According to Hungary’s telecoms regulator the National Communications Authority (NHH), the number of mobile users in Hungary stood at 8.32 million at the end of August 2004, a rise of 58,000 in a month, and an increase of 10.7% in a year. T-Mobile (formerly Westel Mobile) holds the number one spot with a market share of 47.74%, up 0.24% on the previous year, with Pannon GSM claiming 33.36%, a fall of 0.24%, and Vodafone Hungary taking 18.9%, up 3.34%.
Hungary’s mobile market has witnessed strong growth for several years, as the fixed line sector has languished and users have switched to cellular services. The country’s comparatively weak GDP and generally poor wages, however, mean that data-based mobile internet services are beyond the reach of the average man in the street and as a result the operators are reluctant to introduce new technologies, instead concentrating on the provision of inexpensive voice services. Prospects for a smooth transition to 2.5G and 3G networks are therefore somewhat dubious and the lack of interest in UMTS licences is a clear sign that 2G and interim data-based technologies will need to become more established before 3G becomes a possibility.
Despite this, on 1 September the NHH opened a tender for four 15-year 3G licences. Bids are due in by midday 2 November, with the winners expected to be announced on 1 December. T-Mobile, Pannon GSM and Vodafone are all expected to table bids, and five other companies are rumoured to have expressed an interest in acquiring the fourth concession. The regulator had initially planned to auction the 3G concessions in December 2001 but the process was delayed after it was met with a cool response from the incumbent cellcos.