from the beginning: to provide quality service at consumer-friendly prices. Using the state-of-the-art technology for new services, the data connection will be up to 40 Megabits per second, and when setting prices, we want to create stable prices based on long-term profitability

said Ryszka Sambor, then managing director of DIGI. he did not add when all this could happen. At the time, few people suspected that a period of years, sometimes with particularly tense anticipation, was coming to market.


DIGI was not ready after (or even before) the tender victory. networking plan, perhaps other, resource problems hindered rapid networking, hardly a few outside the top management know, but in any case the preparations for the start-up were unusually slow in the background, while important events took place around DIGI's house.

In 2016, the service provider won another official frequency tender, this time for 40 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz band, the later decisive role of which in connection with the deployment of 5G networks was not as clear as it is today. A year later, news broke out as a bomb that DIGI would buy Invitel Távközlési Zrt., Which provides Invitel's retail and small business business.

The Hungarian Competition Authority finally approved this only if certain conditions were met, but later reversed this decision and added new ones. initiated proceedings on the ground that the parties had misled the competition authority. At the same time, the authority imposed a procedural fine of HUF 90 million – this later had much more serious consequences for the final result of NMHH's next frequency auction in 2019.

But even before this auction – on May 27, 2019 – DIGI Távközlési Kft. has surprisingly announced that it will launch a test run of its commercial mobile service. At that time, the construction of the network could not be kept secret for many months by the service provider, and speculations about the start date and other details appeared in the press,


DIGI finally paid off hopes at an amazing price. service entered the market last year. The DIGI Mobile test service provides a virtually unlimited data service without a monthly fee, a maximum domestic price of five forints per minute and a HUF 21 off-network SMS. However, with the 1800 MHz basic block won in 2014, the service provider was unable to provide significant territorial coverage or sufficient capacity for the mass of subscribers, in particular by congesting voice and data services in the double 5 MHz band. [19659015] Therefore, only existing DIGI subscribers who have access to the service at their place of residence can still contract the DIGI Mobile test service, although a customer can take home up to four SIMs. By the way, DIGI Mobil has been offering advanced services (VoLTE, VoWiFi) from the very beginning, not all of which are still part of the network of its three rivals – at DIGI, however, this was a basic interest due to the frequency-limited service and Ericsson's

On the one-year anniversary of the service, DIGI announced that the test facility, once extended, would remain in operation under the same conditions on 31 December 2020.

Although DIGI Mobil's service coverage has improved month by month (the service provider is now present in more than 500 Hungarian settlements with its own network), it was already clear from the outset that building on the 1800 MHz band alone to provide a service that, like the three big ones, means mobile distance for millions of Hungarians

The company therefore launched another frequency tender announced by NMHH last summer, which was ruled out by the authority, which was still explicitly supporting the appearance of the fourth mobile operator in 2014, under rather strange circumstances. As it turned out later, it was not DIGI Távközlési Kft., But its parent company, DIGI Communications N.V. The Hungarian subsidiary would presumably have been excluded on the basis of a tender dossier modified last summer at Telenor's suggestion.

The ensuing legal deadline finally ended in March this year, when all domestic remedies for DIGI were exhausted and the authority legally enforced. was able to close the auction, in which only Magyar Telekom, Telenor Hungary and Vodafone Hungary acquired frequencies. DIGI has thus lost the opportunity to gain frequency in the 700 MHz, 2100 MHz and 3600 MHz bands. For many years, the only chance for the service provider to expand the capacity and coverage of its network may be the sales procedure for GSM basebands, which is expected to start next year, where DIGI can also license in the 900 and 1800 MHz frequency bands – if the authority allows it at all.

the market share of service providers in call handling SIMs – in the upper right corner with DIGI (source: NMHH)

In any case, the appearance of DIGI Mobil did not start serious market movements together with the zero forint package the company had collected a total of 122,000 subscribers by the end of the first quarter of this year. Meanwhile, the total market expanded by roughly only 80,000 active SIMs in one year (according to NMHH statistics, there were about 10.59 million active SIMs in use at the end of last year, compared to 10.51 million in the second quarter of last year), which this means that DIGI has, at least statistically, taken over around 40,000 active customers. At the same time, this is not the size of the customer base after which any mobile operator would shed heavy tears, or perhaps take more drastic steps than the introduction of Magyar Telekom's Flip low-cost service in the fixed market.

The mystery surrounding DIGI Mobile, presumably deliberately exaggerated. continues to keep the profession and customers feverish, with the service provider at least apparently pushing the cart further without any business rationality that seems so natural in this industry. Meanwhile, at minimal investment, on a purely psychological basis, the company has developed a fan base that can only be dreamed of with large multi-billion dollar marketing campaigns.

Finally, it may well be that DIGI's future will be determined by business / technology processes for the big ones. they also appear as a novelty, kicking off decades of dogmas. Such may be the new network sharing models, which more and more mobile market participants are forced to introduce in order to operate efficiently.

Speaking of the one-year birthday of the DIGI Mobile service, we received a substantive answer.


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