Hungaro DigiTel endeavours to create a win-win situation in customer relations, says the company's general manager, António Felizardo in a recent interview with Diplomacy and Trade in the shadow of huge satellite antennas at the company's headquarters.
In a forest of satellite dishes in Lakihegy, on the southern border of Budapest lies the headquarters of Hungaro DigiTel (HDT) Plc., the largest Hungarian satellite data transmission service provider and one of the determining players in this area on the European market. It is a Hungarian-Portuguese joint venture established in the early 1990s with the Hungarian broadcasting company Antenna Hungaria as the majority and Portugal’s PT Participacoes (member of Portugal Telecom group) as the minority shareholder.
The largest antennas are 8 and 9 meters in diameter. This size is necessary as “ours are centralized networks, which means, there is a hub communicating with all the individual terminals whose location can be anywhere in the world,” General Manager (GM) Antonio Felizardo, who has been the CEO of the company since 1999, explains to Diplomacy and Trade.
"Invisible" HDT services
The company works with large firms, banks, petrol station networks – these are the traditional customers. The GM calls them partners as he is convinced that “in this business, long-term relationship can only be maintained if it’s a win-win situation for both sides.” The largest Hungarian bank, OTP has been HDT’s partner from the very beginning. At that time, the bank needed fast and reliable connections to expand its automated teller machine (ATM) network all over Hungary and it is still a partner as HDT follows OTP’s expansion into the neighboring countries. Secure lines provided by Hungaro DigiTel allow the authorization of bank card payments. You are also likely to use such ‘invisible’ HDT services when you fill up the car tank or buy a motorway vignette, as communication lines for most petrol stations in Hungary are provided by the company. If you buy a lottery ticket in Hungary, that process is also authorized through HDT communication lines.
There are services, especially in the government area, where quality is a must – as are security and reliability. For these reasons, satellite-based communication provided by HDT is often used as a back-up service, a completely independent infrastructure, to ensure business continuity in case something happens to the primary line of service. In situations of emergency, authorities need solutions to have mobility as well as increased communication capabilities where increased bandwidth is also needed. In such a case, HDT has provided a solution to one of its partners who is able to send a special truck to the premises to establish an extra mobile network cell that connects directly to the central network of the mobile communications company via satellite, easing the burden on the local network.
“One of HTD’s partners is the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that keeps contact through us with embassies in regions where communication is not reliable. The Hungarian Embassy in Tripoli, Libya is a very good reference for both Hungarian diplomacy and HDT as the secure and reliable line of communication was provided by us via satellite for the Embassy that – for months – represented not only Hungary there but the EU and the United States, as well,” the general manager says.
Internet via HDT
For similar reasons, it is not unusual to spot a large HDT antenna in the garden of the Budapest embassy of an African country. Since remote areas are the easiest to reach via satellite, Hungaro DigiTel is active in providing Internet access for schools and tele-houses in the countryside where terrestrial infrastructure is not available. What is more, Internet via HDT is available in a so-called library bus that stops in remote villages.
In terms of the number of people employed, about 30, HungaroDigiTel Plc. may seem a small company but its annual revenues amount to approximately HUF two billion (over EUR seven million), serving about 50 partners at some 4,100 locations, most of them in Hungary, some of them in the region and some of them elsewhere in Europe and other continents.
The Portuguese shareholder in the company, PT group, did not only invest money in this joint venture but also brought technical expertise gained from experience in Portugal where financial industry services are on a very high level, even by international comparison. Portugal has a unified network of ATMs (actually, the densest one in Europe) that cannot only be used for cash withdrawal but also for paying bills, buying tickets for football matches or cultural events and even paying taxes or using other government-related services.
Portugal has also reached a quite advanced stage in implementing the ‘e-government’ concept, providing its citizens with the possibility of Internet-based administration. “There, you have these best practices that we don’t have to invent; we just import these ideas and implement them. The two countries are easy to compare as they are similar in size and in the number of inhabitants, what’s more, even the level of economic development is not that different,” Antonio Felizardo explains.
Cooperation with the Embassy
Another concept, already in an advanced stage in Portugal, that Hungary could also well use is the ‘e-inclusion’ policy. “You are bringing people closer to government and the information society, even those living in remote areas, since high level electronic government services only have real value if you can use them everywhere. Our business, satellite communication can be of help in this respect to provide access to Internet services,” he adds.
With very close cooperation with the Portuguese Embassy, Antonio Felizardo himself is very eager to present the Portuguese practice of ‘e-government’, explaining – in presentations and workshops – to ministries in Hungary the benefits, and how they could save time and money, as well. The general manager is a native of Portugal but has been living in Hungary for over 30 years. He conducted his university studies in Hungary, he has a Hungarian family and, little wonder, he speaks excellent Hungarian – the language of “nice people, nice country,” he says –, in addition to English, Spanish and French.
Over the years, technology has changed and Hungaro DigiTel has kept up with these changes to offer its partners the most modern services available. One proof of this is acquiring the "Suitable Supplier for NATO Tenders" qualification in October 2010. As for the future, the general manager says there are two directions. “In the last couple of years, we have experienced a rapid development in technology. Customers need secure and reliable communication, more dedicated services. Also, the number of units in use is growing, bringing about lower price for these products, therefore more people will be able to afford it.”